Sledge Golf - Part 3
Tonight I'm trying to edge my body-clock round 12 hours, in preparation for night shift, so I'll stay up and try and continue the Sledge Golf story. First, the name. We didn't pop down the range and hit a few buckets - it comes from the phonetic alphabet. Ironically, the next group, Sledge Hotel, are being treated to a hotel break at home. The blizzards are back, pinning them down to base on their holiday week. Because of limited time before all hands are needed for summer work, everyone has allocated dates for their holidays. There's a bit of flexibility in the system to account for crap weather, but not much. You've just gotta take the cards the Big White Hand plays you, and make the most of it. Hopefully they'll still get a long weekend...
Anyway, back to last week:
Tuesday 18th: Exploring
The wind died over night and the warming blanket of cloud dissolved, leaving us bitterly cold in the morning. Before retiring, we tried to be sure everything required to light the stove and tilley lamp was close at hand. Both units were refuelded, but de-pressurised to stop leakages. The meths (for priming) and matches were left in an obvious place, to try and reduce the time with arms out of the sleeping bag to an absolute minimum. Old style matches, the ones with a nice British battleship on the pack (despite being made in Sweden!), are getting harder to come by. The newer "safety" matches fall into two camps. One that fails to strike. The other the catches first time, but splits, throwing the burning phosphorus towards your tentmate. Even if Alex wanted an extra 10 minutes snooze, my burned fingers (and language) made sure he wasn't going to get it!
Once warmed, fed and watered, the weather continued to stay fine and Sune had learned from Dean over the radio that it would remain so all day. Hands now working properly, we donned harnesses and headed to take a closer look at the bergy region we'd briefly seen on arrival.
Toms picks his way through the frozen maze. Note crevasse in centre frame
Creaks and groans greeted us as we entered the crevasse field as the ice strained with the change of tide beneath it. Clutching my ice-axe and expecting the snow to give way at any moment, I felt like a character in Apocalypse Now, with enemy hidden everywhere. After a while I settled into my surroundings, spotting the hazards and avoiding them with careful steps left, right or just plain long.
As we moved higher, the route became more and more confused. Pushed up from beneath, the iceshelf had shattered into many jagged blocks, which had then become covered and bridged by falling and drifting snow. It was like nothing I'd seen on glaciers in Europe, but thankfully Sune's far greater mountain experience helped him pick a way through the 'safer' bridges.
Crevasse between two chunks of iceshelf, with cornices (*)
Twisting and turning from block to block, we dodged holes and eventually made it to the top and enjoyed the view.
Tom on top of the World, at the bottom of the World
The keen wind kept us from lingering, but the excellent vantage showed a better route down, so off we trudged, keeping the rope tight. A few bridges gave way beneath us, but with nothing worse than a vanishing leg and a scramble for solid ground. We wouldn't be needing the jumars today, I thought.
Sune with camp to top left (*)
Before long we left the ice field and headed to the coast to check out possible future abseils. The wind had now picked up, but my biggest cause of discomfort was the over indulgence on curry the night before. It's amazing how quickly a harness and three layers of clothing can move when they have to!
The Rumples by night
The end of the day was as good as the rest with a good sunset and a cracking moon later on. Alex and I joined Sune and Tom for a well earned glass of port, a game of cards and increasingly tall tales of narrow escapes from "slots of doom". It was a good day.
Right, I was going to do more, but now I'm tired and out of wine, so one more day then I'll close.
Wednesday 19th: Snoozing
This is Antarctica! You should all know what follows a good day. Yup, it snowed and blew all day. We snoozed, read and drank tea. I finished Scott's "Voyage of the Discovery" and was impressed with the quality of the writing and amount of science that voyage undertook. I was also surprised to learn they never intended to stay for two years!
More tomorrow. In the meantime, check out more photos here.
Photos marked (*) are courtesy of UAV met-guru, Tom. Click here for his blog (and to brush up your Deutsch)