An amazing week spent working for World Extreme Medicine in arctic Norway on their Polar Medicine course. The training focused on giving medics the skills to move and operate safely in this enviroment as well as specific cold weather medical knowledge. We looked at nordic skiing, snow mobiling, dog sledding, snow shoeing, navigation, avalanche avoidance and cold water immersion. The majority of the time was spent out in the field including a 2 night snowholing expedition which corresponded with one of the best northern light shows of the year.
The last few days in the mountains have proved pretty eventful with the ongoing earthquake disaster in Nepal and the avalanches on Everest. We'rejust picking up the pieces after our own avalanche experience in Greenland exactly one year to the day after 16 Sherpas were killed on Everest.
I was guiding for Tangent Expeditions and our plan was to explore, climb and ski in the rarely visited southern Stauning Alps on the east coast of Greenland. Good weather enabled our skidoo transport to make quick progress across Jamieson Land with the mountains of Milneland, Renland and the Staunings dominating the horizon. There were tens of musk ox moving singuly and in herds chewing on the few sprigs of vegetation that were starting to show through the snowpack.
We spent the night in the derelict Gurreholm Research station after digging down to it's back door. The following morning we picked our way across the sea ice and up the main drainage line until we were blocked by sheet ice. From here we were on ski dragging everything we needed for the following two weeks in our pulks. A long hot day ensued until we found a good location for our base camp still a few kilometers from the mountains
Next day saw us enjoying a stunning ski tour up one of many glacier that drop from the small icecap atop the Stauning Alps. There was very little crevasse risk, the sun was out and we were sheltered from the wind blowing across the plateau. However on a slope we had identified as stable we presume a deep seated weak layer meant that we triggered a large slab avalanche as we approached the rim. We regrouped having dug ourselves out after a bruising ride and with no serious injuries but our skis were gone. Our 'postholing' descent to base camp took rather a long time!
Back at camp we realised our expedition was over with no efficient way of moving around the mountains and a few limiting injuries. A poor weather forecast meant that the Dragon Skidoo Team couldn't reach us immediatly but we were safe and secure in camp with enough food and fuel for 2 weeks. In the event it wasn't needed as a weather window opened and the Dragons grabbed the oppurtunity to get in and pick us up. Poor visibilty and flat light meant that the return journey took three days but within hours of getting back to Constable Point we were in the air and on our way back to Iceland.
Good report here from Dr Rob Conway on the Dragons Skidoo Team
I'm currently on my way to the east coast of Greenland to guide an exploratory ski mountaineering and alpine climbing expedition for Tangent Expeditions. Our plan is to base ourselves in the Southern Stauning Alps which have had few if any visits. First ascents and descents would seem to be the order of the day. Access will be by a two day skidoo journey up through the vast frozen fjord system to place our base camp on Oxford Glacier. The promo video we shot from a couple of years ago gives a good idea of the scale and isolation of this stunning landscape.
It's been a long time in production but will certainly be worth the wait. The BBC Natural History Unit's latest offering 'Life Story' is about to hit your screens. Obviously the highlight of the series will be the Barnacle Geese chicks in Greenland! (who also feature in the trailer). I was lucky enough to manage the safety side of things for the shoot back in 2012 with logistics being provided by Tangent Expeditions. 70m high loose basalt cliffs, helicopters, mosquitoes, musk ox and stunning scenery all made for a pretty special experience. Photos from the expedition on Flickr
It definitely feels like spring has arrived in the Lakes. Today was a gloriously still day out in the Northern Fells. I was working with Karin who is just about to depart on a big Greenland expedition. Her team are attempting to circumnavigate the ice cap with a Windsledge as part of a bigger project. This was her final chance to look at crevasse rescue and develop a system for retrieving 1000kg of sledge from a crevasse if the unthinkable should happen. We began with jumaring and abseiling and developed these skills to include freehanging transitions. The afternoon was spent looking at a variety of hauling techniques up to a monstrous 12:1 ratio.
The Windsledge Project looks very interesting. It's already been tested on a number of expeditions but this will be the biggest challenge yet. Kite skiing is an amazing way to travel but you are limited in the amount of kit you can tow behind you in a pulk. This new concept opens up some intriguing possibilities.....
I've just run five days of Scottish based training for the Imperial Trans Antarctic Centenary Expedition which aims to make a complete crossing of the continent later in the year. They'll also be attempting a crossing of the Greenland icecap in May as part of their training. www.south2014.com
The week focused on the technical as well as the physical and mental skills required to operate safely in these enviroments.
We were joined by photographer John Pickles who took these stunning black and white images. More of his work can be seen on his website at www.johnpicklesphotography.com.