|"I dont know
whether Im pleased to see the climbers back or not!"
I dont know whether Im
pleased to see the climbers back or not! On the one hand it is a relief, as ever to see
them all safe and well, on the other we have just spent over a day clearing up the yacht
after their departure! Getting together again, though, provides the opportunity for all
participants to update the others on their progress so far.
Our yacht based activities surveying and
recording the impact of time and the environment on the whalers harbour at Svend
Foyn are due to take at least another day of the full teams involvement so for this
despatch I shall hand the despatches soap box over on this occasion to Climbing Team
Leader, James Harris, to recount progress on thill.
Joint Expedition Leader
|"As Tim, Harry and I
skied off up the Reclus Peninsular on a beautiful afternoon...."
As you will have read in Andys
last despatch our first foray ashore began on Monday 10th December when Tim Hall, Harry
Scrope and I landed at Portal Point on the Reclus Peninsular. On this small spit of land
back in 1957 the southern team of Sir Wally Herberts Peninsular Traverse Expedition
led by Dick Foster, over-wintered before ascending a route pioneered the previous season
by Brian Bayly and Les Harris onto the Peninsular Plateau in preparation for guiding Sir
Wallys team down to the sea after their historic journey from Hope Bay at the
Northern tip of the Peninsular. The Expedition hopes to continue this traverse of the spine of the Antarctic Peninsular, south from the
Reclus Peninsular, (ie from where Sir Wally finished), over much ground that has yet to be
visited by man. How far we hope to get will depend on how the plot unfolds over the next
couple of months. The weather and unknown obstacles mean that at the moment I am keeping
our hopes close to my chest and we do not wish to commit ourselves to aims that may be
unachievable to the detriment of other elements of our programme. For this initial first
tentative step ashore, however, my aspirations were three-fold. Firstly, to identify the
route pioneered by the Bayly/Harris team and ensure that it still provided viable access
onto the Plateau, then to cache a forward supply of rations and fuel for our small camping
stoves (the vital logistics of mountain travel) as high up the route as feasible in order
that in due course a sledging team will be able to move up the Reclus Peninsular, pick up
the supplies and use them on the journey South; thirdly to get as many of the land team
(who were howling like a pack of huskies to be let go) off the yacht to give them a taste
of working and operating in Antarctic conditions.
As Tim, Harry and I skied off up the
Reclus Peninsular on a beautiful afternoon and we watched the John Laing slip silently
away to the South to her new anchorage, the enormity of our surroundings began to hit us.
The sheer beauty and scale is difficult to describe and the sense of isolation is
complete. We took nearly 5 hours to complete the 6-mile journey to the base of Harris Peak
(deservedly named after Les rather than me I'm afraid!). The rate of progress was
particularly slow as we stopped longer than we perhaps should have to marvel at the
splendour and take yet more photographs. We set up camp about 11pm still with the sun high
in the sky and keeping us warm. I confirmed with Andy on the radio that the remainder of
the party should be put ashore the following day to join us at our new camp which we had
christened "Napoleon". Youll have seen Andys speculation on the
origin of the name - it has yet to be decided if we are to name our camps after drinks or
military leaders, at the moment we are keeping our options open!
The following morning Tim, Harry and I left our camp
and set off with light rucksacks to climb a feature known as the Bayly Glacier (named
after Brian of course) in order to try to establish exactly where his route had gone.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the party, led by Dick Pattison were being landed at Portal
Point and began to ski up to join us at Camp Napoleon. After a couple of hours the going
on the Bayly Glacier was proving so difficult we concluded that there was no way Sir Wally
could have descended it with a dog sled. Nevertheless, we chose to continue with the aim
being to move back over Harris Peak on a route that was becoming clearer the higher we
climbed and appeared to fit the description of the 1957 route. All was going well and we
had just about reached the top of the Glacier, having overcome the last of the ice fall,
when the inevitable happened and I fell into a crevasse. For those readers who know me,
they will understand that this is a
fairly common occurrence and not something that those who dont should become unduly
concerned about. After much huffing, puffing (and swearing!) the combined efforts of
Tims technical ability, Harrys strength and my determination to get back above
ground I was unceremoniously dragged to the surface (there is never much time for dignity
at these moments). Unfortunately, in the struggle one of my skis became detached and fell
deep into the crevasse never to be seen again.
Unfortunately this little incident had by now cost
us nearly 3 hours so after a cup of hot chocolate and bite to eat we concluded that as I
would now have to walk, the only sensible option was to retrace our route back down the
glacier. By now, the remainder of the team had arrived at Camp Napoleon and had cooked
supper and were just about to retire for a well earned rest into their sleeping bags. They
were therefore extremely grateful to be called on the radio with the request for
them to make their way up to the foot of the glacier to meet us with a replacement ski! It
was nearly 5 hours later that we met up with Dick Pattison, Sarah Piesse and Jim Wood, on
the glacier - I was particularly grateful of their efforts as walking in deep snow
sometimes up to my waist, was beginning to try my patience!! We finally returned back to
camp by 0630 hours after over 16 hours on the mountain.
As the weather forecast for the following two days
was ominous I decided that we would cache our rations as high as possible on the now
obvious route over Harris Peak and retire to be picked up by John Laing that evening at
Portal Point. I am pleased to say that I can therefore report our first trip ashore to be
a success. We now have identified what we think to be the Bayly/Harris route past Harris
Peak, have in place a good stock of rations and fuel ready for a party to pick up to move
South and have given everybody a good taste of operating in the Antarctic mountains. There
are a few sore feet and aching bodies but these will mend and as I write the sun is once
again coming out so hopefully it will not be too long before our next adventure into the
hills. We will keep you posted.
Joint Expedition Leader
design by Tim Hall ABIPP
(Roll mouse over photos for captions )