Thursday, 12 May 2016

Final Journey

I'm on my way home now, but just before I left CNP, I had the chance of a flight round Liverpool Land in a private charter King Air areoplane. A couple of Tangent clients had booked a week of sight seeing on skidoos and a visit to the village. The day of our flight out, Paul had arranged a 1 hour private flight for them. They were happy for myself and Paul to join them as 'tour guides' to point out place of interest during the flight.

We went across to the east coast and did a sort of figure of 8 trip up to the north and back to CNP. Weather was beautiful and views spectacular. It was nice to see many of the places I have been to over the years from the air.

It was a quick turn around.  On the plane for an hour, back off again and then back on 10mins later to fly to Iceland.

Here's a few of the pictures.

Boarding with Gavan & Jane
Are your seat belts fastened?
Nokedal showing large amounts of melt. I camped up on the glacier for 2 weeks in 2010
The highest mountain in Liverpool Land - 1400mts, which I climbed in 2010
Age Nilson Glacier, which I descended on the N -S Liverpool Land Traverse in 2008
Bering Pedersons Glacier. We skidooed up this on the Iceman route this year, entering from a glacier on the right by the black buttress
Ice bergs on the East Coast
Constable Point Airport (CNP)
Voolkort Boons Kyst with Scorsbysund on the right. This is the coast we see every day, 80kms away, as we look down Hurry Fjord

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Fat Biker

I have just come back from 5 days with the Fat Biker. Kate Leeming has affectionately become known to us as the 'Fat Biker' Of course she's not fat, its the bike that has extra fat tyres to make it stay on the snow.

The Fat Bike
It has been specially designed with a unique all wheel drive system, but we soon found out it will only ride on a rock hard snow surface.

She is with a camera man called Claudio, who records her every word and films her every pedal stoke. There is no escape as he also regularly shoves his camera inches away from your face and asks you what you think!

They are really both nice people and fun to be with, Kate, a driven visionary who was rapidly becoming more realistic and Claudio the 'gadget man' who takes every opportunity to get the shot and tell the story.

This trip to Greenland is supposed to be training for some expedition to cycle to the South Pole.

The cycle route from CNP up north and down towards Ittoqqortoormiit

A trailer made with my help just before the journey

Unfortunately the bike won't ride on snow, fat tyres or not. Any snow more than a few inches deep, just bogs it down making progress impossible, even on flat terrain.

Technical problems
The first day before the storm, we got about 10kms in 3 hours. The first 3kms ended up falling into a tide crack and the rest was a mixture of cycling, falling and pushing.

First fall
When we started properly after the storm, we got about 20 kms on hard surfaces due the the warm temperatures followed by a freeze. The next day after a camp we got the the Red House 20kms away. It took all day in the soft snow and she had to push the bike most of the way, arriving exhausted.

Making progress

Camp 1. We returned here by skidoo a day later to camp again
Many falls later

Last push up to the Red Huse
Making dinner in the Red House
I suggested to her that she may need to review her plan of a 400km cycle round north Jameson Land. She really wanted to cycle the length of Liverpool Land down to Ittoqqortoormiit, so we drove her up to the north the next day. This was also a disaster in the soft snow. She only got 7 or so kilometres taking most of the day, before we suggested she rethink. We even had a go on the bike ourselves. It was nearly impossible to move; the back wheel just skidded about. I don't know how she got so far.

Claudio with his new toy. The drone took amazing film.
Bike back on the sledge and cold hands
 We drove back down to our first camp near the top of Hurry Fjord where the hard snow started and the next day she made 50kms on the hard surface, the best so far.

Filming in Hurry Fjord
Buzzed by the drone
Good progress in Hurry Fjord
On the way to camp 4
It was my time to leave to go back to the UK so I handed over to Darren & Pete. I think I was able to pass on some advice to Kate in my time with her about camping skills, clothing etc. They soon hit soft snow again and are camping 20kms further on. We'll have to see how the story progresses.

Coming to take me home

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Lucky Timing

A funny thing happened the other day. While we were sitting in this storm, alarmingly, the stove which runs off aircraft fuel, started billowing clouds of black smoke out of the vent in the chimney and into the Weatherhaven tent. We turned it off and let it cool down.

Sheets of flame exploded out of the bottom
In the strong winds the chimney rocks about and sets the whole stove dancing about on it's stand. We cleaned all the tubes and then tried to re-light it. Then things got really exciting. As it warmed up it started to have explosions in it's body and sent sheets of fire out of the bottom. We grabbed the fire extinguishers and stood next to the escape door. The explosions got bigger, so someone brave turned it off and eventually it calmed down. We had had enough for one night and went to our sleeping container only to find it drifted up again, so it took an hour of digging before we could get to bed. More boxes placed in the gap as high as we could reach, we hoped, would reduce the drifing that blocked the door every night.

Climbing out of sleeping container over the boxes placed to try and stop the door getting blocked
Next morning we tried to light the stove again and fiddled with the chimney vent to give it more air. After several attempts, we got it going with no explosions. Ice had built up in the chimney and the resulting waterfall, promptly put it out again!

It's going again now and it's just as well as, with no heat, we would have no water and living would get very difficult.

Wednesday was flight day and the Paul's team was still stuck at the Red House and the snowboarders were having a grim time in Kalkdal, with tents collapsing under the weight of snow. With the forecast, there was little chance the flight would come or anyone would be able to move.

Flight day morning - slightly better weather
Weatherhaven doorway blocked with boxes to prevent snowdrift
Tunnel down to the Weatherhaven tent door
The skidoos and sledges took allot of digging out
My Skidoo won't start!

Luck was on our side and the winds eased for the day. Paul got up at 6.00am and was back at CNP for 8.00am. After a few hours of digging to get the other skidoos and sledges out of the snow, a turn around saw all 5 of us at the Kalkdal camp, meeting a team of  snowboarders very happy to see us. The journey there was hard in the flat light and not without incident. I was in the lead trying not to drive over the cornice that Mike had found the week before and on arrival at camp, one skidoo narrowly missed a tent hole and rolled over on a mound of snow right in front of the group!

All hands to right the capsized 'doo
We got everyone back to CNP and even the flights came, so everyone got away. The weather has now come back with avengence with 60kph winds, but better conditions should return in a day or so. It's been the longest period of bad weather I have experieiced and it was lucky timing that the weather window landed on the flight day!

Monday, 2 May 2016


So we've been at our camp for far too long since Matt, Mike & Beth left last Wednesday and Paul and Pete arrived. A day of fine weather enabled me to do some training with Pete & Debs, but there was a poor forecast, which has proved quite accurate.

Deb's score's a direct hit on the rifle training
It started off really warm with the temperatures just above freezing, making everything wet - ugh! The winds have then increased day by day and the temps are now just below freezing.

Constable Point in strong winds on Tuesday
The three people at the Staunings Alps need to be back for the flight this Wednesday and the weather forecast looked bad for the week and getting worse each day. Paul decided to get them out as soon as possible before this storm really hit and left Saturday morning.

Filling up the jerries for the long journey to the Staunings Alps
They made good progress, got to the camp in the evening and back to Gurreholm in strengthening winds. They set off again in high winds on Sunday, but had to stop at the Red House when conditions got too severe.

Group over-nighted at Gurreholm and then got stuck at the Red House in the storm
The Red House - more comfortable than Gurreholm
They are now there for a second day and the wind is gusting 75kph making total white out conditions. The wind is not going to die down for another few days, so the Wednesday flight looks unlikely.

We also have a team of snowboarders out in Kalkdal hoping for an extraction for their flight on Wednesday. Latest news is that they will run of of food tomorrow, so I have advised them to conserve food & fuel. We won't be able to get anywhere near them until our team get back from the Red House.

Pete and I are stuck at CNP, which is definitely the best place to be, but not with out it's challenges. We were supposed to be supporting a lady called Kate Leeming for a cycle trip on a specially modified bike with fat tyres, who has been affectionately become known as the "Fat Biker" The poor weather meant that she could not start her trip.

Fat bike frozen up
So we have become quite good at 'festering' - a state of existence where nothing much happens. We woke up this morning in our containers to a howling gale gusting 75kph. The snow was right up the door and we had to dig ourselves out, dig the Weather Haven out, fix all the holes where spin drift was squirting through, dig the Weather Haven out again and make an epic journey to the Hilton to reboot the internet. We did not get breakfast until midday.

We're now festering for an unknown time until this wind drops in a few days.

Digging out - Pete had to eat allot of snow!
Pete clearing the doorway in the blizzard
Snowmen dig to the Weather Haven

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Ice and Cameras

So after the excitement with the bears and long journeys to the Staunings Alps, we had a totally different week last week - and quite pleasant too.

We had to do a product photo shoot for Berghaus and each had bags and bags of cloths to wear, so the cameraman, Matt, could shoot us in different situations using the clothing. There were six sets, all carefully colour co-ordinated and chosen by the marketing team. Matt had a comprehensive brief detailing what activities were required for each set and what was required from every shoot. He had three days to do all this and was incredibly professional and organised. A pleasure to work with.

Unfortunately all these bags full of clothes were given out to us at the Iceman introduction along with a Berghaus jacket for the competitors. It looked like we were being given loads of free kit, which was a bit embarrassing. We found out later that it all had to go back to Berghaus!
The activities ranged from ski touring, ice climbing, mountaineering, hut life and glacier travel. The shots had to show all the clothing features such as lightness and warmth etc. We also had to show grit and determination on our faces and give the impression of a harsh environment, which of course it was.

My knowledge of the area was useful in being able to direct Matt to suitable locations for each day, which he appreciated.

The first day we found an iceberg at the east end of Kalkdal in Horsens Fjord. My job, once I had deemed it safe, was to climb this thing for the camera, rig up a top rope for Matt to get into position, then climb it again for the camera and then get everyone else up on a top rope and then de-rig the thing and get off.

Starting up the arete
Beth showing how its done
All good fun; I had no ice climbing gear with me at all. I wish I'd known to bring some. I borrowed Matt's boots - size 9 (I'm size 7!) the best crampons I could find in Paul gear barrel and Matt's ice axes - DMM Flys. They were sharp, but that was all. Not what you would call a technical ice climbing axe - straight shafts and no leashes. The only good thing was that there were a good selection of BD Express ice screws in the gear barrel, one of the best ice screws there currently is.

Ist ascent
2nd ascent for camera
I set off and thankfully the ice was good and not too steep up this iceberg arete. I climbed it again with Matt at the top this time and he got some good shots. Darren, Mike Beth and Debs all climbed it in their kit and it was late in the evening when I finally stripped the ropes and abseiled back down anchored at the top by a bit of prussik cord through an ice thread. Even that was problematic as I had nothing to pull the thread through the hole with, but we found a bit of wire in the 'doo repair box which did the trick.
Abbing off on ice thread
Retrieving ropes
The next day we went to a hut and filmed us lighting a stove, ski touring and mountaineering up a little ridge at the entrance to Kalkdal. I also knew of this narrow gorge at the entrance, which was full of snow ridges with drops and steep windtails. We had great fun trying to ski up and down this thing over all the drops while trying to show grit and determination and not smile!

Lighting a stove inside Kalkdal hut
Darren showing the latest colours
Beth negotiating the gorge trying not to smile
The last day was more ice climbing and Matt wanted to go to the glacier cliff where the Iceman race had camped at the east end of Kalkdal.

The weather wasn't so good this day with flat light all the way. I got Mike to lead us though the valley on his last day out before he left us.  Following the tracks was really hard in the flat light and at one point he lost them just as the track went left to a avoid a small cornice. He went straight over it! The last thing Beth saw, who was following, was her Dad disappearing in a cloud of snow. No harm done, he got out of the hole and we reversed ourselves out, back on the track.

Mike - survived the cornice!
At the glacier, I chose a fantastic looking line up a steep face with a bit of an ice fall down it. We could walk to the top of this one and set up the anchor and rope for Matt to film. I set off and got to the the steep part half way up. I thought it would be steep, but this bulge was overhanging! The ice was hard making it very difficult to put ice screws in and with Matt's straight axes, my arms were soon giving out and I had to rest on a screw. Matt came to the rescue and placed screws above me to give me protection. I set off again, only to nearly blow it when my glove got caught in the karabiner while trying to clip the crucial runner on the steep bit. With my arms giving out and my eyes bulging, Matt said he got just the shot he wanted!

Gearing up
Roping up

On the hard bit
The angle eased and I got to the top. Everyone else then climbed it on a top rope, doing really well as no one else had done much ice climbing and some were in ski boots!

More shots of glacier travel, bits of clothing detail and it was a wrap! Hopefully we may get some of Matt's shots at sometime in the future. He said we deserved them for all the effort we put in!