Friday, 27 April 2018

Iceman Ski Tour Challange Event

The Iceman ski challenge has finished this week. It's a 70km tour over 4 days taking all your equipment, food and fuel by Pulk sledge. There were about 14 people taking part in four teams, including a film crew to film the event. Everyone got to the end of the trip, which was a first, so a really good effort by everyone with some very painful blisters to show for it. I was overall in charge of the safety and logistics of the event with a team of skidoo drivers in support, the base camp manager in charge of equipment and facilities and a communications person at base.

Roping up the skidoos for the recce of the glacier section.
The first thing wee had to do was a full recce of the whole route to make sure there were no unforeseen hazards and the route was possible. I put one Neil in charge of leading the recce, which was a tall order as he had never been on the route before and there were some difficult route choices on the glacier over convex slopes. (Slopes you can't see over to find your route)

Two routes over the convex steep bit
Neil did a fantastic job leading the route and there was some great learning for all of us
on the steepest part of the glacier. In the picture above, the left hand route (looking up) is much less steep than the right hand route, but it s difficult to see this from above.

Neil committed his roped pair of skidoos over the slope brow to the right hand route. It was steeper than expected and Karl following, had trouble keeping his speed down and so was catching up with the link rope. He drove to one side to avoid running it over and a snow lump caught the link rope between them and flipped him over! All were OK, but a good lesson in committing to convex slopes. My own learning was, that although Niel and Karl had recced the route from and view point above, I had not clarified with them that they had selected the best route.

Freeing melted brakes
The next drama was a few kilometers on. The brakes sized on Karl's skidoo, probably from all the use and corrosion in the pistons. Karl managed to free them, but the pistons had meted and the skidoo now had no brakes, with one last slope to descend. With some careful driving from Niel and Karl, we made it.

Chipping ice out of the Weather Haven porch
With a day to go before the event and good weather, we had time to make final preparations, keeping the porch floor clear of ice, final Iceman kit packing and emptying the loos.

Crevasse rescue practice, Karl holding on tight, whilst making a snow anchor
I also had time to run some training using a wind lip by the containers, so that people had a chance to hold a simulated crevasse fall, construct an anchor and pull them back out again.

Polar Bear practice!

The Storm - broken tent poles
The Iceman clients arrived and then the storm came that night! Poor things. For most, the first camping they had ever done in the Arctic. With strong winds forecast, we had built a wall to protect the tents, but this was not successful, as it drifted some tents and not others. It was a torrid night for some and all hands were needed to help first thing in the morning to move drifted tents and replace one with broken poles - all in high winds and freezing temperatures.

Digging out the worst drifted tents
Re-pitching tents and trying not to let them blow away!
Clearing the containers so people could get out

One slight mishap happened at about 11.00pm when we were informed that the client's toilet poo bag had toppled over! Poo everywhere. (no pictures) We had to shovel it all up, disinfect and rinse, without the water freezing again. That was fun.

The morning of the race start
We had to also try and run some basic training in the storm as well as sort everyone's tents out, which was challenging. After a couple of days the winds dropped and we used the first day of good weather to let everyone practice with their Pulk sleds, skis and sort themselves out from the storm chaos.

First day start form Constable Point
The actual event was done in generally fine and sunny weather with light winds. The main hazard being heat and sun burn.

Crossing Hurry Fjord
The Tangent team all took turns to camp out with the group and I got the job of camping out twice.

The first steep slope to gain the entrance of Kalkdal, an impressive valley
Snow blindness
As well as sunburn and blisters, snow blindness was also a significant hazard. One person did not wear his sunglasses for two days and paid the extremely painful price.

Waiting for the teams to arrive.
There were 3 pairs of skidoo drivers supporting the ski event. One to put in a track and set up the camp bear fence and toilet, one to shadow the groups in case of any assistance required and the last pair to take anyone back to base if they wanted to drop out. At times there was allot of waiting around.

Glacier Camp on the 3rd day at the East end of Kalkdal
Early morning at Glacier camp
There were fairly recent bear tracks by this camp. A mother and smaller tracks, her cub.

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Iceman Ski Tour Challange Event

The Iceman ski challenge has finished this week. It's a 70km tour over 4 days taking all your equipment, food and fuel by Pulk sledge. T...