James our new base commander has been a Field assistant with BAS in the past, usually we aren’t allowed onto glaciers, but with his expert guidance we were allowed to do some glacier travel training. For this Tommy, James and I headed over to the Nordenskjold glacier on the jet boat, heading ashore in dotty the little tender, Matt boat and Katie drove the jet boat.
After upturning dotty and putting some rocks on to weigh her down we got kitted out and walked up the moraine through a tern colony in search for a suitable place to get onto the glacier. Crampons, ice axe, harness, helmet, rope, backpack, rack: consisting of ice screws, slings, prussic, pulleys, jumars, abseiling stuff, all jangling around our waists.
James and Tommy abseiling into a crevasse
Here is the crevasse that I abseiled into! It was pretty incredible, you couldn’t really see the bottom of it where it disappeared to down into the ice either. Fortunately the glacier was ‘dry’ which means there isn’t snow covering the crevasses, so you can see where they are and therefore walk around them. It did mean lots of weaving around though finding places to cross between crevasses.
The previous day we had some training in ropework. This included abseiling, using jumars to ascend the rope, and constructing a pulley for rescuing someone. Once we were on the glacier we were able to do some more training, and the first thing was to learn how to place ice screws to form a secure anchor. These anchors are what we then used to abseil into the crevasse. It’s a slightly strange feeling to have two people dangling off three screws stuck in the ice!
While we were venturing into the crevasses it started to rain, so we put on our waterproofs, full length leg zips were definitely a bonus. We explored a bit further, but decided that the rain was probably in for the rest of the day so started heading back to the edge of the glacier. There were a couple of tricky sections that James belayed us for. Traversing a small ice ridge gave a good demonstration of how effective crampons are, Tommy had not used them much before and was pretty pleased.
Once we had made it back to Dotty we changed into our boatsuits. They are perfect in cold, wet weather, totally waterproof and well insulated. We moved all our stuff down to the shore by which time Katie and Matt had reappeared in the Jet boat to pick us up, and I did the ferry runs in Dotty. A short blast back to base and we were done for the day. Great fun and a brilliant experience. I can’t wait to do it again, maybe cross the Nordenskjold?