All Work and No Play

The build is continuing and some of the module interiors are really taking shape, with rooms, stairs and kitchens all going in.

Inside the centre module of the new Halley base

It has to be remembered that for some of the workforce there is time in the evenings and on a Sunday to relax and enjoy the surroundings. The leisure activities include walking, running, x-country skiing, kite boarding and skiing, and being dragged behind a skidoo on skis. Yes, you’re right it looks dangerous and I’m surprised it’s not banned with the prospect of injury quite high.


I have found that the technique for x-country skiing bears no resemblance to ski-mountaineering on wider skis with edges and skins, and some of us have picked it up better than others. James, who sees himself as a bit of an all round sportsman had a bruising tour of the perimeter, but like all of us is determined to improve. Brian, who has been doing it for years makes it look effortless.

James taking one of many falls
Brian making it look effortless

We have also had a BBQ for New Year, which although chilly was ok after a few beers!!

Halley BBQ

Polar Painting

As many of you know I am heading south for a few months to do some painting; so what’s it all about?

On the Haute Route last year, I was chatting to Brian about a project he was involved in on Antarctica. Brian has been based at Halley Base which is in the process of being rebuilt. In fact this will be the sixth base at the site.

“It doesn’t need painting does it??”

Position of Halley Base

The new build is replacing Halley 5, which in turn has replaced the previous 4.

Halley 5

Halley V contains a mix of building technologies. Three buildings are located on platforms on steel legs, which have been jacked up annually to keep them clear of the accumulated snowfall. An accommodation building and a garage weighing over 50 tons are mounted on skis and towed each year to a new position. Halley I to Halley IV were built directly on the snow and were each abandoned within ten years, having been crushed by the overlying ice.

The remains of Halley 3 emerging at the edge of the ice shelf

Approximately 1.2 metres of snow accumulate each year on the Brunt Ice Shelf and buildings on the surface become covered and eventually crushed by snow, necessitating periodic rebuilding of the station. This part of the ice shelf is also moving westward by approx. 700m per year.

The new design allows the building to be hydraulically lifted each year to overcome the accumulation of snow and ice and also allows it to be relocated inland to compensate for the movement of the ice. The building has to provide full life support services for up to 50 people and withstand the severe Antarctic climate where temperatures can drop to -55°C.

The base of a new module
New module for Halley 6

All the module interiors (living and working areas) will need to be painted (hopefully not white!)

So that’s where I’m off to, and what I’ll be doing. I’ve had jabs for everything you could possibly get there or en-route……… Regular updates will appear here on the blog as the build continues, and dependant on the internet link from the ice-shelf.

A trip out on a pair of planks

As the snow was still deep on the rough tracks around Kirkby Stephen, I decided to take a short skiing trip out on my newly acquired cross country skis. Unfortunately I had to borrow an old pair of poles and boots…..

On the way to the Nine Standards
On the way to the Nine Standards

But after 20 minutes the sole fell off one of the boots.

The offending culprit
The offending culprit

There was nothing to do but take off my skis and walk back to the car 🙁

But I still got out and enjoyed the fells.


The road up to the fell did eventually get ploughed and thank goodness it did.

Deep snowdrifts
Deep snowdrifts

Snowboarding, Downhill and X-Country Skiing

Dean showing Style in the sun

Our friends Dean (above) and Marie live in Zell am See, where Dean just started work this season as a skiing/snowboard instructor. Dean took a busman’s holiday and came snowboarding and skiing with us for the week.

We had mostly sunshine with a useful top-up of snow mid week. No great powder days but I managed to get back on ski’s for the first time in 15 years and was pleased to say that after a few reminders from Dean on technique I could still ski competently down those Reds & Blacks. Reckon I will do more of a mix of snowboarding & skiing in the future.

Fiona looking like the pro X-Country Skier

Probably one of the more interesting things we did was some X-Country skiing or Langlauf. Finding out info about X-Country in Zell am See in advance was quite difficult even with the wonders of the web. Everywhere you look claims over 200km of X-Country is available here but try to find out any specific info and blanks are quickly drawn. The tourist info in Zell & Kaprun were only able to give us a map of the immediate area and told us, incorrectly, that the Hiking Maps of the Austrian Alps: Grossglockner, Kaprun, Zell Am See (Walking Maps) did not show the x-country trails it actually has all the loipes marked as blue lines. BTW. I think 030: Zell am See – Kaprun Europa Sportregion 1:30, 000 would also prove useful.

Fiona managed to find plenty of cut, well maintained loipes in great condition to occupy her for the week doing several 20-30km days.

Marie, Trevor & I also wanted to give X-Country a go so we had a great day out with 2 hours of tution and a full days gear hire from Skischule Maresa Handl, Kaprun would definitely recommend them if you are there. After our lesson we headed out for a 12km tour on the local tracks. We all had a great day and Marie seems mad keen to keep it up.

Fiona, Marie & Trevor X-Countried out

The above photo shows the local boards that can be found at key points on the tracks.

Ski Nordique

Richard has taught me to ski almost from scratch in the past 3 days, so today he started teaching me the second discipline: nordic-style cross country skiing. Now, I actually think that this type of skiing is a bit dishonest, however as I started to overtake Richard in the mid-afternoon, I am liking it! So, this cross country skiing lark is basically skiing, but with infinitely narrow skis, that are stuck to your toes and generally follow groves in the snow that a huge machine has made – hence being dishonest, i.e. you don’t need to be able to turn or stay in a straight line because the grooves keep you on the straight and narrow. This is all very fine until a) the grooves go round a corner and I don’t and b) the grooves stop and again I don’t! The former is not too bad as I learnt quickly to lean inwards, but the latter I didn’t really get the hang of, so just fell over.

Rachel flies into the picture!
Rachel flies into the picture!

Nevertheless I have aching arms, aching shoulders and sore knees (from falling over) and we are back to downhill skiing tomorrow – yesterday I just about managed a few parallel turns, so tomorrow ….. who knows!

Note that Rachel's skis are now parallel!
Note that Rachel's skis are now parallel!

Chamonix Mont Blanc

Day 1
We spent a week hiding away in Chamonix over New Year, and we arrived with every intention of undertaking all winter mountain sports. Instead, we couldn’t help but relax and enjoy the sites, starting with a ride up to the Aiguille du Midi for some fresh air and a view of Mont Blanc. Sabiene went all wobbly and woozy at the top through lack of oxygen after a run up the stairs!

Mont Blanc – Sabiene & Andy

Day 2 – Shopping!
Day two, and we were knackered already. So after a lengthy recouperative period in bed, we decided to hit the shops for some retail therapy in readiness for Norway in February. Snell’s thought it was Christmas – oh yes, it was. But Sabiene left having melted her credit card, having bought everything in the shop. Check out the gear in the pic, including the sexy gold Black Diamond Vipers.



Montenver Snowdrift

Mer de Glace

A walk along the Petit Balcon Sud
Gear testing day. A walk along the Petit Balcon Sud all the way to Argentiere was a great way to see the Mont Blanc range on the other side of the Chamonix valley. And what views – the Dru looking magnificent in the high winds, and the forest around us silent and white. A fantastic day ended with a free train ride back to town.


Petit Balcon Sud

Aiguille de Midi
Since Sabiene had been a bit dodgy the first time at 12,000 feet, we had another go up the cable car to the Auiguille. The second time was just as clear – stunning views all around, and very tempting to put the crampons on and have a wander about.

View from Aguile

Ski de Fond
For those of you who do not know, it means Nordic Skiing, and it was the closest we got to actual skiing, but it was very nice nevertheless – and a lot more tiring than it looks. We set out early through the forest while everyone else was nursing their hangovers, so it was great.

Ski de Fond