Christmas and New Year on the Ice

With the weeks seeming to flash by here at Halley, even Christmas was over fairly quickly. Not the long drawn out process of back at home with it dragging on for weeks… We finished early on Christmas Eve (1pm), had Christmas day off and were back at work at 7.15am on Boxing Day. It was almost like it had never happened, but then, on Boxing Day the best Christmas present of all arrived: the ship!!!

Food delivery!!!

We ate like kings…

Fresh fruit, vegetables and chocolate…

A variety of soft drinks…

Restocking the cupboard

And best of all, as I was emptying a container of build equipment, I came across a box with my name on it!! Presents from home and more choc and malt whisky. Things are a lot rosier…

Most of the work on site is moving ahead on schedule, its only the electrical side that seems to be holding things up. Most of the problem is the mess they constantly work in; they never clean up after themselves and are often working on top of weeks of debris. Their excuse is that they are too short of time to be cleaning up, and try as I might, they don’t believe me when I tell them they would work quicker and more efficiently on a clean site. Usually, some mug (i.e. me
or Les, the other painter) gets sick of the mess and sweeps up. On New years Eve I spents 2 hours moving 8 bags of rubbish from the undercroft of 1 module (Rant over!!!)…

Cleaning out rubbish
The interior moves on
Work over New Year

This has a knock on effect on everything else, and 2 more sparkys are flying in in 2 weeks time to help catch up. D-day for the project is Friday 13th January when BAS have to be confident they will be able to winter in the Base and the main services will be functional. If not they will have work to do on the Halley 5 building for the winter. The mood though is optimistic.

No more news yet on the Windy Bay penguins, although we are hoping to catch up with them next weekend. The sea hasn’t been very rough, so we are hoping the sea ice has hung on over the festive period. I’ll keep you posted on them. Here are a few other wildlife shots to keep you going…

Snow petrel
Wildlife from the ship
(Click the picture for a bigger image, 1.7Mb, it'll take a mo' to download, be patient)

Anyway, Happy New Year from here!!!

Lundy – Irene’s Legacy

One of the reasons we booked on to our second CC Lundy trip (other than the obviously superb sea-cliff rock climbing, the unique atmosphere of Lundy itself, and the brilliant people we get to meet on trips like these) was the fact that the CC had booked the Landmark Trust’s Millcombe House property as our accommodation. Millcombe House is a significantly more luxurious option than the normal CC booking, the Barn. 😛

Millcombe House
with MS Oldenburg approaching the landing jetty beyond.

However, despite the excitement that a trip to Lundy promises the weather forecast for the coming week wasn’t great… Therefore perhaps the shot of Laetitia on the neat little HS Hurricane below seems like the appropriate picture to start the report with as the whole week’s climbing was disrupted by the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Incredible wind, very frequent squalls, persistent rain, fog, and even a thunder storm were the dominant features! That said, despite the weather we had an utterly fantastic time on our second CC Lundy meet.

A massive thank-you to Richard for organising the trip – again – his thirteenth trip to the island!

Beaufort Buttress

Our first day started sunny but very windy. However, the forecast was for late afternoon rain, so with that forecast we headed over to the non-tidal easy approach and retreat option of Beaufort Buttress…

Hurricane
Laetitia starting Hurricane

We climbed four great little routes from HS to E1 on this lovely sea cliff before the sun said good-bye and the rain arrived.

The Constable & Gannet Rock

The next day was windy and plagued by frequent squalls. We ended up joining forces with Richard, Simon, Jo, and Dave to hunt for dry rock that hadn’t been drenched by one of the squalls… Eventually we found The Constable.

The Constable
Simon and Richard on The Constable
Jo and Dave watch while wondering when the next squall will blow in!

Laetitia and I went on to Gannet Rock, on the sheltered east side of the island, to try Gannet Front but were rained off from the second pitch. The rain here, out of the wind, fell normally i.e. vertically and so we got very wet! But, we were rewarded with a few very inquisitive seal (“bottling”, apparently, is when they sit vertically in the water to look around) and the sight of several bottle nose porpoises only a couple of hundred metres off-shore.

seal
Laetitia snaps a picture of a bottling seal
porpoise
Bottle Nose Porpoises near Gannet Rock

American Beauty

One of our best climbing days – due to a lack of rain – was spent on the wonderful American Beauty. Although it was still a massively adventurous day out at the grade due to the force 8 (gale force!) wind that we had to contend with. Getting the 100m abseil rope down the route to gain access to the starting ledges just above sea level was extremely difficult to say the least. Luckily the base of the buttress was sheltered from the wind by the buttress to its right, so the waves breaking below us were not an issue. In fact the base was quite sheltered offering a brief respite from the ever present gale.

American Beauty
Pete following Laetitia on the first pitch of American Beauty with Jo and Dave waiting below on the starting ledges.
American Beauty
Jo starting the crux pitch of American Beauty

Tyrolean

The next day was calmer and largely without rain, but in its place was a thick fog that enveloped the whole island and made everything very damp – not good for climbing… However, Steve and Chris came up with a brilliant adventure plan to keep us all amused, a tyrolean traverse to Gannet Rock!

milk tray
Steve (aka the Milk Tray man) readies himself for the swim to Gannet Rock to take the rope across for the tyrolean
dive
Steve dives in to the channel between Lundy and Gannet Rock
tyrolean
Chris setting off across the tyrolean traverse to Gannet Rock
tyrolean
Jo starting the tyrolean across to Gannet Rock
The cliff top on the Lundy side was incredibly loose and here Jo brings some of the cliff down in to the sea!
tyrolean
Jo on the tyrolean across to Gannet Rock
Gannet Rock
Chris, Jo, Pete, and Steve on Gannet Rock
Gannet Rock
Scrambling round to start the climb to the summit of Gannet Rock

Plus, here are a few of the spectators…

seal
A seal watching the tyrolean antics

evil
Is this trio see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, and speak-no-evil?

The Battery

Our final day on the island started dry – hooray! So we rushed off to the Battery to tick Diamond Solitaire and hopefully Double Diamond. But the days of rain meant the start of Diamond Solitaire was dripping. So given the guidebook says it can feel hard if at all damp we knew it wouldn’t be easy! However, whatever state of wetness the rock is in the climbing is brilliant.

Battery
Laetitia boulder hoping below the Battery
Diamond Solitaire
Pete on the amazing slab of Diamond Solitaire and Double Diamond

As I ascended the first pitch I could hear deep rumbles in the earth! I thought it was simply boulders being moved about by the incoming tide – the seas were still pretty rough. Next I thought Laetitia was taking a few flash-photographs as I climbed. Then, as I reached the shoulder belay at the top of the first pitch and could see out to sea, I could see there was a massive thunder and lighting storm heading straight for us!!! 😯

Needless to say we beat a rapid retreat – but not before being utterly soaked by the largest raindrops ever!

Gogarth

It was a bit damp in the Welsh mountains on Monday, so we headed out to Gogarth the take advantage of the nicer weather out that way. We had a late start, and it took a while to get there, but we met Richard and Helen at the South Stacks car park at 11.15.
Helen was keen to climb Emulator, so we headed over to the Main Cliff. I’d never been there before, but I’d heard the approach can be a bit exciting.

Richard & Helen on the descent to Gogarth Main Cliff

We opted to climb Gogarth. Pete had climbed it a couple of times before, but as it was new to me he didn’t mind repeating it.

First pitch of Gogarth

It’s a great route, with the steep crux on the last pitch. Lovely climbing. We even had an audience.

Seal team to the rescue?

We had to leave after just the one route. Dinner was being made for us and it would have been bad form to be late. We left Richard and Helen finishing their day with a route on the Upper Tier – I think it was the Ramp?