Feeding The Coldest Journey

As you will probably know, an expedition to cross Antarctica in winter is planning to set off soon, led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Its aim is to raise money for the charity Seeing is Believing, which tackles preventable blindness.


I am not nuts enough to want to spend six months in the pitch dark at perhaps minus 80 degrees, so what is my connection? Well, a very slight one actually. Here is a hint:

So much chocolate!!!!!!!!!

Last week I spent a day with Jo, who is organising all the food for six men, including her partner Brian, for six months. It has been provided by sponsors and is stored at their home. There is food everywhere: in the outhouse, on the stairs…

…on the stairs….

… on the landing…

…on the landing….

… in the bedrooms, in the dining room, in the garage…

… a double garage FULL OF CHOCOLATE ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

Many hundredweight of food of all types has had to be unpacked (the amount of packaging to be disposed of is hardly credible), sorted, and repacked into bags for each day. For example, one of my jobs was to label and sort the majority of 7 puddings x 6 people x 52 weeks. That’s a lot of pudding.

Although we are all (that is to say, most readers of/contributors to this blog) used to expedition food, I do not think any of us would relish such a long period with a diet based on dehydrated goods. In an attempt to make the meals as palatable as possible Jo had to come up with a number of recipes that would be reasonably varied and tasty but also easy to prepare and cook with limited facilities in Antarctic conditions. The benefit of this is that whilst helping out one gets to test the menus. (Rice pudding scored very highly on quality.)

As you can see, Brian is looking forward to his nutrition ๐Ÿ™‚

Welsh Blog Rendezvous

Croesor-Rhosydd Through Trip

The Croesor Rhosydd through trip connecting these two extensive and ancient slate mine workings has been on my list of must-do adventures in North Wales for ages. However, we only generally go to Wales when the sun is out, and then we go rock climbing. This time was different though, the through trip was the main objective for Saturday’s adventuring on the blog rendezvous weekend…

Although I’ve done the trip in to Rhosydd and out of the top exit in West Twll many times, as this only requires wellies (although I have done it in sandals, albeit with very very cold feet, and just a mini-maglite for illumination) the trip through from Croesor requires much more commitment, skill, and equipment, but the rewards are far bigger!

Rachel, Brendan, Richard, Keith, Laetitia, Ian, and David near the Croesor mine entrance
Brendan on the first bridge obstacle. Before this there had been two 30 metre abseils and a fantastically exciting 50 metre cable zip-line across the first flooded section.
Laetitia and Keith coming across the final 50 metre flooded section, the Chamber of Horrors, in the in-situ canoe! Utterly amazing!
David crawling through the breakthrough point between the Croesor and Rhosydd mines. This was walled to demarcate the two mines and therefore two independently owned sources of revenue.
Pete, Richard, Brendan, David, Ian, Rachel, Keith, and Laetitia at the Rhosydd exit

Were the years of procrastinating about the through trip worth the wait? Yes! What a brilliant and exciting trip! The zip-line and boat crossings were particularly fantastic. Oddly some of the cavers in the group were saying things like, “I’m so glad I’ve ticked this trip, now I never have to come back”! Conversely, I can’t wait till the next wet day in North Wales! No longer will it be a case of wondering what to do in-lieu of climbing, we’ll be straight in to Croesor-Rhosydd.

What else? Oh yeah, a big thank-you to Keith and Brendan, for having half an idea of where we were going! ๐Ÿ˜›

Rendezvous Dinner & Helyg

We’d booked one of the CC‘s hut, Helyg, for our sole use over the weekend to hold the fourth rendezvous-meet of authors of reports on this site. With the highlights of the meet being a celebration four course meal, a (hopefully humorous) review of the past year of blogging pictures, events, and stats, and a quiz (with prizes) all held on Saturday evening. I thought the celebrations were great fun, I hope everyone else did too. Unfortunately I had so much fun I forgot to take many pictures! But we did get this one of the awesome chocolate dessert! :yum:

Chocolate dessert with special gold stars for champion bloggers!

Before we all set off on Sunday for various climbing and walking adventures I snapped this group shot in front of the Helyg garage…

Pete, Laetitia, Richard, Jon, Paul, Ian, David, Rachel, and Brendan outside the Helyg garage


As predicted the weather on Sunday was dry and sunny! Having had such a terrible summer so far this year with record rainfall the climbers were keen to get out and climb a few routes. Tremadog was selected as the venue as it offered climbing options at all grades should the cavers fancy a go. As it turned out though the caving team headed out to walk a section of the Nantlle ridge instead, leaving us to climb a few routes on Tremadog’s sun kissed rock in between trips to Eric’s Cafรฉ.

Pete on Chwys
Laetitia showing that she is “smarter than the average bear” on Yogi
Pete on the first belay of Merlin Direct
Paul approaching the belay on Merlin
Paul climbing the superb crack of Merlin Direct
Paul nearing the finish of Merlin Direct

Ogof Craig a Ffynnon

We spent the weekend getting to know members of Chelsea Spelaelogical Society (CSS) by staying at Whitewalls (their club cottage) in Llangattock. On Saturday we went underground with them into Ogof Craig a Ffynnon… indeed there is no better way to get to know people than in a chocolate heaven. I don’t remember Craig a Ffynnon being that muddy on my last visit, but this time it was dampish everywhere, which meant that every boulder choke/crawl left us chocolate-coated.

Our first destination was the Hall of the Mountain Kings, where we took a few pictures and waited for the rest of the party to catch up. This large cavern has a domed roof with magnificent formations. Unfortunately the formations were a little too far away for us to photograph with the couple of flashes that we carried in. So… you can enjoy the not-so-quite-impressive formations that were on the floor:

Small crystally pond

We then found the way on to Helictite Passage (behind me in the picture below) and continued.

The passage to Helictite Passage is behind me

Helictite Passage is a very narrow rift with delicate formations along one wall. Here are a few examples:

Modelling a tribrow

On the way back from the passage, we found this specimen that we think is a helictite covered in chocolate (natural of course)!

A helictite naturally covered in {chocolate} mud!

We were slightly muddy when we emerged …

Richard with chocolate beard

Two more days, Two more mega ice routes

Valentine’s Day
I got some super tasty and creamy chocolate from my Valentine… :yum: :yum:

Then we went ice climbing; Lillaz Cascade is a wonderful long route just five minutes walk from the centre of Lillaz where we are staying. Multi pitch ice climbing doesn’t get more convenient than this…

The first pitch of Lillaz Cascade
Laetitia on the third (or was it fourth) pitch of six!


The Valielle valley, there are dozens of ice routes left and right! ๐Ÿ˜›

Today we went back up the Valielle valley to do Candelabro del Coyote. The first 60m rope-stretching pitch was amazing…

Steep and chandelier-ice near the top of the pitch
Laetitia starting the spectacular free hanging abseil back down next to the enormous icicles of the main pitch
Buried in powder on the descent back to Lillaz