B B B BLAST OFF!

16 01 2013

The big day arrives...

ulvetanna antarctica, long ridge

Location: Mavericks, Ulvetanna Base Camp, S 71 49.146′, E 008 21.867′
Temperature: 10 deg C, clear, high level clouds, Sunny 15 knots.
Date: 14/1/13

So the big day arrives and I am on Coffee duty, Alarm set for 6am. Coffee Pot is on the boil and the boys where all woken up with a nice steamy hot brew. Everyone finally emerges out of their tents around 9am… no comment! ;-) Already we had lost one spork, in fact it was Leo’s Spork strangely enough. He was marching around ABC frantically searching for it before his porridge went completely cold.

Departure time: 11h00

The boys set off with absolutely massive loads (despite having done 2 hauls earlier) stumbling with the occasional face planting under the weight of the bag and the unstable snow. The route up to the base of the wall is pretty steep as I have mentioned in a previous post.  Most of the loads where carried on their backs one by one up the rope. Took a while for all 5 of them to get up. Next were the haul bags (or Sheep Smugglers as I like to call them.) they were pulled up the slope with a pulley system with both Jason and Chris acting as counterweight, running up and down the hill in short bursts , slowly edging the kit up the slope.  The boys only started jugging on the rock by 13h00. Al was first to go up to get into position to do a bit of filming, Stanley was next, followed by Jason, Chris and then Leo.

I filmed as much as I could before I started noticing the steep area I was filming from was starting to avalanche. It was incredibly hot in this “snow bowl” and as the day moved on, more and more snow rivers started trickling down. Slightly scary when a 5 meter wide path of snow slowly started moving directly towards me with a massive wall of snow 50 meters above you just sitting there.  Got to get out of there fast!

Throughout the day I heard them shouting to each other, spread hundreds of meters apart along the rock face. The occasional “ROCK”  being shouted out (that is when you don’t look up in case you get a face full of rock) I filmed some more from a different angle of the boys slightly higher up, ran out of memory on my camera so then headed off back to Base Camp. In fact I was planning to stay in ABC, but the boys pinched all the fuel bottles and one of the MSR stoves so I couldn’t boil any water. Thanks for telling me guys!

Around 18h30 I radioed in to tell the boys the wind had picked up loads and to expect high winds on the ridge. (The ridge is only some 0,5m wide so wind is massively influential on the traverse) Al replied and said he had just arrived on the ridge and can confirm the stronger wind. His tone didn’t sound massively enthusiastic.

Next radio contact:

AL: I amon ledand putyF ooed.

Stanley: Can you repeat, are you on the ridge or the ledge? Over

Al: I am on the Ledge, L, E, D, G, E over.

Stanley: OK, we are one pitch from the ridge with the haul bags! Over.

AL: I wait here. I pretty F*&%cked!! (Spoken in a loud, slurred and fluctuating voice)

Wouldn’t expect anything less from someone who has just jugged up 500m of cliff face.

I have just received word at 13h30 today that the boys are all fine, they have just woken up and put a coffee on.

They only finished hauling in the early hours of this morning and after setting up portaledges and making dinner, everyone got to bed around 4am. They are all now be camped at the base of the headwall on the Ledge that has acquired the name “The Plateau of Great Expectations”

Today the boys are going to be relaxing. They had planned on doing some filming on the ridge, but they are only going to do that tomorrow. The day after, I suspect they might start climbing the Headwall, but more on that later.

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