Monday 25 April 2011

The Epic Tri and Greenland....

Huge congratulations to Ant and Bruce who crossed the line at Westminster last night after a superhuman effort in completing the Bob Graham run, the Lands End to John O'Groats cycle and the Devizes to Westminster paddle back to back in 6 days. If you can spare the price of a beer or a bottle of wine to congratulate them you can donate to Cancer Research for them here.

...and Greenland?
Well here is a video of our Greenland Trip. We arrived at Constablepynt in the sun but the last few flights had struggled to make it in and out because of the weather. Tangent expeditions were to deliver us across Scoresbysund with skiddoos but had a mammoth day delivering another party so we relaxed and had a ski tour locally for the first day in the sun (and I tried to remember how planks worked). Next day we were off. The skiddoos struggled with waist deep powder crossing the fjord and after a bitterly cold journey we spent the last few hours of the day wading ourselves and our kit to a camp near the base of a glacier that runs up onto the plateau we wanted to access.
We spent 3 days in mist and snow storms wandering around the base looking for a way up. Finally we spent a whole day in an attempt to get just 1 of our 4 pulks as far up the glacier as possible. After crossing the unstable tidal zone I dug a trail through deep snow on a steep slope. It was so deep it was over my head in places and I was stabbing 2 skis above me, laying my poles between them and pulling up whilst using my knees to scrape away/tamp down the powder. After that we built a ski belay to hoist up the pulk. This put us onto easier angled snow and it was trailbreaking or stiff pulling beside the glacier. Mid afternoon and a late lunch at 210m above sea level and we realised we could spend 2 weeks doing this and still not even make the top of the glacier.
Back in camp and a conversation with Paul from Tangent ended with the recommendation that we start pulking for home as with the continued snowfall since the drop off it was unlikely they would ever reach us! Scoresbysund is the biggest fjord system in the world, mostly frozen and littered with stunning and enormous icebergs. It was also buried under feet of powder and I was discovering the limitations of my borrowed short skis as I plunged through the trail the others were breaking with great effort. I was really despairing at the thought of days of pulking in this! After examining some fresh polar tracks we pressed on and towards the end of that day we found a shallow path across the surface of the snow. This was our skidoos 'trail- now mostly buried. It made for easier skiing for me but perversely harder going for the others! We camped on it to awake next day to whiteout conditions. After 20minutes tapping the buried trail with our poles like blind men we lost it- back to wading. It was all I could do to keep up as the others followed a compass bearing.
several days going and the wind firmed up the snow enough for me to take my turn at trailbreaking |(though without skis the snow was still waist deep). We camped near to some icebergs the size of a Glasgow tenement block and couldn't resist a little bouldering. Days of sun alternated with whiteout and storms of blown spindfrift as we made it to dry land and followed dogsled tracks on the north side of the fjord. This culminated in a day in a maze of canyons in a whiteout with only the occasional dog pee stain visible through the spindrift to let us know we were on the right track for an inuit hut.
After a day spent in the rather squalid hut in bad weather the skidoos were still struggling to travel so late in our second day we decided on another evening leg, leaving just as a pair of inuit dog teams with some french travellers arrived. The flight was due the next day and with 20km still to go in another morning snowstorm things weren't looking great. A last minute dash from Tangent's skidoos swooped us into the airport where they were waiting for our bags. We had a few minutes in a snowy hanger emptying pulks and packing bags and ended up on the plane still wearing all of our frozen skiing kit. Things got a little damp and smelly as we thawed out on the fight to Iceland but airplane food never tasted so good! A quick overnight in Iceland and we were passing through Heathrow and Glasgow airports (where our rifle was handed back to us by a baggage handler with 'PSYCHO' written on his jacket- welcome home!).
So our 'mountaineering' expedition attained a highpoint of a mere 210m and became a struggle just to get home! This was mostly due to the unseasonably large amounts of snow (March's weather arrived in April). But the trip was far from boring as we got to undertake a tough journey in an amazing place.
Thanks to Berghaus, The Gino Watkins Memorial Fund and the Alpine Ski Club for their support and Tangent Expeditions for their services.

Here are a few pictures:

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