Plummeting to new depths: Spectacular ice caves photographed for the first time deep beneath a Swiss glacier
By Alex Ward
These spectacular ice caves deep below a Swiss glacier have been mapped, photographed and surveyed for the first time.
A team of eight descended into the moulins – vertical shafts – below the Gorner Glacier near Zermatt in October.
Their work inside the remarkable icy caverns will help researchers get a better understanding of glaciers and their rate of melting.
Descending the depths: A team of eight climbed down the moulins - vertical shafts - in the Gorner Glacier near Zermatt in Switzerland
Photographer Robbie Shone, 32, was part of the team. He said: 'It was extremely spectacular. This was the first time I'd been in an ice cave and they were absolutely beautiful. They were a really bright blue.
'Ice caves are more impressive "normal" caves. They offer a completely different challenge. I'm now fascinated by them and would like to visit more.
'We were the first group to map these moulins and because the glaciers move around 15 metres (50ft) a year - they change every year. Because of this we will be the only people to see them in that state.
The team had to abseil into the moulins because the entrances were often vertical shafts that were up to 65ft deep. Mr Shone said: 'We were camping for six days and because of the heavy snow we spent two days digging a path down to the glacier.
'Our camp was about an hour away from the glacier and we got up at 5am to get ready and then spent around eight hours on the glacier. The temperature varied - at night time it dropped down as low as -18 degrees. The trip was a complete success and will help researchers get a better understanding of glaciers' rate of melting.'
The Gorner Glacier is 8.7miles long and is the second largest glacial system in the Alps.
Inside the ice cave: The team's work will help researchers get a better understanding of glaciers and their rate of melting
Adventure into the deep: The team spent two days digging a path down to the glacier to reach the moulins on the expedition in October in what photographer Robbie Shone said was 'extremely spectacular'
The bright blue: The glaciers move about 50ft a year as they melt
Challenging temperatures: The team had to grapple with varying temperatures which could drop to -18 degrees at night time
A sight to behold: Mr Shone said he is now fascinated with the ice caves and wants to visit them again
Long route: The group camped about an hour away from the glacier and had to get up at 5am to get ready to spend around eight hours on the glacier each day
Steep slope: The ice caves presented a 'completely different challenge' to normal caves, Mr Shone said
Giant glacier: The glacier in Switzerland is 8.7 miles long and is the second largest glacial system in the Alps