Saturday, 7 April 2018

Polar Training

The Polar Training group came last week and were a really nice group. With Stuart's help we covered all sorts of cold and snowy related stuff and then went up onto the glacier for a 4 day camping, skiing and mountaineering expedition.

Testing the bear fence
I put on my bear hat to make a real life test of the bear alarm system! It's a string on sticks attached to a personal alarm that goes of if the string is disturbed. It was a bit embarrassing when the whole thing failed due to one of the sticks folding in half as it was rusted through!

Teaching glacier rope work
Evening light at camp with moon in background
We took the team, by skidoo to the foot of the Bjering Pederson Glacier to practice cold weather camping skills.

Avalanche transceiver practice
Next morning we went on a ski tour, but first, I needed to make sure everyone knew how to use avalanche transceivers and rescue someone from an avalanche.

Ascending a local hill
Large slab avalanches were seen on most west facing slopes
During our ski tour, we saw numerous slab avalanches. The most recent were on west facing slopes, but we also saw older debris on south and north facing slopes. This was due to the recent storm, with strong winds from the east. We had to be very careful for the trip to not ski any suspect slopes.

Teaching ski anchors for crevasse rescue
Crevasse rescue practice
On the way back down, I found a wind scoop, which made a good 'crevasse'. This made a realistic situation for the team to have a go at holding a fall and pulling someone out. Poor old Stuart was the 'body' and endured sitting at the bottom and getting snow on his head.

Crevasse rescue with pluk sledges
Polar bear paw print
During the morning at camp, we spotted a polar bear on a ridge about 500mts away from us. It could see us and kept on turning round to have a look, but fortunately kept traveling away from us. The track was still visible for several days and a good reminder to be vigilant. The bear had stopped by our people carrier left a kilometer down the valley and smashed the window!

Moving to 2nd camp on the glacier plateau
It was quite a steep pull up the toe of the glacier to its summit and a cold wind kept us wrapped up. Only about 4 hours of traveling, with a late start and plenty of time to establish a good secure camp with snow wall ups wind of the tents.

Building snow walls up wind of the tents
A 'shovelup' snow shelter
In the evening, we made a snow shelter, by shoveling snow into a heap, letting it set and tunneling into it.

Melting snow for drinks and to make dinner
Morning frost on my sleeping bag
The days were cold, but the nights were colder. Down to -25 and every morning, there was a layer of frost on the mouth of your sleeping bag and frost all round the inside of the tent. This all fell on you as a mini snow storm, every time you moved until it warmed up with the stove. Everything has to be in your sleeping bag with you to prevent freezing - cameras, ski boots, gloves, coms kit, clothes, sun cream - the lot!

Evening Sat Phone call
I had to call in each evening to our 'call out' to report that we were OK each day. We had tracking devices as well, but the messages from those were not that reliable.

Bad weather at camp
We had a morning of low cloud wind and snow, but it cleared up by midday for us to venture out.

Summit
I found a mountain near camp which had a reasonable slope that was not too avalanche prone and even had good snow to ski back everyone down again.

Me and Stuart  with the mountain in the background - we skied the slope to the right
Snow pit analysis
On the last day we tried another mountain and I wasn't sure about the slope up to it. It made a good lesson in snow pit analysis for the group where we identified weak layers, but not enough for concern.

Summit ridge
After taking off the skis, I broke trail all the way up the ridge, which was exhausting, but was stopped by a steep final section up though rocks. Two of our staff got up this to the top, but it was too dangerous for us to take five clients up, so we turned round.

Last summit with attempted peak in background
As a consolation, we skied up an easier summit next door and had a good ski down in good snow and then breakable crust! We got back to camp and found that the weather was due to deteriorate the next day, so made the decision to strike camp and ski back down the glacier to the skidoos and back to Constable Point.


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