Jul 30 2007

diary #3

Category: Greenland diaryash @ 11:04 am

Thurs 11:47

It’s w@nk out there ….

Fri 1:15 pm

The weather finally lifted yesterday.  Aftechilling til 4pm we set off for the ‘Alpine’ region to the south, for a 3 day recce trip. We headed straight across the glacier and hit many superglacial streams, some of which were massive – no chance of crossing, and it was raining still.  Had to cross 3 big bands of moraine, all very loose, and we all found it hard ( full mountaineering kit 3 full days of food).  After 7 hours we made it to our recce camp – just up from a very big wonky boulder that I climbed up and proudly wee’d from 😀

(dodgy picture of me doing the buisness in my diary!)

Now sat waiting for it to cool down, so the ice can re-freeze properly, listening to Doc C snore and wondering about emptying the bladder again.  We think there’s a route through the big icefall up onto a series of glaciers that me and Phil worked out will take us through to the highest peak round here.  Today’s going to be a big day!

Saturday 0:25pm

Well, I was right there.  Just woke up – yesterday was a 16 1/2 hour day.  A bit full on.  Successful -we got the beast – but HARD!

We left recce camp at 4.30pm, still a bit warm but not meltin too fast.  Found a route INTO the icefall very quickly, then spent about 3 hours trying to find a route through.  Pretty dodgy at times, loads of massive (50′) seracs, hopping from block to block of shit ice over damn big holes.  Finally realised we couldn’t get through so decided to pull out, and try on the left hand side of the icefal, through some loose moraine/mud/rock.  This was far better after we’d got onto it, and led us round and above the icefall. 

The glacier above was heavily crevassed and after about an hour we found a route through it, leading us into the alpine bowl proper.  Awesome big wall climbing all around.  Headed for our intended route – the second incoming glacier from the right, with a large boulder at the bottom (henceforth known as “Brew Boulder”).

We’d taken 5 hours to get here.  Had a bite and a drink, then followed a thin strip of medial moraine up onto the next glacier, leading us into some more big crevasses (we were on wet glaciers now (i.e. hit the snow line and could not see where the crevasses were so easily), snow cold enough to hold …. mostly!), then a long, long snow plod up several kilometers of steeply rising ground ,with quite deep snow (knee depth) in places. 

245As I was leading the second rope (me, Chris Mosely, Ali, Terminator, Stu) I was really glad that I wasn’t breaking trail – I was knackred just following the steps!  Eventually crossed the bergschund and got to the col at the head of the valley.  Had a 5 min breather in the cold, then kicked right and headed for the top.  The temperature had dropped a lot now, the sweat (so much for gore-tex boots at stupid amounts of money!) in my boots was starting to freeze and I lost feeling in my toes … as we approached the snow dome we realised we were on the Greenland ice cap and could see for a good distance all around through the cloud, but most importantly we seemed to have hit the midnight sun (0230am), and the sun – which was directly in front of us as we headed up – was a glowing orange circular haze, lighting our way.  Stunning, very impressive.

228Gained the top, for shaking of hands and hugs.  Photies, got a GPS reference. Peak named as “Commandment Peak” – Phil came up with that as there was 10 of us stood on it! Height set at 2117 on my GPS – slightly different from that on the map.  Noted how cold it was, as I could put 90 degree kinks in our rope and hold it up so that it kept its shape.  Bit cold.  Then, with no degree of uncertainty, ran away.

Realised how tired I was on the way down, kept falling over.  Our steps had frozen, and so were throwing our footsteps off with each step, making my now defrosting toes scream in pain with each step (nb, with hindsight we should have lost crampons for the long plod down, would have made walking far easier).  After 2.5 hours we were back at the brew boulder, had a VERY strong sugary coffee which picked me back up again, then got back through the crevasse field and moraine / icefall pretty easily apart from the very last section – downclimbing some grade 1 ice.  Ali was having issues with it – her axe and points were not going in properly – we were so tired it was getting hard to concentrate properly.  She got down fine with just one small slip, which threw her confidence a bit, but Chris M was a star in talking her down – and to be fair had been keeping an eye on me all day too.  ‘Nuff respect to him for that.

Back to the bottom, finished at 0900, ate, then slept.

Jul 28 2007

diary #2

Category: Greenland diaryash @ 6:05 pm

Wed 9.19pm

Dear Diary, sorry it’s been so long, been a bit manic.  On Sunday we flew (after chilling til 3pm) to Milneland – the Renland landing strip had died.  Awesome flight, chilled landing and made Monsoon city on the beach (lots of Wild Country Monsoon Tents!).  After tea etc, forded the river and climbed the 260m Bimble Hill to find the midnight sun at 0145 – but got to the top for it to be cloudy!

On Monday, we were supposed to be the first group to Renland, but the food logistics had got a bit screwed with the change of landing venue, so the anti-glutens needed to go … plus the bivvyers also needed to go earlier rather than later, as we were told only a few boats were coming. So, we chilled at the beach, thinking we’d be leaving on Tuesday.  Played our Olympics, Long jump, triple jump, hurdles, races, then ‘ladders’, human pyramids and matt taught us how to breakdance. Badly. Then, JulieJulieJulie called us on the radio to say that they could fit us all into the boats (which had arrived in larger numbers) … we followed over to them with our kit – wading the estuary minus boots and trousers (!) and got into the waiting boat.

Then, the most amazing 45 min boat ride past teh Bear islands to Renland at around 30-40mph with our team (Geoff, Ali, Harriet, Jim, Sam and me) clutching the sides of the boat. I can now understand why the sea kayakers are doing what they are doing – the views were unreal.

We landed first, met the others, geared up and set off upstream (7pm).  Stopped just before the glacier at 10pm, had tea, then decided to carry on up and over this glacier to the planned campsite mid-way to base camp.  A straightforward dry glacier, few big holes but took some time – heavy packs and low energy levels were starting to take their toll – arrived at 2am on a very sandy beach  – some way inland.

Pitched the tents, then watched others arrive and jjj/tim have (what looked like) a mini-epic. 

Tuesday set off for base camp.  We knew there was a bit of a moraine field to get through, and after an hour or two of wandering through a desert (The Gobi Desert) we spend 6 bloody hours fighting over unsorted, unconsolidated shite moraine.  Really bloody hard, very demoralizing.  Not good.  Many pissed off people, but we were all SO happy when we got through!

We then had a 10km glacier plod, so after throwing all our food in a pot (Renland Hash mmmm), and having a brew we carried on.  Got in about 1am – Jack the Booth had already cleared a space for the tent on the moraine.  Big grins, and shots of whiskey from Dick! So Monday was 9am-3am, then Tueday was 1030 tik 2am.  A bit tired.

Today (Wednesday) has been slow.  Woke at 1pm (!) then chilled.  Built our circular social area between me, Jack, Ali and Sean, ate well, sorted stuff for tomorrow (a 3 day recce), chatted and chilled.  Oh and washed too.  Woo!

Ali just said I should quote her as:

“Ali is a moody cow, and she nearly killed 5 people”

As everyone else, she found it hard with the heavy weight of your life on your back through that evil moraine.

Need to stay up late tonight to switch my body clock around – bring on the beer!

Jul 24 2007

Diary entry #1

Category: Greenland diaryash @ 5:50 pm

(Taken from the diary that I kept whilst away – with a few edited bits and other additions)

Bastard Mozzies – 22/7

Sat in the -1* Hilton hotel/portacabin at Constable-Pynt, where there is an airstrip and not much else.  Baggage inc tent in a different country.  Hoping to be here by 1.30 pm tomorrow.  Plan is to head to Milneland now (Not Renland as planned as airstrip failed a landing test), then get boats to Renland – although these boats were supposed to have been ferrying the kayaks to the awaiting kayakers camped outside.

There are massive amounts of pack ice in the Fjord – the Kayakers have been stuck here for a few days, and they’re pretty pissed off now.  They’re about 5 days behind schedule, and have had enough of these damn cold temperatures plus the evil biting mosquitos.  Am glad I bought a head net.

Tested stove, got all kit that went in frieght, and have drawn 3 days of hill food to get me to base camp from here.

Had an excellent game of rounders last night with the airport staff, on an international runway.  Not often you get chance to do that!

Shared Rum in chocolate pudding with Ali for tea tonight – awesome.  Big grins happening.

The fly in was awesome.  Iceland was ok but brief – not there for many hours.  Felt bloody rough yesterday – bad guts. Some sniffles today – need some vit C!

Jul 20 2007

Off on the big one …

Category: homeash @ 4:09 pm

Sat at the parents, waiting for the clock to tick round another hour & then I will wander to our pickup point, to Manchester Airport, Iceland, kip the night then to Constable-Pynt in East Greenland.

To quote Ali from a txt earlier today :


Excellent leaving do from work yesterday.  Alan – one of the DT teachers – knocked up a .ppt about me which was cool.  Got about a dozen cards plus loads of presents – about 15 people came the Stanley Gate after work and then another 15/20 came out to the Ship in Haskayne for the evening.  Great to see everyone, especially Phil, Janie-Woo and Toby (all 3 have left Lathom in the past 3 years) – very made up that anyone came out at all!  Supped a great many ales, and when I asked Jane to ‘suprise me’ when she went to the bar, I wasn’t expecting to see 4 malts appear.  They did, and so I obliged.  Hence a rather slow start today.

Big emotional day yesterday.  After 9 years, leaving is going to be … well, I’ve left now, so I suppose it’s ‘starting’ is going to be hard.  Suppose it’s never easy though.  (fear change, fear change).

Anyway, can now get hyper about the expedition.  Hope that everyone has a bloody awesome summer.  Really do.

Jul 19 2007

Too many things in my head. No wonder I can’t sleep.

Category: homeash @ 12:55 am

It’s all coming to a head.

Tomorrow it’s my last day at work.  Day after I go to Greenland.  Just finished writing a bit of a speech for the end of term staff get together at Lathom … that’ll no doubt be a bit tense and emotive as it’s the end of an era – 9 full academic years there, including the best years of my life (so far!).  After that it’s to the Stanley Gate for a tactical coke, then back to an empty house (Mike and Liz now on Honeymoon), then a session/party at the local pub with a few people from work & end up back here to recover and finish packing on Friday morning.

So much to do.  Well, not that much actually as I’ve spent the past few days doing it, but so much to potentially go wrong.  Just need to get to the Airport on time on Friday feeling fit, well, with all my kit (and passport), and secure in the knowledge that all is good.

However, excitement is starting to batter my insides.  The first postings have been made to the Greenland blog ( http://greenland.westlancashirescouts.org.uk ) and it’s suddenly become very real.  People are starting to wish me luck at work – and leaving LHS is suddenly happening as well.  I’ve known this was all coming … it’s just that now it IS all happening, it’s going a bit quickly to be honest.  Lets see if I can slow time down over the next 24 hours and speak to all the people that I want to.

Fingers crossed.

Jul 15 2007

Mike and Liz – the big day

Category: homeash @ 6:22 pm

Wow. What a day. All went very well, everyone had a top time, and Mike and Liz now definately joined togther. Twice!
After a morning of trying to work out how I could de-stress the Groom (before realising that I couldn’t!), Neil (the other best man) picked us up and we headed over to the Church. Kitted Kier out with day-glo jacket for car parking, and spent a while meeting and greeting.
The service went fine, Mike managed to control himself enough not to cry when she was walking up the aisle – good effort feller. I didn’t manage to loose the rings, although me and Neil nearly passed out due to the heat thrown out by the radiator that we were stood in front of. We reckon it’s a ploy by the church to make sure you don’t get lazy and start leaning off on it! The service was all televised on screens & broadcast to the web – quite mad … so got to observe the light shining off my own head.
Scuttled into the back room with everyone to do the witness thing – got to show the cats … or at least, A4 pictures of the cats that I had pinned inside my jacket. Was a prop for the speech, but figured that the cats couldn’t miss out on the big occasion.
Out for photos etc, legged it up to the Bellringers (half way up the tower), to pay them …. a tradition of this church apparently. Spiral staircase and all that – most cool.

Then followed a world of pictures, meeting people that I haven’t seen for years, more pictures, drive over to Briars hall, more pictures, more pictures, avoid wasps, deal with Bouncy Castle people that hadn’t delivered on time (traffic & msg was left on a mobile that was switched off -Doh!). Oh, and some more pictures. Weather was gorgeous, so no-one minded although we kind of over ran by 90 mins.


In for food – speeches first though. Chris’ was excellent, pitched really as a Best Man’s speech for the Bride, rather than as a Father of the Bride speech. Mike followed on and got quite a few people crying with his speech – very sincere and moving. Neil did his best man’s speech – dragged out some quality dirt that had Mike squirming something rotten … and then mine. I didn’t want to go for the cheap gag, so had decided to simply tell some tales and tell people about Mike. Managed to get quite a few laughs and likewise caused tearful moments for quite a few people. Speech was about 12mins20secs according to Kier who was running the book on it – got them to donate the winnings to the British Heart Foundation.

Good food, then onto a cool Disco. Lots of meeting people, chatting, remembering what booze is like and dancing like a loon. Got thrown out at about 0130am I think … ish … Red was a star and drove me, Kato and her feller back to ours.
This morning we had a hand-fasting ceremony in our Garden, presided over by Kato. About 10 family and friends were there, plus the cats of course. A most excellent doo, binding them together in the presence of the spirits of the Earth, with a limited amount of besom leaping. It complimented the Church wedding really well – particularly as I know how much it meant to Mike.

And then it was done. Two becoming one. Lots of journeys beginning back home. A top, top weekend. With a house full of cake, presents, bemused cats and two beaming people.197
Our Rich’s flickr site with pics of the day

Jul 09 2007

Packin & Gimmer

Category: home,Mountaineeringash @ 6:32 pm

After recovering from the spectacle of Monkey, spent most of Saturday going through old stuff, having a bit of a clearout before summer – making the move that I’ll need to make that bit easier.  Bag of stuff to the charity shop, Bass rig and guitar to the parents along with CD’s and DVDs plus a couple of cases.  Fingers crossed I’ll be somewhere cool by the time I need the stuff again. 

Over to Dicks for farewell BBQ on Sat night in Tarleton.  Lots of catchup with people, a bit of excitement buildup and frenzied planning – saw Dave J and Tracey too – they’d just got back from Greenland on their trip.  Epic-tastic.
Sunday headed up to the Lakes with Phil the Emmott and Charlie -beasted MiddleFell Buttress then over to Gimmer to knock off Gimmer Chimney.  Phil proclaimed that Middlefell was a new grade of ND (Not Diff), and that the Chimney was NVVD (Not Very Very Difficult).  The pull into the Chimney was certainly a bit tricky, bearing in mind that I was in big boots (Greenlandy booties) and not feeling at my best.  A bit full on for a VD.  Top day, about 14 hours from picking Phil and Charlie up until I dropped them off again.185

Jul 07 2007

Monkey: Journey to the West

Category: home,Musicash @ 11:56 am

I’ve always been aware of the Chinese story about Monkey, since growing up watching the Japanese series on TV when I was a kid.  I remember it was pretty trippy, with 4 heroes adventuring through the lands, battling strange people in latex in the same gravel pit every week.

A few years ago I bought Monkey (the english transcriptions) of the story, and really got into the story.  Turns out it’s been told since a Dynesty around 500 AD, and most oriental cultures cite it as a key part of their heritage.

Anyway, about 10 months ago I heard rumours that there was a stage version happening, and thought that’d be cool to see, and then promptly forgot about it.  This Wednesday at about 11pm I caught a version of “Imagine” on beeb1, which was telling the story of the making of the stage version.  Reworked as an Opera, completlely in Manderin, with Chinese actors (cast in Bejing), Chinese instruments, Wierd conceptual MAD instruments (such as one involving about 40 car horns built into a playable beast), the score was written by Damon Albern from Blur.  He studied the Chinese music, and apart from realising that there were no rules, worked his own method for creating the music – kind of a mathematical formula.

Sounds mad, but it works, supurbly.  So, all the music by Damon Albern, and the other guy from Gorillaz who does all the animation for the videos came up with the costumes, prosthetics, set design and helped with casting.  So really big on the visual stuff -turns out he’s the guy who wrote and helped make the Tank Girl comic/movie too.

Putting these two together, with a cast of AMAZING actors made for an unreal performance.  Silk climbing acrobatic contortionists, chinese circus folk who could do MAD things, flying singing starfish (not from Uranus), and a fantastic set of lead characters.  By the Gods, you could tell the guy playing Monkey had been doing it for nearly all of his life.  Amazing characteristics, awesome martial art/ dancing skills – stunning.  Plus awesome Shaolin monks who again had a stunning blend of dancing & martial art skills & could balance on each others heads with one hand fully at stretch …. godsmacking.

I managed to get a ticket off Ebay at about 4 hours notice, for about £20 above face value, but would gladly pay double that to see it again.  If it ever comes back again (the following night is the final night in the uk – it only did 2 weeks), I cannot urge everyone enough to go and watch it.  You’ll be blown away.  Utterly.

Jul 03 2007

One Manic life

Category: home,Mountaineeringash @ 9:49 pm

Its all very complicated.  New job, Greenland trip, leaving old job, impending excitement and fear about expo, confusion over where I’m going to live … it’s been a funny old week.  Sorted out with Mike and Liz that I can stay here until I find a good place to move to rather than rushing it – for which I’m eternally grateful, although I will need to be out soonish when I get back.  Is only fair – and it’s so good of them to let me pull my life together a bit.

After the final Greenland meeting the other week, me and Geoff had a quick chat about the main walk in to Base Camp, from the dropoff at the coast.  I’m with him leading the first group up the Glacier.  So, I’m going to be one of the first 6 people to walk up the Glacier as far as records stand!  However, this does also mean getting around the bloody big lake which has now appeared on Google Maps here (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&t=k&om=1&msa=0&output=nl&msid=106784175248041137890.000434621ad3eea80880c), and then navigating through the boulder field. 

This boulder field is the Terminal Moraine of the Edward Bailey Glacier, and is thus an untouched pile of small to multiple-tonne boulders, gently balancing on each other, waiting for some muppet (i.e. yours truly) to touch them and then come thundering down.  And squish anyone that happens to be standing nearby.

As such, I’ve spent tonight preparing my Will.  Only prudent you know … I’m buzzing mightily off the notion of being one of two people who will be trailblazing for the expedition, particularly on what’s probably the most dangerous bit of the trip, but I do have a slightly manic and unhinged glint in my eye at the same time.  Best to be prepared (humour), and although I’m fully intending on coming back in one uninjured bit, I do think it’s a good idea to get plans in place as this is the most potentially dangerous thing I’ve ever done. 

Intentionally that is.

Jul 03 2007

Mikie PW’s stag doings

Category: homeash @ 5:52 pm

Cool day out on Sat with Mike & Neil – the other bestest man at Mikes wedding.  Headed over to Harlow Carr, a RHS garden north of leeds to wander round in the rain, learning of composting, herbaceous borders and scoffing at victorian serving wenches.  Sam and Dafydd met us there, we chilled and brewed our way round for a few hours.  I had a Fat Rascal.  Well, with a name like that it’s hard to resist.  Mike had a rather fat chocolate eclair thingy.
The drive back was a killer for Mike – the terrible weather that we’ve been having gave rise to some pretty serious spray on the M62, and he was feeling rough all the way back.  However, throwing up when we got back home did the trick, and he was right after that!  His brown munchable had turned a wrong’un.

Back to ours, we dropped Neil at home then to 96, where I bobbed out to collect Daf & Sam from the pub, then back to ours to start some drinkininge.

Good turnout from Gary, Jose, Jasp, Dan and Lomo, plus Sam and Daf.  First serious night on the beer since I vaguely tried to give up a couple of months ago for Greenland.  Slipped back into it suprisingly easily, but going to lay off it apart from Mike’s wedding. (hopefully)

On the Sunday after feeding a pigs worth of bacon to the chaps, I collected Lucy from her ma’s and then over to Red’s parents to rehearse a nifty version of Stand By Me.  Took several hours, but was great fun, and we all realised how much more we need to play with each other (fnargh fnargh). Date set at the arse end of Oct for a Northumberland tunaration mission.