Jun 03 2008

Ardennes 08

Category: Scoutingash @ 6:46 pm

A fine, fine trip, with some fine, fine leaders ; fine, fine kids and some shite, shite illness.

The trip out was straightforward, got into Mont Godinne at around 10:30am after a 7pm setoff from the District Shed.  Played swapsies with Dick on the driving & with Hugh in punter driving mode.

The first day I took Maria and Glenn (co-worker of Ian Walls’) out to the crags we use – I was IC climbing for the trip & needed to familiarise both myself and the others with the sites.  Nipped out to Dave – the crag, not the caver, and we did a quick route as a 3-some (Le Bok, S).  3 pitches, good positions, straightforward.  Great weather, and decided that we needed more fun, so went over to Mozet on the other side of the hill to have a shufty at our single-pitch crag.  We were shy on time, so just went for a look around.

The first 2-day phase, there were no climbers, so I was free, with Glenn (Maria on paddling).  Me and Glen went over to Dave, I took Hugh up Le Bok (his first climb in we reckoned about 12 years!), which was cool.  After that, me and Glen went and did a route on the main scary face of Dave – an HVS 5a route that I’ve forgotten the name of.  3 pitch, somewhat cramped on the hanging belay at the end of P1, then a rather ballsy move through a break in the overhang & up a polished gully.  Glen gave it a shot but burned out near the top of P2, utterly pumped.  He descended, we fought with rope for a while, then I gave it a go, using his pro that he’d put already clipped.  Got through the initial move easily enough, then found a layback way up the top bit to find the belay.  Glen topped out the final S pitch – an excellent day.

The following day we went to Freyr – the biggest area in Belgium – damn close to the overnight camp that we use.  Did a 3 or 4 pitch awesome route there – great fun on VS! Glen had decided to try it in big boots.  However, big boots + polished limestone + a while since doing sustained climbing = learning point :-).  Had people watching us from the other side of the Meuse, on boats and everything … starting to feel like a real climber now!

The first climbing phase went well, all the kids came on well, some excellent characters in there.  No issues, everything went well, all safe, all managed to achieve well.  Naff weather on the first day, but we managed to pull it all together with a bit of gear placement practise, abseils etc etc.  The weather came together for us on Day two – intense sunburn that I’m still dealing with (literally 1 week later) on my shoulders!

Around this time we unfortunatly had to say bye to Phil Hawath, who’s father unexpectedly died whilst we were away.  A tragedy for him, and as a consequence a knock on for the trip, as we were also loosing Dick and Hugh, who both needed to go home.  We organised the activities easily enough, but questions were left over the transport issue on the return drive.

Culture day – back to Bruxelles.  Knocked up a quiz a-la Raymondo, but having none of the notes or crib sheets that he’d used in the past.  So, made one up. Seemed to work, the kids enjoyed it that used it. Me, Pierre and Maria bimbled around all day, drinking brews, seeing ‘things’, and taking it easy.  Bimbled back at the end.

Phase 3 – went well again.  Wet, once again on the first day, better on the Second.  Glen had been feeling really rough for a couple of days, and was down for helping with another activity due to Phil being away (I could cover Mozet on my own), but he cleared up right at the start of day 1, but after the paddlers had left, so he came climbing too.  There had been a full-on cold going around a couple of the leaders, but we tried to keep on top of it & only a few were affected.

On this phase, a few people started getting ill.  The odd one, being sick and feeling rough.  We didn’t think too much of it, gave them support, cleaned them up, nursed them better etc.  And then, all of a sudden, when Phase 3 returned to base (for our intensely busy tidy up, pack (we were leaving at 0700 the following day), and host some local Belgian Scouts – thankfully provided by our contact Cedric Dumont) people started dropping like flies.  At the rate of around 1 per 20 mins.  All of a sudden, things started getting very serious.  We decided to isolate the ill people, advise the Belgians that we had something running rife through our team, and got the rest of the team working hard to drop camp, pack down and the like.  And then I got it.  From feeling a bit rough, to throwing up happened in about 45 mins.  I managed to get my head down at about 19:30 for about 2 hours, risked a banana and some milk provided by Nurse Willingham, slept for another hour, then tried to move.  And then legged it to the bog, just in time.  Has been many years since I’ve flowed from both ends at the same time. Flowed being the operative word.

After that, feeling a bit ‘off’ as you may understand, I managed to make it to flag down for the camp, then staggered back to bed, having found some immodium.  But having slept for a few hours, I wasn’t that tired.  From around 23:00 to 05:00 I don’t think I got more than 10 mins kip at any one time, the rest of it tossing and turning in our communal room, feeling rough.

Up at 0500, feeling a lot better.  Got some liquid in, and a yoghurt, but didn’t dare have anything else that may have put extra pressure on my system.  I had a 4 hour drive to Dunquerqueque, then a ferry ride (get travelsick ANYWAY), then a 6 hour drive on the other side (towing a badly-weighted trailer by the way, so limited to 65 mph).  And with our reduced sraff, that was me doing a good chunk of the driving.  Did 2 hours on the paris side, then about 4 hours on the UK side.  HAving nothing really to eat, just bits here and there, and only liquids were coffee or red bull.  By the end of the trip, being massivly, massivly tired (couldn’t sleep on the bus or the ferry, and with no sleep the night before) my stomach was trying to digest itself having being fed nothing for a long time.

Hugh thankfully gave me a lift home so that i could collapse – subsequently made it to dinner at work before body shut down and had to go home sick.

We sussed out the cause of all this – well, two.  Well, ok, three.  At least.  The first was the touchy-feely factor.  Very hands-on group this.  Words were had, but with a group of Explorers, it’s going to happen, so we ensured that nothing serious was going to happen by having Helen (our House mum and experienced midwife at Ormskirk Hospital) give an in-depth, graphic and audible account of childbirth.  Certainly terrified them enough to keep them hands-off until we got home.  The second factor was that one of them had the runs for a few days but didn’t tell anyone, nor keep good hygiene standards.

And the third was the discovery of ants crawling over an empty abandoned meat wrapper near the camping area, moving through some old, hot, uncooked blood.  And then the discovery of the same ants in everyone’s kit at the overnight camp that night.  And good ol’ poor hygiene and physical contact came down to it after that.  Think I got it either from handling the same ropes or from eating a couple of sweets provided by one of my climbers on the Saturday.  Lessons learnt there, from ALL quarters!  Top trip though, pity the end was so bad.  And it did take my mind off the funeral and my Nan’s passing, which helped – having to function properly again.

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