Friday 28 July 2017

Arriving in Greenland

I love the Arctic. The light and the stark, uncompromising environment. I also love the fact that coming to Greenland I'm not going to have to worry about crowds, altitude or 'delhi belly' compared to some other expedition locations I've been to.
I'm safely ensconced at the Tangent Expeditions basecamp at Constablepynt Airport in NE Greenland. I have a group arriving in a few days to try to climb Ingmikortilaq ('The place that looks like an island') which is a triple summited rocky peninsula that looks rather like 3 Skye Munros dumped in the sea. It sits in the furthest north part of Scoresbysund, the world's largest fjord system and attached to Hinks Land by a thin strip of raised ground. On the north side is Nordvestfjord and in turn at the nearby head of this is Daugard-Jensen Gletscher which calves directly into the fjord providing the bulk of the icebergs that slowly drift out down Scoresbysund to the open ocean.
My team of 4 plus me will take a long boat journey with one of the local Inuits from Ittoqortoormiit and after we've sited a basecamp we have 12 days to explore the area. As well as the rocky summit we have the option of heading up onto the local glaciated peaks. There is no record of anything being climbed in the area but with various geological expeditions dating back to Lauge Koch's epic sea plane supported trips in the 50s you never quite know who has done exactly what. Hopefully these peaks will be a little too remote or technical to have seen previous ascents but that's not my prime motivation for visiting anyway.
Google earth image of Ingmikortilaq
Owing to flights I have a few days here in Constablepynt. Its my 6th trip to the area (Milne Land, Gaase Land an epic 8 day blizzarded ski retreat across the fjord from Volkaarts Boons Coast, a N-S traverse of Liverpool Land and our amazing Catalina trip to Faxe So) and I've also been to Ausmannadalen in West Greenland and Svalbard with my (then soon to be) wife, Jane. The Arctic has given me some the best times of my life. Tangent now have a great base here; raised (to keep them above spring snow and melt) shipping containers used for storage and converted as staff bunkrooms and an HQ Weatherhaven with small kitchen, workshop, electricity and even some wifi piggy backed from the airport. This all forms an essential base for the busy spring expedition season supported by the Snow Dragons (skidoos) permanently based there.
I'll have a gentle start to the trip sorting food, tents, stoves, climbing gear, comms and emergency kit waiting for the team to arrive and then local boatman Ole will take us north on a boat journey that should take about 20 hours... excited!
 Amazing what you can do with a small shipping container
 Tangent HQ
 On the rise walkway
A la carte dining in the Arctic!
Last night, after dinner, I took a walk down to the coast to admire and take pictures of some small grounded 'berry bits'. The evening light as the sun lowers (it doesn't go all the way down) is lovely. There were Arctic Terns and a Long Tailed Skua around and a great view (if you turn your back to the airport!). Everything is a little further away than you think out here, the quality of the air seems to shorten distances so with a decent wee hike its important to take the right tools, including a rifle. Bears are rare in the area in the summer but always a possibility. A few more pics on:
 Grounded bergy bit
 Long Tailed Skua overhead
 Melting... Liverpool Land beyond
 Looking down Hurry Fjord from the beach
 Not a bad spot for an evening stroll
Lines in the sand

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Coaching Climbing with Eve and Amy

Eve and Amy came with a brief to look at some technical and psychological issues to give them more confidence in their multi-pitch climbing and we were lucky enough with a dry, breezy (almost too breezy!) day at Polldubh meaning we could get lots of climbing for limited walking.
We started with a little warm up and some bouldering giving them some technique pointers. Amy is a super precise twinkle toes climber shifting her weight very well but seemed to lack some more dynamic tools which can be useful at times. Eve moved generally well and more confidently but not as precisely as her climbing partner.
With these things to think about we got stuck in on our first route and I thought I'd overcooked it. Eve's good movement suffered on the first lead but at least this gave us plenty to talk about in terms of coping strategies and she committed in the end and was soon rigging the first belay. Here as Amy arrived we were able to tidy up their transition at the stance quite a bit and then Amy made short work of a second pitch. Now Eve decided to strap he guns on and take the harder finishing option which was led with less input from me (well done!).
After a wee review and a bite to eat we were on to another route. Amy again showed her excellent footwork on the bottom of 3 Pines but we were able to make some improvements on planning and racking gear. Eve styled the second pitch getting good gear and cruising through the roof confirming that when its steep, positive and 3-d she's happy and that its the more tenuous, open slabs that feel like her weaker area.
A quick abseil off with the clouds coming in and a last chat through lessons learnt for the day and we were down. Thanks for an interesting day Eve and Amy and thank you for letting MIA Trainee Mehmet observe throughout. More pics and captions on:

Tuesday 18 July 2017

T-Shirts on Tower Ridge

Great to see Jenny back today. We've done some winter climbing and other things in the past and she wanted a good day out with a bit of mountaineering teaching input. She's doing a PhD in Geology and spends time in Antarctica collecting samples based at a Norwegian base (lucky thing) and I learnt things about dating the exposure of rocks as ice retreats that I didn't even know i didn't know. She'd had a nightmare journey up the A82 (which is about as fit for purpose as a chocolate t-spoon) and we didn't get away from the car until well after 11 but Jenny's fit and moves well so were on the plateau before 3 and had found time to do a little teaching and answer some of her questions. Soon nice to be in a T-shirt the whole way up. My Rab Boreas came out of the bag on the plateau as it was quite windy up there but it was soon off again as we romped down Ledge Route (via a quick peak at the saxifrages in No.4 Gully). We even had time to bathe our hot feet in the Allt a Mhuillin! Has been a pretty ropey summer weather wise but today showed the Highlands at their best and when the The Outdoor Capital of the UK is like this its are tough to beat! More pics and captions at:

Sunday 16 July 2017

Tower Ridge and Ledge Route

A bit wetter than expected but sheltered from the wind on Tower Ridge today with MIA Trainee Adam who was taking up Juri and Marcin. We even got a few views from Ledge Route in descent. Captions at:

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Today I was directing a Mountain Training Scotland Climbing Wall Leading Award Training at Perth College Climbing Centre. Always a great fun and interesting course to work on, lots of exercises and games but more importantly lots of thought about how this could fit together to develop new leaders. More pics and captions on: