A couple of weeks ago we, the 2015 winterer’s, had a weekend away from base to undergo some training to prepare us for our “winter trips”. Once the ship has left with all of the summer folk there is the opportunity for us to go out in groups of three (two people and the GA) to explore a little over a number of days. This means…Antarctic camping. So the training weekend was to give us a taster of how this is done and give us practice in practical exercises such as using the Primus stoves and the Tilly lamps. We also covered some rope training, crevasse rescue and linked skidoo travel training. We set off to Creek 3 on Friday afternoon and after a brief chat we set up our tents. Natalie and I were tenting together – a good thing in case we suffer separation anxiety from spending more than a couple of hours away from each other! It was a lovely evening, which made it straightforward.
Nathalie digging snow blocks/defensive trench (!).
Once the tents were up we were free to cook some dinner, melt water and chill out for the rest of the evening. The whole BAS tenting system is super comfortable. I will post more on that when we actually go on our trips, but it is toasty and cosy in those things, especially at this time of year when it is not yet cold (!).
The next day we grabbed a partner and were split in to two groups. Our group went with Nick (a GA visiting from Rothera to give us a hand with training at the moment) and started with some rope work and general crampon/ice axe training. What a day for it!
Creek 3 is where the ship was able to moor this year for “relief”. Just weeks ago there were some big vehicles driving back and forth on the sea ice off loading all the cargo. You could still see the tracks … heading straight to the water now as a lot of the ice has broken up since.
We finished the morning with some abseiling and belaying each other on safety ropes.
After some lunch we then headed to the other side of camp to do some “fall arrest” and crevasse rescue training. This is for if the partner you are roped together with falls into a crevasse – you can stop them going further, build an anchor, take the strain off the rope and rig up a pulley system with which to haul them out of the crevasse, should they not be able to climb out themselves. We had covered this on our field course so it was great to be able to put this in to context and to brush up on what we had learned (and nearly forgotten) a while ago now!
We took it in turns being the “casualty” at the end of the rope and conducted the exercise on a small slope rather than anything more severe. Steve wins the prize for most dedicated casualty – giving his partner absolutely no assistance as he was being halled up the slope as total dead weight, and for a part of it at least, face first.
We also got to have a little walk to admire the view…
Day 2 saw the weather turn a little – the wind picked up a little and it was pretty overcast. Some of us were woken in camp by a little visitor…
We then packed up camp and took a little while to sort stuff out and decide on what the group wanted to do next. Most of the group wanted to head back to base, but three of us stayed behind with Nick to do a bit of recreational ice climbing. It also meant we could do our link skidoo training on the way back to base afterwards.
It was great to get away from base for a couple of days, especially over a weekend (a real treat for a chef). Winter trips will be happening soonish as it is already February. The ship is due in at the very end of the month and will be leaving somewhere around the first week of March. Not long and we’ll be down to 13…