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Tuesday, June 9

looking Back (again) - Isbjorn Adventure 2

YE Diaries by Pippa Sellars (29 May - 8 June 2009)

Having spent 10 days at the Tobredalen Science camp we (Steve, Fay, Jaime W, Christian, Jamie L, Ben and Pippa) were excited about embarking on our final stage of our arctic experience before heading back to Longyearbyen. The next ten days would be Adventure for some, and Adventure and Biology for others, but we all set off together with Richard and Doctor Lucy up the Blackbreen to camp on Blackbreen col for the night. The next morning we roped up again for a leisurely pulk down Knorringbreen to Wimanbreen col. The plan for the day had been to summit Wimanfjellet but the low clouds meant that we would have no views when we got to the top, thus we waited for a weather window. We waited and waited and when we got bored of waiting some of us consumed excessive amounts of our ration packs. One YE was even caught bypassing the cracker stage and squeezing Primula directly into their mouth. The result was that from one tent “I cant go mountaineering; I’m too full” were heard.

The clouds pressed down for the rest of the day and we went to bed for a wake up call at any time of the night to make the most of clear skies. At 4am Richard clanged pots and pans and we got ready for the climb. The clouds were low and visibility poor as we walked along the ridge to the bottom of the bump that is Wimanfjellet. Only at the last minute could we see the top. At 6.30am we reached the top and we were all taken aback by the view. We could see Sassendalen, Tunabreen, the ship all in glorious sunshine. To the north we could see Oscar II land and hundreds of mountains and glaciers. After the descent we bid farewell to Steve, Fay and Lucy who were returning to Base Camp.

The next day, as a result of our skiing instruction from Pat in Tobredalen, we felt confident enough to go skinless skiing with pulks down Hanaskogdalen. Our knees together – ankles apart method may not have looked pretty, in fact, onlooking Norwegians may have wet themselves, but we successfully dodged the slush and set up camp about 2km from the coast.

Isbjørn Adventure Fire Photo B.Holmes

After a nights sleep to the sound of running water from Ben’s water feature we walked to the coast. Clear blue skies and only a slight sea breeze meant we could relax on the beach. The YE’s prove fascinated by the contents of one of the huts pointing out items such as a lamp and a sofa. The sighting of the Tabasco sauce, got everyone to the window! Since moving from BC2 when the skidoos stopped travelling due to melting sea ice, we haven’t seen many signs of civilization so seeing Longyearbyen and the airport reminded us that all too soon we will be heading home. Whilst relaxing on the porch of a hut we watched a practice air sea rescue in Adventfjorden and saw the SAS plane that we will be taking in two weeks time take off for Oslo. That evening we handed in our watches so that Richard was the only person that knew the time.

At an unknown, but certainly early hour, we set off to climb Hiorthfjellet. Making the most of the crunchy early morning snow we started our climb. Using pigeon holes and zig zags we made our way up to the final ridge. The snow was deep and kept balling on our crampons. After about three hours climbing we reached the enormous plateau at the top. From here we could see down Adventdalen where we first camped nearly 60days ago. Following our alpine start we headed down extremely steep ridges and returned on the other side of Hiorthfjellet bowl to camp for a nap before pulking back up Hanaskogdalen to the Brandtbreen moraine.

By the 5th June we were camped on the col between Blackbreen and Brantbreen and could see the good work the science group had been doing on the Blackbreen. Another early wake up, or so we felt, we set off to climb Staket and two other peaks which form a horseshoe around the southern horn of the Blackbreen glacier. Once again our climb started in cloud but by the time we reached the first view point we could see down Tobredalen with its newly de-iced river and to the Tunabreen glacier and beyond. The day went quickly as we climbed to our highest point, 989m, along a ridge with a steep drop to Blackbreen on one side. We caught sight of Polarrev climbing Ottofjellet and then skiing down with impressive balance. After seeing the first reindeer calf of the season we trudged back up Blackbreen in what felt like searing heat to our camp.

By 6th June our group numbered 7 with Helen joining us from Biology Fire and we prepared for a bivi on top of Telgefjellet. Thus armed only with our sleeping bags, bivi bags and stoves we climbed to the plateau at 921m and started to dig our snow graves about 20m apart. For most of us this was the first time since April 2nd that we had slept alone and had time to ourselves. Digging a space the size of a roll mat about a foot deep to get out of the wind some YEs felt this was sufficient and got into bed. Others went more extravagant building rooves and ensuites. The effort that went into these homes was extreme with blocks at least 2m by 1m being in place by morning. One labourer was not too sure of the sturdiness of his walls so slept with his hard hat on lest the wind pick up during the night. Humble or huge we all relished in the silence of sleeping in the open and the view when we woke was spectacular. The sea was gold, we could see all the peaks we had climbed and the mountains in the distance resembled an oil painting.

An elaborate snow grave Photo B.Holmes

We relaxed in the stillness of the mountain top until we were instructed to pack up and leave. Completely unaware of the time, we returned to our pulks and set off roped up across Blackbreen on our final return to Base Camp 3. Thinking it must be about 3 or 4pm none of the YEs had contemplated having dinner, presuming we would have it when we set up camp. We came down Wimandalen to the newly flowing Wimanelva and pulked and skied our last kilometre of this trip. The snow no longer reached the sea so before Base Camp we would have to carry our pulks. At midnight we got out the stoves and had dinner by the river and shortly after we loaded our kit into our bags and walked to Base Camp 3. By the time we had returned and hoisted our pulks on our bags and finally got all our kit to Base Camp it was 4am. We stealthily put up our tents and dosed off to the sound of the sea.

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