Thursday, 28 April 2016

Close Encounters

I've had a very busy week after the Iceman race to get a number of groups into the mountains.

You want to go where??

We had a team of 8 snowboarders who needed to go into the mountains on the same day they flew in. This is always a bit fraught, because of the late start, typically after 3 pm. The leader insisted he wanted to go into an area which took a steep slope up a glacier. I was not at all keen because we hadn't been there before, and would have had to start earlier, so it was quite a tense meeting until he decided to go into Kalkdal. 

Snow boarders setting up camp in Kalkdal

Due to Debbie being on this Iceman race and the bad weather delay, there was absolutely no time to do any ‘doo driving training for her before we left with the group to Kalkdal. Beth had to whisper in her ear how to drive the thing and I had to do group driver briefings at regular intervals to give her essential information in front of the group. Not a good start for her, but she coped admirably and the group never saw a thing. 

Long Journeys

That all done, the next day we started on one of the biggest journeys to be completed so far. Over 400km round trip to take two groups to two locations in the Staunings Alps. 

Route to Gurreholm & Sydkap in green and Staunings inputs in blue
On the way to Gurreholm

The first day we got to Gurreholm and stayed the night in there, while the groups camped outside. It's still a ruin, with only one usable room, the others being full of snow. With five of us in there sleeping on the floor, it was really quite cosy.

Cosy in Gurreholm
Gureholm ruin - only one room is useable
Phil, Beth & Mike outside Gurreholm

Fuel Problems

We had a fuel depot at Gurreholm of seven Jerry cans of fuel and I was a bit concerned that we used all but one to fill up the skidoos after 120kms of travel. This meant that we had no more fuel to fill up again after a 140 km journey the next day, put the two groups in. I had not appreciated the distance of this far camp.  I decided to split our team after we had got the largest group in so they would go straight back to Sydkap and wait for use to take the smaller team 50kms further up the valley. This would save fuel on two of the 'doos, which if we ran out of fuel, would have enough to get back to CNP and bring more fuel back to the other 3 'doos. The other factor I considered was the we had a number of barrels of fuel at Sydkap, but it was over two years old and a bit suspect. The plan was that we take one with us in case of an emergency, fill up one 'doo with most of the last Jerry at Gurreholm and then try and make it to a further fuel depot just past the Red House.

Last can of fuel

 Route to the Staunings

The route into the two camps went quite well with the first group of nine getting into their valley with no problem until deep snow prevented further progress. Debs and Matt, the Berghaus camera man, went to Sydcap and Mike, Beth and myself continued North up the main valley for a further 50kms. The going was smooth and fast and we returned to Sydkap in the evening.

First camp drop off in Staunings Alps

 Close Encounters

Sydkap - the bear smashed the front window
At Sydkap House, I was woken at 5.00 am by a loud banging which sounded like someone stamping in the main room next to our bed room. It stopped and a few seconds later, another loud crash. Matt was sitting bolt upright and I soon saw that everyone was in the room. We looked at each other, I swore and thought BEAR!!

In seconds we were out of our bags with adrenalin sky high. As per protocol, all our flares and gun was in the room with us. Matt went for the hand flare and started untying the plastic bag it was in until someone hissed ‘rip it’! while I fumbled with the shot gun. We looked at each other again and I nodded. Bravely he opened the door a crack to see the window on the other side of the room smashed in. We quietly moved in and went for the window. I was still trying to work out how to get the safety off the gun, make sure it was loaded and not shoot Matt, when this huge bear put it’s head up to the smashed window. Matt pulled the flare and stuck it out of the window and roared (amusingly in hindsight) ‘GET OUT OF HERE YOU BIG WHITE HAIRY BASTARD!!” Beth, just behind roared too, but all that came out was a high pitched squeak! - that really scared it!? I pushed past Matt with the gun, now loaded and let off a round just over the bear’s head. 

Story of Bear Encounter


Early morning bear

Bear ran 200mts away and stopped

The bear retreated a couple of hundred meters and sniffed at a tide crack in the ice and then rolled around a bit fairly unconcerned. Mike then let off a mini flare at it which sent it scampering a bit more.  Mike uttered some calming words to focus us all and various ideas were suggested and discarded. All eyes were fixed on this bear and cameras were now dug out when Debs said ‘there’s another one! 10mts away another was coming from just behind a bluff toward us. Out with another hand flare out of the window and this seemed to scare it away. We were now into conserving our ‘ammunition’ and eventually the pair of them gambolled away out of sight with us watching intently through binoculars and jabbering excitedly at each other.

Firing flare at the 2nd bear
Flare team at the ready!
Beth getting the porridge ready ready for her next bear
Artillery at the ready

Broken window with bear paw print
Bear Watch
Bear tracks

Return to Constable Point (CNP)

We left Sydcap earlier than planned due to the early rude awakening and made good progress back to Gurreholm to fill up with the last jerry can of fuel. The return to the Red House  was full of red ‘no fuel’ warning lights on some of the ‘doos, but we made it to the fuel depot and then we were assured a return to CNP. An eventfull few days.


  1. Eek, thank goodness Beth had some porridge at the ready.

  2. Great "bear" story. Super photos, too, especially the one with the flare!
    Can't wait to hear the extra details when we have a beer or two when you get back.
    Take care ... and remember not to wash ... bears like soap !!!