ALE's Union Glacier Camp is up and running for the 2017/18 season so time for an overview of this years Antarctic & South Pole Expeditions. Alongside the usual Mt Vinson and Last Degree expeditions there a number of more challenging projects and guided trips.
Ben Saunders (Trans-Antarctic Solo) - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul attempt at an Antarctic crossing from the southern edge of Birkner Island to the South Pole and on to the Ross Ice Shelf via the Leverett Glacier. Based on Lt Col Henry Worsleys Solo Shackleton 2015/16 attempt. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Astrid Furholt - Two person team attempting an unassisted manhaul on the Roald Amundsen route by which the South Pole was first reached. Accessing the start point at Framheim by Twin Otter to the Ross Iceshelf and then by kite ski to the edge of the shelf. [unassisted]
Ice Maidens - Six women team from the British Army attempting an unsupported crossing of Antarctica from the Leverett Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf to Hercules Inlet via the South Pole. Two resupplies at the South Pole and Thiel Mountains. This 1700km route was used by Felicity Aston in 2011/12 on her Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic Expedition. [unsupported]
Ice Trek - A guided team of five attempting a new route from the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole via the Reedy and Kansas Glaciers
Scott Sears (Antarctic Gurkha) - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul along the standard 700 mile Hercules Inlet route to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Yasu Ogita - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Davar Rostuhar - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
ALE Ski South Pole - Guided team manhauling from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. Two Guides Carl Alvey & Christain with five clients
Paul Landry (Polar Consultants) - Guided team man hauling from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole
Robert Swan Energy Challenge - Guided team of four man hauling from the Messner Start to the South Pole. Expedition running on 'renewable energy & bio fuels' during the manhauling phase.
Leo Houlding (Spectre) - An innovative attempt to combine climbing, man hauling and kite skiing. After an ALE Twin Otter drop off the expedition will comprise a 300km kite ski to the Organ Pipe Peaks in the Gothic Mountains, an attempt on the 750m buttress of the Spectre (2020m) and other unclimbed peaks, a 400km manhaul onto the polar plateau and a 1100km kite ski directly back to Union Glacier. [unassisted]
Unsupported - Support in Antarctica is usually provided by kites i.e. wind assisted or vehicles. Unsupported trips are typically manhauling on skis
Unassisted - Assistance is usually in the form of resupplies, either planned or emergency. All solo trips are unassisted by definition.
A blustery old day in Langdale dodging the showers We were running rope & location safety for a BBC Radio 3 feature - Between the Ears - scheduled for broadcast on the 30th September
Today was about moving fast and light in the mountains with a camera. 85 members of Warner Music UK had chosen to attempt the Buttermere 6 Peaks as a fundraiser for charity and they'd assembled a small media team to document their efforts. With the group quickly splitting into 6 different teams, with their guides from Activius, it took bit of local knowledge, a few short cuts and a lot of hard running to capture their experiences.
It's become a regular and very enjoyable fixture in my diary - road tripping round Scotland climbing stunning and classic lines with Rob & Jude. After last years soggy experience it was great to find some dry rock and get some serious mileage in. This years ticklist included Agags Groove & Grooved Arete on the imposing Rannoch Wall, Archer Ridge & Quiver Rib in Glencoe, Savage Slit in the Cairngorms, the Classic Rock trio of Cicoh Direct, Arrow Route & Integrity on Skye, Tower Ridge on the Ben and a wet adventure up the iconic Clachaig Gully - 9 Classic Rock routes and 27 stars :)
A quick hit to Scotland allowed us to tick off one of the classic Scottish canoe journeys. Just a few miles from the west coast the waters of Rannoch Mor begin their long journey east reaching tidal waters at Perth. It's a long shuttle but putting on beneath the peaks of Glencoe and paddling north into the wilderness was a stunning start to our adventure. Water levels were low so it was a bit of a scrape once we left Loch Ba and headed down the River Gaur with plenty of poling and lining. Our first camp was on the shores of Loch Eigeach just before the first of a number of portages around the various hydro electric dams.
Geoff (MWIS) had promised us westerlies to speed us on our way but as we paddled out on to the 15km Loch Rannoch we were fighting into a strong headwind. We put our heads down and were making steady if unspectacular progress until the Cairoch where the wind began to change. Thirty minutes later we pulled over and the sailing rig went up. The rest of the loch flew past as we relaxed in the sun, our speed topping out at 9kmh. The final job of the day was a four kilometre portage to access the Tummel river system and our camp amongst the daffodils at the head of Loch Tummel.
Breakfast the next day was a leisurely affair as we sailed the length of the loch in perfect conditions. Past the dam we enjoyed the white water of the lower Tummel. Getting off line I capsized but somehow managed to flick the boat upright and paddled to the bottom in a swamped canoe without a swim. We portaged a bony looking Falls of Tummel and a few minutes later joined the River Tay. Our pace was slowed by dodging round the many fly fisherman but there were no problems to report and everyone seemed to be enjoying the spring like conditions. Our final camp was just north of Dunkeld in a small grove of trees.
Our final day brought the only rain of the trip with a short but torrential cold front soaking us. Spirits were raised as we floated past a pair of ospreys on their nest and we made good progress towards the tidal waters of Perth. The rapids at Campsie Linne and Stanley gave good sport before the final few flat miles and the east coast. Even the final shuttle wasn't too onerous snd didn't detract from a great journey across Scotland
A final few days at the end of my Scottish winter season gave a mixed bag of conditions, weather and routes. After a year off the Irish crew arrived for a quick hit coming away with ascents of the Douglas Boulder SW Ridge (IV 5) and a very snowy swim up Western Rib (III) on the west face of Aonach Mor. With the turbo thaw back in action my final day on Curved Ridge was almost alpine with a leisurely picnic on Crowberry Tower and a cloud inversion on top.