Krystle Morley is totally rad. She’s 28 and is in the midst of completing a degree in environmental science at Sheffield Hallam University. There's a wide range of sporting hobbies on her roster: from scuba diving to surfing, mountain biking to hiking. But this year, her love of adventure resulted in a terrifying, near-death experience on a New Zealand glacier. Yikes!
When I speak to her, she’s just returned from seeing a doctor about a slap tear she got while mountain biking. Considering the topic of our discussion, I’m amazed that she’s still as active as ever. But as we talk, I quickly realise that nothing could stop this humorous and relentlessly positive girl from enjoying herself in nature.
She’s also got the world’s best accent, and says “Crikey!" a lot. Read on for her amazing story.
I went to New Zealand this summer. I'm studying environmental science, so for me it's an interesting place. There's lots of volcanic activity – earthquakes, landslides and, of course, rockfalls.
I wouldn't really call what I was doing a proper climb. I was on the Franz Josef Glacier with two other novices and our guide. We were climbing up some of the small faces of the ice, with crampons and two ice axes each. By the end of it I think I'd almost got the technique down. I made a comment that it was like climbing a really pathetic version of the wall in Game of Thrones!
It was all good fun and largely uneventful. We went for a walk through an ice tunnel which was amazing. Then we headed back to the helipad to get picked up, and took our crampons and helmets off because the helicopter was on its way.
Then there was just this almighty, loud bang. It sounded like a thunderclap, but because it was in a valley I wondered if somebody was shooting something... I turned around, looked up and then took a photo of the rocks as they began tumbling down the mountainside.
It didn't look like it was going to come anywhere near us. Then there was a few seconds where I thought, “Wait a minute. Do we need to run? Are we OK?" I looked at the guide’s face... there were rocks flying twenty foot in the air above the glacier. That's when we realised it wasn't going to stop in time. The guide just shouted “Run!". I'm not entirely sure where I was running to. I was just running until I got told to do something else, and covering my head because I thought that if even a little stone were to hit me, it was going hurt.
Then our guide took me by the scruff of the neck, trying to keep me upright, before grabbing me and shouting “Get down". We all huddled together to let the rocks fly over us. The noise was something else. It was utterly amazing; I can't think of any other way to describe it.
The rubble ranged from tiny little gravel pieces to boulders the size of an old Mini. I was just thinking, “Are we going to get through this?".
Click through for the rest of Krystle's story...
[part title="'I survived a rockfall on a glacier'"]
My head seems to go off on a tangent when it comes to dangerous situations. The guide was huddled over us and we were all really close together. I'd been travelling in a campervan for two weeks and hadn't managed to wash my jacket. I just remember thinking “They're very close to my jacket. It smells really bad. I kind of feel sorry for them."
The whole 'life flashing before your eyes' thing is a load of rubbish.
The whole 'life flashing before your eyes' thing is a load of rubbish. I just worried that I smelled and my fellow climbers' last thoughts would be “Oh god, she stinks". So yeah, I was scared, but that thought kind of distracted me. Getting distracted stops you doing anything stupid, I suppose.
After the boulders stopped, there was a rush of wind and so much dust. You know when you see films where people try and sweep a chimney and it all comes back out and fills the room with soot? There was grit in our mouths and dirt all over us. I had a big grin on my face... it's not everyday you go through something like that and survive it.
We got back to the helipad and the first thing that I did was put my helmet back on. I’d been so stupid to take it off; I'd got complacent because I was on holiday and I'd gone out to the glacier with a tour company. I'd completely forgot that I was in the mountains.
It was like something out of a disaster movie. The bit where the help is just there... and then it disappears.
There were some smaller rockfalls then, so we were all twitching every time we heard something. And then the helicopter came up and we were all very relieved. The guide and myself were almost underneath the propellers and then... the helicopter took off again. There was another rockfall happening.
It was like something out of a disaster movie. The bit where the help is just there... and then it disappears. We all had to run and hide again. It was a much smaller rockfall this time, but we all thought “Here we go again". We huddled together and thankfully stayed safe.
After that rockfall passed, we finally got off the glacier. I got back to the guide base and said “Yay I'm alive!". It felt amazing.
It wasn't until we were having some drinks afterwards that the paranoia started setting in – it all felt a bit like a Final Destination film. A few days before I was in the campervan and almost slid off the road and down a ravine. Then afterwards, one of the gas heaters in the campervan wasn't working properly... I was thinking “two rockfalls, a scary moment on the side of a road, and now I'm going to get taken out by an exploding gas heater." I kept expecting a lorry to take me out. Everything was just really scary.
There were cuts and bruises – obviously we threw ourselves onto the ice. Then a few days afterwards I was scratching my head and realised I had a bit of a bump, but other than that it was just the nerves that affected me. It took two or three days to get rid of the paranoia.
My boyfriend said “You're alive and you've got an awesome story to tell – don't be so soft!".
Afterwards I did yearn for some company. I was travelling alone. I went back to my little campervan and realised it was 1am in the UK, so I had a glass of wine and read my book! When I did manage to get hold of my boyfriend, well... he's very much a mountains man. He said “You're alive and you've got an awesome story to tell – not many people have that. Don't be so soft!". That was good; it was what I needed to hear.
I've told this story so many times. To be honest I'm not really sure why people are interested, when there are climbers going out and risking their lives all the time. You've got Kitty Calhoun doing brilliant stuff, and I just managed to dodge some rocks!
I think the only thing that's changed is that I'm a lot more aware of the dangers in the hills. No matter how much you pay a guide, it's never going to take away the fact that the environment is dangerous and you need to have your wits about you.
My next adventure will be finishing university, but I'd like to do the West Highland Way on my mountain bike in a day. That’s the next physical adventure!