Archive for the ‘Climbing’ Category


Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Getting Sandblasted on the Long Walk in.

The Summit of Snaefelljokul – Honest

Position N64,53.76 x W023,42.20 Wind SE Gale Force 9
It was not and good day to go sailing or climbing so we decided to go climbing.

On Saturday we woke at 0700 after a disturbed night on the tyre wall. The wind had really got up and we were being blown against it with such might that even my Uber Fender wasn’t able to cope without much line tweeking. We brewed up a large pot of coffee and made bacon, tomato and banana sandwiches. I have Peter Mercer to thank for the suggestion of adding banana to our bacon sandwiches. They tasted very good indeed. At 0900 the Thembi crew arrived ready to tackle the climb up Snaefelljokull. At over 1400m it is about the same height as Ben Nevis but with a much longer walk in. It is also one of the seven “Power Centres” in the world. We inquired what kit we would need and were told to bring ice axes but not crampons. As the Thembi crew are our climbing mentors we probably would have put on our swimming gear if they suggested it.
By 0930 we were heading out of Olafsvik towards the hills. I have been learning a lot about being in the mountains on this trip, it is great to have really experienced mountaineers to learn from. Although the Sumara crew didn’t let the side down, after walking for a couple of hours, Sarah said “I’ve got a map”. The Thembi crew were wowed with amazement “A map! That’s amazing, let’s have a look. Wow!” Sarah, got out the free tourist office map and we all stood around staring at it. They were suitably impressed with Sarah’s efficiency. Dan put it in his pocket but I never saw it again until I asked where exactly we had been in the bar afterwards. It seems the way to tackle these mountains is to enter two waypoints into a handheld GPS (although Tim will have nothing to do with such gadgets). The first waypoint is the summit of the mountain and the other is the boat. Every time we think we are lost a GPS is warmed up and they say “Head that way a bit more”. It seems that geological features are just tackled as they come along.
The dirt track was windy, very windy indeed! If I could have persuaded Sumara Charlotte to take off her boots she could have sandblasted her toe nails and saved the bother of the search for acetone. I took a little video. Stuart walked past the camera, then a huge cloud of dust flew across the screen and Stuart re-entered the screen staggering backwards! The wind was stronger on the track than it was once we turned off across the varied terrain towards the summit. I really enjoyed the day despite the wind. There was some pleasant glacier walking with a bit of axe work on the steeper bits. After six hours we reached the summit and the supposed entrance to the centre of the earth. The thick cloud meant we couldn’t see anything at all so we took the team photos and started to descend. I learned the correct method of descending steep ice slopes. Apparently you just ski down in your climbing boots shouting “Yippee!!”, as the gradient levels off you change from skiing into a manic uncontrollable run and finally make a secure stop by falling flat on your face. I’m pretty sure Dave Hollinger taught us a different method but I could be wrong.
At 1845 after 9 ¾ hours of walking we arrived back at Olafsvik were the skippers went off to check the yachts and the rest retired to the bar for a well deserved drink. We haven’t been following the news but when we saw the Icelandic flags at half mast we inquired why. We were all deeply shocked to hear about the awful news from Norway, a country which is home to so many of our friends and which has always treated us so well. We retired to our yachts in a sombre mood.
Before going below we added some long mooring warps to the fishing boats to help haul Sumara off the wall and one of the kind fisherman from the “Karl Magnus” lent us two massive fenders. Despite the foul night of furious winds and rain we all slept snug in our cosy berths.
The weather looks bad for Sunday but there is a small window of opportunity to leave for Reykjvik on Monday before more fierce weather heads our way. I think we will head off very early in the morning.

Journey to the Centre of the World

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Sailing Towards Olafsvik

Descend into the crater of Yocul of
Sneffels, Which the shade of Scartaris
Caresses, Before the kalends of July
Audacious traveller, And you will
Reach the centre of the earth. I did it.
Arne Saknussemm.

So we are now moored on the tyre wall at the base of Snaefell Jokull. Our long warps are weighted by my splendid bronze chum and a water carrier to compensate for the large tides. Snaefell is the volcano in Jules Vernes tale “Journey to the Centre of the World”. It is still regarded as one of the great “power centres” of the world. I suppose as we didn’t get to Greenland the centre of the world be a reasonable substitute.
Thembi stopped of at Patreksfjordur and are now on their way to join us so I am looking forward to their tales of the ice closing in around them and killer whales. They, of course it goes without saying, climbed a little mountain yesterday. Hopefully we will climb Snaefell tomorrow.
Today we are having a relaxing day pottering about. We have just had a swim and hot tub. Every Icelandic village has a great swimming pool and a hot tub so it makes cruising here rather civilised. The Icelanders are always very kind and helpful. When my credit card didn’t work in the ATM they invited me in to the bank, gave me coffee, and spent half an hour on the phone trying to repair the machine. OK, they never got it to work but it was an impressive effort. Despite being in one of the “power centres of the world” there is a power cut now. The big Iceland Geothermal Company is in financial trouble, maybe they have decided to stop making electricity.
Now that I am outnumbered by women on the Good Ship Sumara I am getting concerned about the amount of “girlie talk”. I may have to ration it if it doesn’t get under control soon. Charlotte has been to the chemist to try to buy some nail varnish remover. Surely she realises we are on an expedition. If she needs acetone it should be bought in 5 litre cans under the pretence we are using it to soak some engine parts otherwise all our creditability will be lost.
A gale warning has just come in on the Furuno Navtex from Greenland giving 15 metres per second for the area where we would have been had we continued on to Greenland. 15m/s is a force seven – “Sea heaps up, white foam from breaking waves begins to be blown in streaks” according to Beaufort. Add to that the latest Danish Ice Chart which had the ice closing in and getting more compact and throw in dense fog for good measure and I think you will agree that our decision to retreat was a sound one.
But we have the charts, the ice poles and the rifle plus a lot more knowledge. Already plans are forming up for another attempt in a few years time. Charlotte is very keen on trying the inland waterway route between Murmansk and St Petersburg. So maybe we could visit Greenland in August when the ice will be clearer, over winter in Iceland, then head off to the North Cape and down the waterways to St Petersburg and winter again in Sweden. Oh dear, I really must stop all this. What’s wrong with Salcombe?


Monday, July 18th, 2011

Dan’s Idea of a Hill WalkThe ViewThe Ridge

Thembi’s Charlotte has been complaining that when she phones home they already know all of her news because of the blog so I have promised not to mention everything that she has been up to. In any case once she has sobered up I’m sure she will look forward to telling the tale of the Icelandic Hams and the Football star. By the way, a “Ham” in Icelandic is a blonde woman with lots of make up and a tight skirt but don’t confuse them with a stereotyped British blonde. The two young Hams who ran the bar we went two were tough cookies. At one point one of the Hams picked up an unruly male customer and threw him out of the door! Actuall yCharlotte should be grateful that I never mentioned the hot tub and the Station Commander.

Well as you can imagine we woke up yesterday feeling rather the worse for wear but with excellent memories of a brilliant Icelandic fish restaurant which Siggi and his family took us to before we went “pa fylla”. Isafordur is a great place, big by Icelandic standards with 3000 people. It is the main town for thenorth westfjords with a secure harbour and everything you could need including a laundry! Siggi cleared a space on the only pontoon for Thembi and Sumara.

Not to waste a day because of a mere overhang we went into hyper activity mode and split into three teams: Icelandic Horse Riding, “Hill Walking”, and Kayaking.

Bjork, Siggis daughter kindly offered to take Sarah, and theCharlotteshorse riding. I was very tempted to join them as I have always fancied trying the special Icelandic horse gait. The horses have two extra modes of running. “Tolt” is a kind of random placing of the hoofs giving a completely smooth ride over really rough ground. Show horses demonstrate it by having a glass of wine whilst riding (the riders drink the wine not the horses). The other mode is “Skate” when the horses move pairs of legs together to resemble skaters. They had a fantastic time with the horses and then went to an outside hot pool. Bjork was a superstar guide.

John, Tim, Dan and I went for a “Hill Walk”. Here’s a tip, if Tim and Dan mention a “Hill Walk” just because you aren’t taking ropes, harness and a helmet, don’t think that’s because you won’t need them. In any case any hill with vertical rock faces and a height of 746m is a small mountain in my books. It was quite hairy! Half way along the ridge, as we were about to drop into a gully we met three climbers coming the other way. They had all the kit and very cool shades on too. John was going to pee on their bonfire by pretending we had a dog and calling “Come on Fifi!”. He restrained himself but we do have good video footage of John attempting a Star Jump on a friable rocky ridge with 700m drop off to each side. We all survived and had a yet another amazing day despite the near death experiences.

Stuart had built up his kayak and decided to spend the day walking and kayaking. He kayaked through into a lagoon at the head of the fjord and went for a good “hill” walk. Sadly the tide got the better of him and when he got back top the boat he was marooned by acres of mud. A long portage solved the problem and he eventually joined us all for a pizza in the local café.

Today is boat day. Cleaning, provisioning, weather into, ice charts etc and a shower and swim. We hope to set off early tomorrow morning forGreenlandif the weather conditions permit. John catches a local flight toReykjavikin the morning and Sarah is joining Sumara for the next adventure.

I will try to load a few photos of the Beerenberg climb in the appropriate place. We will be back on Sat Phone tomorrow so these will be the last photos for a while.

A Few Pictures of Beerenberg

Monday, July 18th, 2011

The Sumit of Beerenberg

One of the Many Crevasses

The Crater Rim

About to Walk the Line Around the Volcano Rim


Off Towards Greenland

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Position N70,58.16 x W008,41.29
Now I’m sitting on Sumara with John, Tim and Sarah discussing plans for a quick departure. Our Charlotte is off sailing on Aurora for a day trip with some people from the Main Command Station. The grib weather data doesn’t look too good as far as wind direction goes so it will be a pretty tough sail. A depression is building off the Greenland coast which may cause concern later. We propose to leave in a few hours at around 14.00 and beat as best we can with the North Coast of Iceland as an option for lee or a short stop if needs be. Sarah will transfer to Aurora on their return. She has been wonderful crew on Sumara so we shall miss her. If it is rough and wet we may not update the blog for a while to ensure delicate equipment doesn’t get trashed. If we can’t get through the ice then we will end up in Iceland.
Last night we were entertained on Aurora by Siggi and his father Jon to a spendid feast of salt cod curry and an out of this world rubarb pie with cream. It was brilliant. They have really looked after us wellon the mountasin and at anchor. Charlotte and Stuart took a walk to base station where Charlotte had a beer in the outdoor hot tub! They bought us presents of Beerenberg Badges (on Dans Credit Card!).
We will miss Jan Mayen, it is a very special place.

Sent at 12.15GMT 10 July 2011

The Mighty Beerenberg Conquered!

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Jan Mayen Beerenberg Walking the Line

Position N70,58.162 x W008,41.350 Wind northerly Force 4

On 7th July we sailed Sumara and Thembi up the coast 6nm to Stasjonbukta where we joined the Icelandic yacht Aurora with our Charlotte and Siggi, who was to be our mountain guide. The anchorage was calm then but is exposed to the north and west. We all went over to Aurora to discuss our plans to climb Beerenberg and decided to set off that afternoon and make a base camp a short way up. We could then set off in the following morning for the main climb. After a frantic hour or so assembling the gear we were taken ashore in Auroras Zodiac. Sarah, Stuart and Siggis father gallantly remained on the yachts to act as anchor watches.
We hiked up over rough volcanic rock and moss to 460m above sea level and pitched our tents. Siggi knew there was some freshwater nearby which is very rare on the island and the soft moss made for a surprisingly good surface to camp on. It was a good move as we had knocked a little bit off the next days climb and base camps are fun!
In the morning of the 8th July we set off up the volcano. The team consisted of Charlotte, Dan, Tim from Yacht Thembi and John, our Charlotte and myself from Sumara plus Siggi our wonderful mountain guide from Iceland. Beerenberg’s height is 2277m with a massive crater which makes it one of the largest volcanos and it is the most northerly in the world. There was a long walk through sugary snow on the glacier surface until we rose above the cloud level at about 1000m.
When the team eventually stopped I thought “marvelous it must be little chocolate break”, on close examintion I noticed Charlotte hadn’t got any legs. Adding the evidence up I realised she had fallen into a crevasse and was trying to pull herself out. We decided to proceed to the rock a few hundred metres ahead and rope up. Apparently roping up normally takes place after the first person has fallen down a crevasse in the same way as crampons normally get put on after the first person has had an accident on the ice. To be fair, the first long section of the glacier was not heavily crevassed but that was about to change. Once we were roped up into two teams the Thembi crew of Tim, Dan and Charlotte lead the way through some massive and very beautiful crevasses over fragile snow bridges. I preferred this section of the climb because the pace was slower and as a rank amateur I could relax and enjoy the climb while the experts judged the best way to proceed. There was little wind and lovely sunshine. As it never gets dark there were no real time pressures. At about 1500m height the gradient steepens as the climb leads towards the volcano rim. By now I suppose we had been climbing continuously for about 6 hours. The final climb to the rim was slower going with lots of crevasses. We all managed to get across them safely. The rim of the volcano involves walking along thin ridge of snow with a steep drop into the crater on one side and a steep slope on the other. It was a truly amazing experience with breathtaking views and a real sense of adventure. The rim led towards the final summit called Haakon V11 which is a steep mound of snow covered rock. We finally climbed onto it at about 1800 after a total of 11 1/2 hrs climbing from sea level. It was a very emotional moment after all the years of planning to finally be there. It was a real delight to climb with such a pleasant and supportive team. The views were totally beyond description. It has been the best day of my life without doubt. After a team photo call we dropped down a few metres to get out of the wind and take a well earned break in the sun.
I believe we started to descend at 1900hrs. The descent was much faster. Eventually we were down to cloud level and back at base camp. The tents were packed away and our back packs were once again very heavy.The Thembi crew and Siggi walked on ahead while the Sumara crew took it a bit slower. By the time we were in sight of the yachts the Thembi crew were onboard Auroras Zodiac about to tackle the surf. The conditions at the anchorage had completely changed. There was now a heavy swell and a moderate onshore wind producing breaking waves on the beach and severe rolling for our small yachts. The Zodiac was pushed by Siggi and his father, who were wearing survival suits and standing in the water, while Tim and Dan paddled frantically to clear the surf. They made it. We weren’t so lucky. When our time came the Zodiac wouldn’t move forward when the time came because she was stuck on a rock and the next wave proved to be a massive roller which crashed over the boat completely soaking us. Another three waves broke over the boat, our waterproof Ortlieb bags were floating in a foot of icy water, so John and I jumped over the side to help drag the boat up the beach to empty her. The water temperature was just 3.5 degrees! Our second attempt was wet but successful. Sarah greeted us back on a very rolly Sumara with a curry and Champagne. What a day!
Now, it’s 9th July and John is frantically trying to dry out our seaboots. We have sailed back to Kvalrossbukta to try to find some lee under the cliffs but the swell is working its way in. We may attempt a shore landing later to light a small fire to dry out our gear. Hopefully we will sail to Greenland tomorrow.

Sent at 15.56GMT on 9th July 2011

Another amazing day up here

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Position N70,58.18 x W008,41.43 Calm
We went ashore yesterday together with the Thembi crew and decided to walk the five or so miles to Olonkinbyen on the south side of the island to introduce ourselves to the Station Commander (Per Erik Hannevold). Actually we met him en route in his Mercededs Land Rover and he very kindly said that he would greet us at the Base Station in an hour or so. We walked along the dust road over the hill and along Sorlaguna and the air strip and eventually arrived at the main station where 18 people work providing radio and weather services. With huge kindness the Station Commander offered us all a shower (it may have been in his own interest!) and laid out seven clean towels. After coffee and an interesting chat about the history of the island we were asked to stay for diner, traditional Norwegian fish cakes, yummy. We were then asked if we would like to send postcards as the supply ship was arriving today and they could take them to Norway. The Station Commander stood patiently by as we wrote the cards even though he would have to supervise unloading the ship overnight. By now it was about 1800 and we decided to take a look at the alternative anchorage Batvika near the base. It was small and rocky but looked fine for one or maybe two boats. They keep a 30 ft dory there ready to evacuate the island if Beerenberg or any of the other volcanos erupts. There is an earthquake about twice a week on the island. At the end of January a large one of 6.2 occurred.
On the way back to the anchorage, Tim and Dan, of boundless energy decided it would be fun to climb a hill in case we can glimpse Beerenberg as the cloud level was lifting. It whacked me out and I was very sad to see it was only 198m high! The view was grand and the soft moss made a good rest spot before the descent back to the boats.
When we arrived back at Kvalrossbukta the supply ship was there and we watched it being unloaded by a warm fire. The Jan Mayen nurse offered us all a beer! By the time we arrived back on the yachts I was certainly pretty tired and it was now past midnight. We eventually bedded down and fell into deep sleep when a hoot and general commotion woke us to see our Charlotte arriving on the large yacht Aurora with Siggi at the helm. They came alongside wondering whether to drop Charlotte off but Sumara was full to the brim so we suggested she stayed onboard until the morning when we will sort ourselves out. Aurora proceeded on up the coast to Stasjonbutka where the climb will start. We will join them today. Hopefully we can start the ascent on the Mighty Beerenberg later today or tomorrow morning.
That was yet another “wow!” day!

We are learning more about the birds. I mentioned to Charlotte that I saw a Fulmar with an orange patch on its stomach and she said she had seen one too.(This is going to be confusing, as we have two Charlottes, I think we will have to prefix our Charlotte with “our” but it by no means signifies ownership!). We wondered if they were a different colouring so when we met two scientists researching Fulmars on the Jan Mayen cliffs I mentioned it and they said they were patches of sick. Fulmars, if they are threatened, can projectile vomit as a defence mechanism. Tim and Dan have both experienced it and Tim reckons it smells so revolting that you have to incinerate your clothes!
I was attacked by an Arctic Skua as I walked along the track. I was quite a thump on the back of my head but no blood drawn. The Skuas are horrible birds!

Sent at 08.55GMT on 7th July 2010

It’s so beautiful!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Positon N70,58.189 x W008,41.469. Anchored in 8.2m
Kvalrosbukta, Jan Mayen

We have had a truly amazing day. Gentle winds with occasional calms wafted us north towards the east coast of Jan Mayen whilst being entertained by Northern Bottlenose Whales, Fulars and Puffins. The Mighty Beerenberg Volcano has been very shy and hid all day behind low cloud cover and drifting mist patches. However the sail around the North Cape of Jan Mayen was stunning. The cliffs are the wildest imaginable covered with patches of soft green moss, snow, and black lava ash and then slashed through by ice blue
glaciers calving off into the sea. The rock is bent and twisted and piled up and broken off with patches of rust red and piles of grey scree. It was just so so beautiful!As we ghosted along towards the large rocky hill sheltering the anchorage from the North we saw the unmistakable sight of the Thembi crew standing on the hill crest waving! Soon Thembi came into sight looking gorgeous against the rugged cliffs and we luffed up and set our anchor in 8m. Tim, Dan, Charlotte and Stuart rowed out from the beach to greet us and we were soon all snugged in Sumaras cabin drinking fortified hot chocolate. The whole sail from the Faroes about 600nm south has been a real pleasure at times almost unbelievably comfortable with the yachts gliding silently through calm seas. We must be the luckiest sailors around.

Anchor Tackle – Boring Technical Stuff
We are using a Rocna 15kg bower anchor and carrying a Fortress kedge and a folding fishermans. The chain we are using is 60m of 8mm grade 70 galvanised which is about twice the strength of most yacht anchors chains (normally grade 30 or 40). It is called Aqua 7 and I brought it in from Italy. There is more information about it on the gear section of the website. We use a nylon three strand snubber with a Wichard anchor hook fitted with a plunger. Our chum is about 15kg of bronze with a Davy and Co anchor shakle. We position about half way down the chain. The anchor has a tripping line connected to a spare fender. We lay out 12 x the square root of the depth. Sumaras samson post has heavy slotted stainless plate on the aft side to snub the chain. It can be very useful for getting a stubborn anchor to break free by snubbing the chain while the yacht is pitching forward and allowing the swell to drag the anchor out – thanks for that Terry, it works a treat! Sumara is also carrying 100m of 16mm polyester octoplait anchor warp and 100m of nylon 16mm octoplait and 60mm of 14mm three strand. We are hoping that this ground tackle will be bullet proof as there are no secure anchorages in Jan Mayen and we have to expect bad weather at some point.

Sent at 22.21GMT on Tuesday 5th July

Pre-departure Meeting

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

We all met up on Thembi last night go through any final details for the trip to Jan Mayen. Sumara will leave on Sunday to Eidi. We will clamber up the 887m high hill near there on Monday as are final exercise before sailing north. Thembi, the faster yacht, will probably follow on Monday. The Thembi crew went for a good climb when they went on their bus trip (I suspected it wouldn’t just be a bus trip!).

We decided we will listen on VHF and put our sat phones on between 1800 and 1900 GMT. We will call up on VHF but if out of range we will send a short text via sat phones. Gerry, Samantha and Richard will send occasional Ice Reports but only to Sumara. Thembi will email Gerry when they require Ice Information.

I will email Siggi at Borea Adventures just before we set off. On arrival we will call up the Station Commander on channel 16.

We all looked at all the anchorage possibilities. The weather is looking good to set off soon with southerly winds backing east. We will try to keep east to avoid being headed by the Jan Mayen current.

In the unlikely case of emergency we will put the Falmouth Coastguard telephone number into our satellite phones.

After the meeting Sarah took John and I out for an amazing meal to a recommended Italian restaurant. One of the best meals I’ve had (Peter won’t be happy about this).

Charlotte and all in Thembi for the Pre-departure Meeting