Tuesday, November 10, 2009

25/07/09 "What!? You want us to just rolly polly down?!"

I had a leisurely wake up from my first dream at 8am. The dream involved my cousings, Tasha and Gabby and my friends from home all needing to stay at mine but when I got home Mum and Dad had had a party and were drunk and then my ex stormed out onto a bus and got expelled from school. Weird....? Anyway the exciting part of this morning was cracking into our first ever ration pack, we were pleasantly surprised by the crackers and Jam, I didn't mind the porridge and rasins either(oh how things change). However the rat-pack high was extinguished thanks to an unfortunate slip on the stepping stones and a very wet foot and Scarpa Manta. Yet another experience of uncomfortable wetness on this trip for me then...

Armed with ice axes, slings and harnesses we marched up to the glacier, ironically we all began to overheat. Howard and Rob had marked out a safe place to cross the river but due to recent glacial melt the river was flowing to fast over the crossing so we had to walk further up to the snout itself. This was our first experience of the rapid effect an increasing temperature can have on such a delicate environment as this.

Today we were preparing for ourselves falling down the glacier, but thankfully not to our untimely death thanks to our ice axes. At first we didn't have our ice axes just the blls to flip over onto all-fours and not enjoy the slip and slide. Although some of us still hadn't quite mastered the basics it was time to introduce the ice axe. This meant that we could fall from any angle. So we practiced the procedure for such events: head first on front and back and feet first front and back. To finish we were asked to "dive" onto the glacier and "just roll down." I think all of our parents will be glad to hear their children were falling head first down a glacier with only an ice axe to save them.

(My journal says I was desperate for the toilet, why i thought thst was necessary? Must have been really desperate...)

After convincing us to roll down the glacier we had a long chat to the leaders aboout our different schools and particularly the different methods of fire drills(pah, I had forgotten health and safety even exsisted...). Unfortuneately my boots were still wet so i was forced to dry them out on walking poles overnight. I hoped the Arctic wind was going to be dry enough as mud, stones and possible human excretement is not nice underfoot...

Monday, November 09, 2009

24th July

Gabby and I woke up next to manimal today as Tasha had a swollen eye and 39 bites thanks to our new friends, the mosquito's. However that was the least of our worries this morning as it was bucketing it down outside and our "washed" clothes were meant to be drying, plus the tent was far from dry. After salvaging the clothes, hot porridge was on the stove but Clem came in to let us know we could go back to bed as there was no way we were being made to walk up to the glacier anytime soon. The fickle nature of the arctic climate was on display as after waiting in limbo in our tents the weather changed to crisp sunshine and we had to pack up camp to head off.

This was the first test of endurance since our packs had our house, food and belongings and for most this was a struggle, let alone for the cripples of the crew. Some people chose to do two runs but the power three trudged on with our life on our backs. My shins were playing up, Tasha's joints had a mind of their own and Gribbs' leg wouldn't keep schtum. I can admit that I didn't think I could get up the vertical climb at the waterfall but with the help of others we all managed it and Gabby even gave Alistair a mars bar as a symbol of the recent team bonding experience. After two hours we arrived at ABC greeted by cuppa soup and Rivi ta. This bliss was short lived as the ground was not the best for tents; it was either to soft or too had. Soon we gave up with pegs and decided to just use rocks. Callistair had already scavenged to get the majority of rocks on the whole flood plain but that was probably because I would steal one for the girls tents every time they went to get another one.

Gribbs and Laura came back from their second trip and we had some veg chili rice on the hob for them since we knew they would be beyond tired. Ratpacks were also handed out and there was carnage for the Svalbard ones once the news broke they had 2 chocolate bars.This was pleasantly followed by the poo barrel and poo bag routine. Basically we know the routine and no need to go into detail, especially when the tube got full...

Our night was rounded off with a visit from a herd of reindeer who were only a few metres away from our tents. As you can guess the cameras were out in seconds...

P.S. My Blister spontaneously burst today.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

22nd July

The various watch alarms started beeping at intervals between 6:30am and 7am. Tasha effortlessly rolled out of bed while Gabby and I needed that little bit of time to "adjust to the light." Still, even after that there was no sign of movement from the rest of the group so we figured there was time to go to the toilet before we put on breakfast. Apparently not. Golumn came up to the girls toilet and rudely shouted "Do you mind moving?" Naturally we questioned this and he jus tsaid " we need breakfast." The worst thing was he left, to go to the toilet. It would be an understatement we were pissed off. Ironically that morning we made far too much porridge so there was enough for all needed. Of course we got a row for making too much, at least it didn't taste like charchol.

There was a meeting down at the "Tring" and it was from Mark who was obviously used to giving talks to young people about the decadence of money and technology. He was also very into his reflective journals. These were to be a burden on us near the end of the trip when it became known that that had to be filled in before we could get our gold Duke of Edinburgh sections. Mark also showed a clever demonstration about the importance of optimism on this kind of trip. Us as a group chose the tallest and strongest boy, this was Trou (one of the Army boys). Now he had to push up as Mark pushed his arm downwards and visa versa. At first Trou "won" but then Mark showed him a drawing on a bit of paper which the crowd couldn't see. When they did the experiment again Mark "won" and, although there are a few variables that may have altered the results, apparently this was due to the picture Mark drew; it was of a sad face and this made a tiny drop in the lymphocyte count which made Trou slightly weaker allowing Mark to beat him. The moral being a small trigger can have a big effect.

We took more food up from the van to base camp and got sorted with ice axes, harnesses and slings and before we knew it it was time to set up the glacier for the first time. Before we left we got a glimpse of raindeer across the river from basecamp which was just the beginning of the stunnig views on out trip up the glacier. Thanks to the mediterranean weather the landscape was looking at something you would expect to find in Northern Italy not Northern Norway! There was a magnificent waterfall with an almost vertical erratic wall to climb up which then revealed a tempting glacial lake. Freezing cold water sounded like just what we needed after our first ascent! I can imagine we were probably wrong.

We had our lunch at a gigantic overhanging boulder that became known as Diner Boulder. For lunch we were treated to Pitta breads and peanut butter with flapjack for pudding. The day was spent learning some climbing techniques including:
Block - Tying the rope around a massive rock
Spike - tying the rope around a massive spikey rock
Thread - Looping the rope through a crack between two rocks.

Abseiling - South African and Classic(totally preffered classic, it was quicker)
Re-thread knot was the basic 1st step in tying your shoe.
Coiling and preparing the rope to get rid of kinks.

The walk back to camp was lovely and leisurely and we took many photos in caves but the main reason we were late was becuase we weren't great at keeping track of the path. Still we only arrived half an hour after everyone else. Before we knew it it was time to fit crampons which was just more faff before some good old stove faff to finish the day...