What are we doing here?

So why are there seven of us on a tiny island for the Antarctic Summer?  First and foremost we are here so the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) has a presence in the South Orkney Islands.  This is arguable (and I should probably be careful what I write here) but with an Argentinian base on the nearby Coronation island the FCO needs to keep the current BAS bases running every year which in turn helps with the British say in the Antarctic Treaty.  Science probably comes equal to that and on Signy science means penguins.  The colonies studied on Signy have the longest data sets of any in Antarctica and they continued to be monitored every year.  Along with the penguins there is also a vast amount of other bird life, seals and mosses and lichens.  Understanding what is happening to the various species in Antarctica over time gives an insight into what is happening in the larger environment.

So seeing as lots of people have asked for pictures of penguins, here it is, lots of photos of the wildlife at Signy.

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Flying the flag at Signy Research Station, Coronation island behind.  If you’d like to have a virtual wonder around Signy Research Station click – here

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At signy we have three types of penguins – Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo.931A9196So can you spot the difference?  While this looks like one massive colony there are actually distinct boundaries between groups of birds.  Sometimes this is birds of different types (this is Adelies and Chinstraps) and sometimes just different groups of the same bird.

People love penguins – I think this is because we find some of their actions endearing and somewhat humanlike – they mate for life, they return to the same colony they were born in to have their chicks and the male and females take turns on the nest and going off to feed.  They also have very little fear of humans and look funny when they walk!

931A9638Tim (the Zoological Field Assistant) has two main study colonies – one of Adelies and one of Chinstraps.  In these colonies he has 100 nesting pairs that he checks every two days.  He checks each nest for number of eggs and/or chicks.  When the chicks are born they will get weighed and their diet sampled as well.  Above – Iain (facilities engineer) recording the numbers as Tim shouts them out.

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Recording at the Adelie colony.

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Adelie penguin posing for the camera.  Its hard not to imbue animals with human traits.  If Adelies were humans they would probably be the village idiot, constantly wondering around, falling over, stealing stones from each others nests and looking quite lost.931A9232The ecstatic display.  At times is hard to imagine penguins showing emotion but this does seem to be a display of pure love and affection – perhaps another reason everyone loves penguins so much.  It usually starts with a slight bow to each other , sometimes twice, there heads almost touching and then they bob and weave there heads either side of each other dipping down as low as there middles.  They then look at each other with there heads close together before looking away as if to check that no-ones noticed.  A pair of penguins might stop and do this every few minutes if they are both at the nest at the same time.

931A9644 Chinstraps on the nest.  The chinstraps are slightly smaller than the Adelies and don’t seem to do quite so much aimless wondering around.931A9199Chinstraps standing around in their pairs.  This has changed now with one of the pair permanently on the nest.

931A9260Gentoo penguins.  The Gentoos are a tiny bit bigger than the Adelies and a lot more skittish.  They also nest further away at the North point of the island.  While the two main study colonies on the Gourlay peninsular get counted every two days the other colonies get counted every couple of weeks.

931A9648Is that meant to be one chick or one egg?  Iain checks his numbers with Tim after another counting session.  

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We also record all seals that we see and in February all of the staff on base will be involved with the annual seal census counting every seal on the island over a few days.  Above – it can sometimes be hard to work out what type of seal it actually is (these are Weddell Seals)

931A9310Leopard Seal.  These are the absolute killing machines of the Southern Ocean and actually responsible for the last fatality at BAS in 2005.  This one was hauled out just below some Adelie colonies having a rest.
931A9360No doubt what type of seal it is when you see a Leopard seal close up.

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Elephant seals – the one everyone loves to hate.  These are enormous animals and they love getting around the BAS bases, keeping you up at night burping and farting.  The bull elephant seals are enormous and can grow to weigh about four tons.  These adolescent elephant seals have found a nice wallow amongst the crosses of some Norwegian Whalers a short walk from Base.  While ridiculous and disgusting on land they are amazing animals with the ability to dive to around 4 km in depth while shutting down their brains, operating on a sort of “auto pilot”.

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Elephant seal pup and its mother.  Pretty much the cutest of all baby seals its hard to imagine it growing into a full size one!

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Fur seal trying to scare me off.  Fur seals are really the only thing we have to watch out for on land.  They look and behave a bit like an angry Doberman and if they do manage to bite you the wound would be pretty dirty.  Sleeping, they look just like rocks and then leap into action either making a big fuss or making for the sea.

931A9247Southern Giant petrel – There are also lots of other bird species on the island other than penguins.

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Cape Petrels in the water at North Point.

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Iain looking down on the Gourlay peninsular on a rare blue sky day.

If seven people seems a lot just to count some penguins here is brief run down of our jobs.  While everyone has set responsibilities its very normal to help each other depending on work schedules etc.

Matt – Station Leader.  Deals with the running of the base, Comms and the bigger picture

Iain – Facilities Engineer.  Keeps us in Electricity and Water

Jim and Tom – Carpenters/Builders.  This year fixing the base and and the huts.

Tim and Mike/ Fabrizio – Zoological field assistants.  Mike and Fabrizio change over this weekend after a visit from the HMS protector.  They have both ongoing science and sometimes other data collection for other papers and PHD students.

Me – Field Assistant/ Field Guide.  Basically anything to do with being out “in the field” from training to helping with data collection to keeping the huts restocked with food and fuel.

Other blog posts coming soon – Life on base (with better photos of the team) as well as more about the Base and the huts and of course some more penguin photos (the first chicks just hatched in the last couple of days).

 

Posted in Adelie Penguin, alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Gentoo, Signy, Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Ernest Shackleton and Signy Arrival

We were on board the Ernest Shackleton for two days before setting off South with Signy Research Station as the first stop. Ive spent a fair amount of time at sea before including yachts on the Wild Coast of South Africa and various tall ships in the South China sea and the North Atlantic and I’ve rarely been seasick. This was all about to change.

Onboard the ship passengers are still referred to as FIDs though there is no longer a “King Fid” declared as there was in the old days of BAS staff going south (Spikes book “In the shadow of Ben Nevis” has a great description of how it was for BAS Staff going south in the 1960’s). Initially I had been a bit put out by us being the first stop as it would have been a good excuse to see the other BAS island bases “Bird Island” and “King Edward Point” on South Georgia. Within a few hours at sea I had changed my mind.  By the first meal I was feeling pretty rough and heard one of the crew comment “It can’t be rough yet – the FIDs are still showing up for food” – sure enough the only thing I managed to show up to after this point was a few very quick meals and the various safety briefings.  The hardest thing about this journey is really that there isn’t much to do even if you are feeling well.  There is some basic exercise  equipment in the hold, a tv lounge, a smoking room and a general lounge or as I did you can just lie in your cabin and stare out of the porthole.

Arriving in the South Orkneys I was relieved to see only open water and no sea ice. With sea ice present it would have been up to me and the Station Leader to organise the relief of the ship over the ice – testing thicknesses etc. In a fragile sea sick state this could have been quite the test. In fact all we had to do was wait for the crew of the Ernest Shackleton to get there tenders ready, struggle into our dry suits and head to the base.

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Jim and I’s cabin on the ship.  These are sometimes shared by four people.  Luckily for me I had the top bunk so could easily see out of the porthole

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One of the less rough moments when I managed to go to the bridge.  The Shack is known for her corkscrewing motion and the fact that she rolls 30degrees.  (That horizon is meant to be straight!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A really exciting briefing. (Biosecurity I think)931A9125

My favourite view.  I was able to lie in my bunk and watch a film on my laptop as long as I alternated between the porthole and the screen every couple of minutes.

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Lifeboat drills on the first morning at Sea.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the last season that BAS plan on using the Ernest Shackleton.  With the new ship currently being built the Shack will end her service next spring and the James Clark Ross the following year.  This calendar on one of the decks shows the progression from two to three ships and down to just the “Sir David Attenborough” and finally it sinking in 2021 (bottom right).  931A9129

Looking a bit pasty but very ready to get off the ship.  After three days at sea I was ready to leave my cabin!

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First view of the South Orkneys931A9145

Jim and a big pile of cargo ready to go ashore.

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The Ernest Shackleton out in the bay as another blizzard rolls in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving not been lived in for eight months the first job was removing the shutters off the window and getting the base habitable (to be sure that we wouldn’t have to back to the ship that night!)

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Various ships crew and staff from other bases came ashore to help dig out the base and unload cargo.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The most important cargo was the last off.  I’m holding a case of Glenmorangie and was happy to see Dalwhinnie 15yr old and some Talisker 57deg North come off as well.  Hopefully it lasts us!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The fresh food that came ashore will be all we get until the next time the ship comes in mid January.  Every piece of fresh food has to be inspected for any wee beasties that might have hitched a ride.  Above – Tim and Mike (Scientists) inspect the cauliflower and remove a few tiny caterpillars.

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Taking the Skidoo around to the other side of the island.  The Shack was only with us for a few days so it was important to make the most use of their tenders while we could.  It felt pretty strange to be putting a skidoo onto a boat and taking it to somewhere I’d never been.

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One penguin, two penguins, three penguins….. Tim doing his first of many penguin counts.  Tim, Mike and I made a quick visit to the main penguin colonies on the Gourlay peninsular on the second day.  This will be Tims main focus for the 5 months and part of my job is to help him.  (Dont worry – lots of penguin shots to come!)

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Its definitely spring here.  The South Orkneys are at 60deg South so gets roughly the same daylight hours as Orkney in the North of Scotland (59deg North).  It is a little colder here month by month however due to not having the gulf stream.

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Signy Island.  Home for seven of us for the next four months.  The base is on the peninsular in the middle of the East coast (tiny black dots)  You can view a pdf version of this map here.

Next blog – life on base and why we’re here.

Posted in Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Ernest Shackleton, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Signy, Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Heading South

Its now a week since I left home, slowly making my south for another season in Antarctica.  Traveling with the British Antarctic Survey is always slow and dates and times constantly change around you as you travel, making for lots of confusion and frustration along with a lot of time to read your book.  The changeable nature of traveling south is even more pronounced when traveling by ship to the island bases of South Georgia, Bird Island and Signy, where I will be spending the next four and a bit months.  The travel might be slow but is always interesting and this season even more so for me getting to travel through the Falklands.

I’m not great at understanding much about somewhere till I get to visit and while I had obviously heard of the Falkland Islands growing up I really know nothing about them other than they were “owned” by the UK, they weren’t very big, they were always windy and there was a war fought over them when I was a kid.  Since working for BAS I had also become aware that they were a major stepping stone for personnel going to work in Antarctica.  BAS staff are still sometimes referred to as FID’s (Falkland Islands Dependants).

931A8994Stanley Post Office.  When wandering around the Falklands a lot of it feels very British and then you turn a corner and see a penguin.

falkland-islands-location-mapI had never really grasped why Margaret Thatcher had sent the British Navy to the Falklands after the Argentinians invaded in 1982.  It makes more sense in Stanley where the people are so proud to be British and there’s a statue of Thatcher in the high street where shes heralded as the person that came to the Falklands rescue.  In a recent referendum 99.7% of the Falkland islanders voted to stay under British Sovereignty.  There was one person who voted against!

For those of us heading South the falklands is an 18hr flight in a Military Airplane via Cape Verde from Brize Norton near Oxford.   Military planes have loads of leg room and a box of food is thrust at you every two hours but unfortunately theres not 500 films to watch on your own personal screen.931A9001At one end of Stanley high street is a statue of Margaret Thatcher, at the other a statue made from the jaw bones of two blue whales.  This has stood since 1933 (with a bit of restoration) and is hard to believe that these could have come from any animal alive today.

931A9003Sort of British and sort of not.  British style town houses with tin roofs in Stanley

931A9006The only sign that you’re outside one of the most popular pubs in the Falklands.  Its very hard to tell whether a building is a shop, pub or someones house as there’s very little to tell them apart.

931A9018Black- Crowned Night Heron at Gypsy Cove.

931A9041Obviously with a major war having been fought on a tiny island there’s old ordnance all over the place.  The gun that guarded the mouth of Stanley harbor  is looking pretty old now.

931A9044I spent a day wondering in the hills above Stanley.  I’m told this weather is pretty rare in the Falklands but it was perfect weather for climbing!

931A9050Its definitely windy!  A wander along Berthas beach with some other BAS staff showed endless sand dunes and a few penguins.

931A9082Sort of like the UK and sort of not.  A gentoo penguin casually sauntering past some geese and a sheep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoarding the Ernest Shackleton in more normal Falklands weather.

We (the 7 of us going to Signy) should be spending four days on the Shackleton along with some staff headed to the other island bases.

Signy Antarctica.001Where is Signy?  Signy Research Station is a Summer only station in the South Orkney Islands, 600km from the Antarctic peninsular.  More people have heard of the South Shetland Islands (closer to the peninsular) as they contain Elephant Island where Frank Wild was left with some of Shackleton’s men when he set off for South Georgia after the failure of the Endurance expedition.

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While the Ernest Shackleton is an Ice Class vessel (not an Ice Breaker) she is known to have a fairly bad roll in heavy seas.  I thought the statement “If you suffer from motion sickness however slight this ship will make you ill” pretty funny at the initial brief but when we set sail tomorrow it might be a different story!

 

 

Posted in Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Ernest Shackleton, Falkland Islands, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Gentoo, Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands, Stanley, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , |

Its Always Sunny Somewhere

“It is one of humanity’s interesting and perverse psychological quirks that from the enduring and overcoming of these difficulties and discomfort, some considerable quota of the appeal of mountaineering derives” Jim Perrin

While many people are leaving facebook and social media I decided this summer to engage with it more. I’ve always taken a lot of photos but haven’t always been the best at sharing them. Part record, part memory and part an attempt so show amazing places, a lot of my photos still end up hidden on harddrives and I thought I would have a go at sharing these more. Its easier than ever to take good photos, tag your friends and show the amazing places that a lot of us get to but I always feel these photos don’t tell the full story. First of all, all photos are filtered. We filter by choosing where to look, what to capture in the frame and the moment in which to press the shutter. We choose whether to make our friends look cool and competent or like they have no idea whats going and are a complete junkshow depending on location, posture and facial expression. I try and make myself take photos of both the best and the worst of whats going on around me and have been trying to share both. The reaction to sharing more photos has been strange. When I see friends they already know what I’ve been up to and a few people have commented on how much climbing I’ve been doing.   In fact its about the same amount as normal, I’ve just put more photos of it online and feel that I’ve actually done a lot of work this year.

I know that some friends with more normal jobs away from the outdoors sometimes struggle to see others day to day photos on social media but in my opinion the uploading of these photos is like forgetting the cold you had last week when someone asks you what you were up to. You only see the good stuff and assume that’s all there is.

So here are a few photos that show some of the day to day stuff over the summer spending almost every day out on the hills, lochs, rivers and sea. Also some photos of Yosemite with Sam where I mainly took pictures of us creeping slowly upwards or eating.

(For some reason I cant edit the size of the images just now -sorry!)

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Whisky on the beach at the end of days paddling with some lovely people and a wee fire.  What could be better?  Well, the next morning to be honest.  When I took this photo I was pretty worried about the exact time the storm forecast for the next day would turn up.  As it was we just managed to get off the water by 1030am with me having to push one of the clients well into her stretch zone – not great for either of us but by 12 it would have been unmanageable and I would have been faced with a long walk and some very miserable clients.

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Your friends have the time off and so do you and theres classic routes to be climbed right near your house.  Adam approaching the halfway mark on a route thats known to involve balancy climbing on small slopey holds as the rain rolls up the glen. (you can see the rain spots on the lens).  Not all days go as planned.

The dreaded midge.  Somehow we seem to forget about these guys (girls actually).

I seem to have missed the memo given to all outdoor professionals that you lay your kit out in a size/alphabetical/colour coded order with whats in the bag clearly labeled.  My approach is much more “all that kit has to go into that boat”.  (note –  the double gas burner stove (bottom right) does need some careful consideration to get it into a hatch)

As long as it looks neat on the outside.

A good friend asked me this summer if I ever got fed up with camping.  Yes – sometimes I really do but only if I forget my book (which I did on this particular expedition.  I was forced to read the whole of the flora and history sections of the scrambling guidebook).  This was some young officers tent after one night of rainfall on skye after we’d abandoned scrambling the day before due to the torrential rain.

Fellow Mountain Professional Lawrie Brand with two young officers in tow on the Lochan traverse the morning after the torrential rain.  No matter what the weather something still needs to be achieved.  (I think Lawrie tried to make me promise not to put this photo online)

First day of climbing in the dolomites.  Every other photo from this day shows beautiful views and amazing climbing.

The endless gear shuffle.  Sam unpacking the hire car below Leaning Tower in Yosemite.  I probably spend as much time packing and unpacking bags as I do actually climbing.

Carrying in to the base of Leaning Tower.  This bag was probably 50kg.

“Please stop taking photos”  Sam on his first proper lead of our trip on the extremely intimidating “West Face” of Leaning Tower.

Bivy ledge on the Leaning Tower as the sun sets.  Idyllic to some but not everyones cup of tea.  

Sam realising that in our sleep deprived state we had failed to read the full name on the tin.  We had read “Sausage and Rigatoni” and failed to see the word “soup” underneath.  Thankfully american soups tend to be pretty hearty!

Endlessly sorting gear.  I admit that for big walling its worth counting and laying everything out!

Sam leading off on pitch two of the nose making all the gear sorting etc worth while.

A lot of the climbing on the nose is not that hard (by Aid climbing standards) but it feels pretty out there.

Half dome from the top of El Cap.  Despite loving taking photos I was largely too tired on this trip to bother with the taking of any landscapes.   Sam doing a slight alternative on the “South Face” of Washington Column after I suggested it might make a better photo.Busy ledge.  The reality of climbing popular routes is that there are often others there with you.  There were 4 teams on this ledge and one of them was fairly scarey in their behaviour.  When I took this photo there was still one guy cleaning the pitch above us with some dubious techniques and advice.  Meeting other teams can be fun, educational, inspirational or downright terrifying.

Next for me is a few months work at Signy Research Station in the South Orkneys off Antarctica.  In the interest of sharing more photos I’m going to aim to keep this blog more up to date with the day to day life on an Antarctic Station.  Dont worry – there should be lots of photos of cute penguins too!

Posted in Uncategorized

Morocco and the Dolomites

Its raining outside and I’ve been to the indoor wall twice in the last four days.  Something tells me the Scottish summer might finally be over.  Not that I’ve been here much recently, a work trip to Morocco followed by a Dolomites climbing trip has meant that I’ve missed the start of the rain.  Two weeks in Morocco with a school group was amazing.  I really value these trips for the time you get to chat to locals and see what they have to say as well as experience the amazing food and differences in culture.  Not too many photos I’m afraid.931A8820-HDR

Sunset over Marrakech on our first night.931A8914

While building some new toilets at a remote school this man invited all of us into his house.  Fresh bread, nuts and mint tea are some of my favourite things and it was amazing to see how simply the Berber people live.  (You can just spot his grandson hiding in the background)

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Summit of Jebel Toubkal (4167m).  We tried to get to the summit for sunrise but werent quite quick enough.  Interesting to see North Africas highest peak has a lot of the same issues as Ben Nevis with quite a lot of litter etc on the path.931A8987

The beautiful town of Aremd lit up as the sun goes down.

I had one day at home and then straight to the Dolomites.

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Light shining through the Sassolongo group in the Sella pass.

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Cooking dinner on the second night.  Climbing trips are a little weird in the fact that you go to a foreign country but end up barely engaging with the culture.  We did manage to eat a few pizzas but mostly it was pasta and sauce cooked on a camp stove.

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Pitch something on the S face of Marmolada.  Having been rained off the day before we had a big day moving as fast as possible (with our bivy gear) on the 30pitch Vinatzer.

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Looking down one of the hard pitches of the 22 pitch Constantini- Apollonio in the Falzagero pass.

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Tre Cime.  For me the prime objective on the trip was to do a route on the N face of Cima Grande.  We chose the classic “Comici” which certainly didn’t disappoint.

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View from the belay on pitch 4.  Sometimes the early starts are worth it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe worst bit of climbing trips isnt the getting up early, its the terrible decisions you make after a couple of beers.  Adam trying to get some sleep in the cave below the S face of the Marmolada.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Climbing, Jebel Toubkal, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , |

Summer Sun

For the last couple of years I’ve tried to hold onto a couple of weeks in May and June where I dont work to allow me time to tick off a couple of Scotlands classic rock routes.  The weather window to do these mountain routes can be quite small and usually  I come away from those weeks a little frustrated at either the amount of rain, the amount of midgies or the lack of keen partners.  This year feels a little different.  When you’re self employed its often hard to not take work when its offered but over the last couple of months I’ve managed to hang onto my time off and amazingly this has largely coincided with periods of amazing weather and friends who are also free and keen to climb.  In the last few months almost everything else has fallen by the way side as I’ve got tireder and tireder ticking through three star routes quite a few of which I never thought I would get to climb.  Its been amazing to see the mountain crags so busy with teams operating at all grades in glorious sunshine.

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The majestic Cir Mhor on the Isle of Arran.  Despite having lived on Arran for a few months I had never climbed the South Ridge Direct.  Camping in Glen Rosa for a couple of nights was the start of an amazing spell of good weather.931A7226

Photo from Cecile.  I wasnt sure if after the 14 pitch South ridge I would still be keen for this Robin Smith testpiece – a protectionless 15m solo of the “Rosetta Stone” at the top of Cir Mhor. 931A7354

Somewhat of a rest day.  On a baking hot day Cecile and I cycled in to climb “Ardverikie Wall”  I was on belay duty all day and climbed with my hood up to try and escape the sun.  The last time I climbed this was one of the most midgy experiences of my life!931A7472

A wee bit of work.  I have been running some Skye sea kayak expeditions this summer for Sea Kayak Plockton.  All of these expeditions have been quite different but all with brilliant clients to some wild and adventurous places.  Above – camped on Harlosh Island in loch Bracadale – we had to cut the last day of this exped short as a force 8 was forecast.931A7506

Point of Stoer lighthouse.  We were meant to be sea kayaking this day but it was way to windy (right after the Loch Bracadale work trip)931A7534

Jago, Sarah and Ceclie proving how windy it is on a wander out to see if the “Old Man of Stoer” is still standing.

P1020317Photo from Andy Nisbet (me on the second pitch of the the Robin Smith Classic “The Big Top”).  At the end of 12 day streak of climbing Andy convinced me to head out for a photo shoot for the new guidebook with Graham I had been shifting concrete slabs the evening before and was feeling pretty tired but it was all worth it for some more classics in the sun with Andy shouting “stop there for a minute theres a cloud”

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Adam contemplating his runout on the classic “Edgehog”.  Somehow in the driest summer I remember Adam, Seb and I were up the glen on a freezing cold morning as the drizzle showers came through.  It hasn’t all be endless sunshine!

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Endless sunshine!  The two accompanying teachers on a recent bit of work for the High School of Glasgow taking a morning dip in loch Morar.
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Fox in camp on Loch Nevis.  I think we might have been camped on this old boys den as he hung around very close to us for quite a while.931A8771

Work – supervising a Gold DofE group as they paddle to the narrows of Loch Nevis.  931A8788

Final day of a four day trip.  Dave (the other supervisor) gliding up the inside channel from Back of Keppoch into Arisaig bay. These four days were the hottest I have ever spent on the water in the UK.

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Al Docherty on the crux pitch of “Minus One Direct” in May.  There was so much snow in Observatory Gully that the bottom two pitches (45m) were missing.

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Adam on the top pitch of “Crocodile”  on one of our many productive days this summer.  On this day we had to desperately seek shade as it was too hot to climb in the sun.

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Stormy paddling into Glen Dhu (appropriate name) with Cecile, Jago and Sarah.

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Pabay post box.  On the last of the Skye sea kayak expeditions we stopped for the night on Pabay on the east side of Skye.  Definitely one of the weirdest places I’ve stayed with a lonely wee post box, a fancy renovated farm house (deserted) and a perfectly straight road across the island that appeared to go nowhere!

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Paddling under the Skye bridge on the last day of the exped.

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Cecile seconding one of the many exciting pitches of “Torro” on Ben Nevis.

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Mark Chambers on the brilliant main pitch of “Alice Springs” on Creag and Dubh Loch.  The last two days of my summer climbing season (in Scotland!)  were brilliant with Mark and I trying to fit as much as possible into a couple of days before had to be back at work.

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Third route of the day – the never dry “Sword of Damocles” was bone dry.

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Here we go again”  Staring up at “King Rat” at 7am ready for another day of fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGetting home in style.  Even the crag access is fun on these things you call “Mountain Bikes” (I think they should be called trail bikes as you dont see people actually on mountains on them!).

The summer has been amazing but now I have a couple more days of work before some international trips for work and play.  For once the Scottish summer has been a good warm up for Morocco and the Dolomites!

 

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Spring

While spring is meant to be here winter does seem to be hanging on in the Highlands.  Despite turning to rock-climbing and sea kayaking and working on “Summer Mountaineering” courses I keep getting snowed on!  Its been a pretty wild April and this seems set to continue – a few photos from some good days out on the rock and the sea over the last few weeks.931A6872

On a marginal forecast a few of us ended up at Reiff – I struggle to get excited about small crags though the routes at Reiff can pack a punch.  Above- Adam on one of the classics – “The Executioner”931A6887Above and Below – Seb trying hard at Seal Song area931A6904

 

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Cecile on the awkward first move of “Jim Nastic” – Matt (belaying) is probably laughing we werent sure Cecile (who’s French) had understood the joke in the route name.931A6946

Canoeing on Loch Lomond.  I have been out on a few DofE expeditions and trainings in the last few weeks.  This was a particularly brutal one with high winds and driving rain.  This was the only picture I took.

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Cecile on the first pitch of “Secretaries Super Direct” in Glen Nevis.  The Glen is brilliant at this time of year and is right on my doorstep.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sea Kayaking through the Raasay – Rona gap.  After a few years of saying I would do more Sea Kayaking work this year I am.  A three day expedition around Raasay with some wonderful clients saw sunshine, hail, high winds, golden eagles and a high speed rescue (thanks Alison!) when we deemed the winds too strong to get back up the west coast.

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5 minutes before this photo we were in driving hail.  Three of my group looking NW to Skye

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Matt and Adam paddling over to Ailsa’s birthday party.  “A quiet catch up with some old friends” – yeah right!931A7125-HDR

Theres a reason why the road to Neist is so busy!  I’ve sat and watched (and photographed) this view a few times – it never fails to impress.931A7139Reflections in Loch Lomond on my drive to a stint of work in Inverness.  In a lot of ways this photo looks a lot more like Autumn than Spring and that is how the last few weeks have felt too.  Despite the occasional sunny day its still felt cold and windy.  Maybe the rest of May will bring more settled weather.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, canoe, Climbing, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Neist Lighthouse, Reiff, Scotland climbing, Scottish Sea Kayaking, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Winter

Finally now that winter is drawing to a close I have time to look at some of the photos from the last couple of months.  From my return to Scotland in early February the skiing and winter climbing seasons have been truly spectacular.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The themes for my winter have definitely been climbing routes that I never thought I would (for various reasons) and climbing routes that were only just in condition (while everyone else seemed to always be on routes in perfect condtions!).  Above a photo taken by Joe Rochford of me leading the big ice pitch of Raeburns Buttress direct a rarely climbed ice route to the right of Boomers Requiem.

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Climbing as a 4.  Very shortly after getting back Malcy, Chucky, Scott and I headed to the Bridge of Orchy Hills to climb “Farenheit 451”.  I mainly didnt think I would ever climb it because of how busy it gets.  Turns out if you climb it just after it forms on a bad weather day theres no queues.  This was also the start of another of my winter themes – Hot chocolate and chips in the Bridge of Orchy hotel.

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One of my funner weeks this winter was with Mel and Sharna who mainly sung songs from Frozen on the belays or their own special rendition of “If you like it then you should have put a sling on it”.  We had an amazing week getting to lots of different venues around Lochaber and reviewing the hot chocolates of a variety of hotels.

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Abseiling of the arch of Church Door buttress.  Church Door on Bidean Nam Bian is one of my favourite crags it was amazing to climb Crypt route with my clients on one of the stormiest days of the season.

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Brian on the second pitch of “Gully of the Gods” on Beinn Bhan.  We woke up on Skye this morning to heavy rain – funny when one of your dream routes becomes a consolation prize.

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Mark Chambers and Chucky soloing the first section of the infamous “Crab Crawl” on Creag Meagidh.  We had high hopes for this but again changed from one brilliant objective to another.  We only did the first 5th of Crab Crawl (400m!) before we decided to do “Smiths Route” instead.

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It wouldn’t be winter without the hot aches.  Rachel had just finished two weeks of nights as a doctor but still insisted we go and climb ice in the pouring rain.  She paid for it (as did I) with some pretty bad Hot Aches and a lot of wet kit.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Ben Nevis, Ben Nevis ice climbing, Buachille Etive Mor, Climbing, Creag Meagidh, Creag Meagidh Ice Climbing, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Scotland climbing, Torridon, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

Finlandia Foothills and a Skua Survey

The news was broken to me at Halley that I was the only person flying back to Rothera with Olly the pilot.  My dreams of alternating between napping and reading my book in the back while someone else did co-pilot duties were shattered!  As the plane was so light we flew direct from Halley to Rothera in just under seven hours with me still managing to get a bit of a nap and some reading done.  In reality it was a fun trip feeling much more like a road trip than normal with just Olly and I chatting away and me occasionally doing a little bit of flying to give Olly a break.  On the way out of Halley we flew over the RRS Ernest Shackleton doing relief on the Brunt Ice Shelf 40km from the Halley base.

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The “Shack” doing relief with lots of cargo sledges and vehicle lined up to take the cargo back to base.
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By the time we got to Rothera it was grey and overcast.  Flying from Halley to Rothera directly does mean that the last bit of the journey has some interesting views as the route cuts across the peninsular.

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Back at Rothera Julie and I had a bit of planning and packing to do before the input to the Finlandia Foothills for our final short project of the season.  It wasn’t until after Julie had flown in to establish our camp that I was shown this excerpt from the previous field party in the area in the early 80’s.  Needless to say Julie and Pete were on the ground for five days waiting for the weather to improve for the rest of us to fly in.931A6473

Julie walking away from camp with the Wilson range behind.  The team of six of us were in the Finlandia Foothills on Alexander island in the hope of establishing an Antarctic Special Protected Area (ASPA).  An area of the foothills had shown promise via satellites and four scientists were expecting a higher than normal density of biological matter and some birds. (Basically bird poo, birds, moss and lichens).  (Fossil Bluff is also on Alexander Island which at BAS is often referred to as being the same size as Wales.  I recently learnt that it is also the second largest uninhabited island in the world)

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On our first afternoon we headed up on the screes above camp looking for moss and lichen931A6490

Pete hard at work collecting Lichens931A6499Gearing up to leave camp.  On this day we decided to head down to our main objective just over 6km away.  Note the bird net Richard is carrying.931A6503

Julie and the two Pete’s skiing away from camp.

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What a lot of Lichen!  After three hours of glacier travel on skis and foot we reached the site to realise that there was…. just a few bits of Lichen and no sign of birds, bird poo or moss.  We had expected the sample collections at this site to take three to four days!
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Scientists in the mist.  While at the site Kevin wanted to collect a series of DNA samples making him and Richard look particularly strange wandering around in the mist.  Needless to say it was quickly decided that the site was not worthy of ASPA status!
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The neighbours – It was great to be in a field camp as a large group again as once we had discovered the site was not what we wanted we had to wait a few days to be picked up.931A6538

Julie and the Petes being told the planes wont arrive tomorrow.

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After eleven days for Julie and just six for me we flew back late afternoon over some amazing chunks of sea ice and the RSS James Clark Ross doing relief at Rothera.

931A6555JCR on the Rothera Wharf.

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Skua survey.  After a brief couple of days at Rothera it was straight back out with my tentmates from Finlandia, Kevin and Richard, to carry on a skua survey on the islands near Rothera.  The flags on Kevin and Richards bags are to give the skua’s something to go for rather than your head when you’re peering into their nests.931A6577

Skua chick.  While Kevin outlined survey areas and Richard counted nesting pairs I tried to count nest contents.  Despite the skuas clearly showing you where their nests are by swooping you more and more aggressively the nests are surprisingly hard to spot.931A6613

Our salubrious accommodation on Anchorage island.  Salubrious until I pulled the door off the hut within minutes of our arrival!   931A6617

More Skua chicks.931A6620

Inquisitive Weddel seal.  I’ve spent barely any time on the islands around Rothera so doing the Skua survey was a great excuse to wander around and get some photos on both Anchorage and Leonie Island.
931A6682Incoming! Despite being assured by Richard that the skuas were not that aggressive and would only go for the flag some of the birds were extremely persistent I did get a few good hits to my head by some of the more adventurous ones.

One more week in Antarctica before heading home to Scottish winter which appears to be shaping up nicely.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Anchorage Island, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Skua Survey, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Halley Christmas

A bit late on Decembers blog!  I’ve had a really varied season so far with the biggest difference getting to spend time at BAS’s other Antarctic Research Station – Halley VI.  Halley has been in the news a lot over the last couple of years as some previously dormant cracks started opening up in the Brunt Ice Shelf inland from the station.  Last year a huge team of Engineers, Drivers and support staff moved the main modules to the other side of the crack (known as the Chasm) only to discover there was another crack (Halloween Crack) even further “inland”.  Work continues at Halley this season with a lot of monitoring of the various cracks, readying the base to survive the Antarctic winter without staff and and attempt to fully automate all the long term science that happens.

From a Rothera perspective Halley is the place that all the fuss is made about while the science and field work happens from Rothera.  From a Halley perspective Rothera is not the real Antarctic.  The main difference for me is that you get bacon rolls for smoko at Halley

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At the start of December I spent a lot of time flying around the Ellsworth Mountains with Ian (Pilot) and Ben (Engineer) sorting out more science sites.  The views of the mountains were amazing as was getting to stay in the “hotel” at Union Glacier.

 

931A6048 Mt Vinson  – the highest peak on the continent (4892m)931A6052 Ben working at one of the sites south of the Ellsworths.  The first few sites were al uphill from the plane and involved lugging batteries to and from them.  A couple of these sites were at about 8000ft.  With the lower air pressure in Antarctica they feel more like 12000ft so its pretty knackering dragging car batteries behind you.931A6072 Tough place for a lunch stop.931A6090Enormous crevasses on the approach to the Union Glacier skiway.931A6098 Ben walking back to our tent on the guest side of the Union camp.  It was great to check out the setup here and catch up with some friends.931A6236 Flying again –  As field guides we spend a lot time in the aircraft.  Fellow field guide Julie knitting away on the long flight from Rothera to Halley.
931A6280 Halley VI.  The original Halley Base was started in 1956 with the most recent incarnation being commisioned in 2006.  The original four bases were snowed in and the staff lived in them underground.  Both Halley V and VI were designed to raised to deal with the snow accumulation.  931A6284 I’ve often wondered why you dont see many pictures of Halley from the air.  I think part of the reason is that its not a particularly exciting view but also that a lot of attention is focused on the space age modules.  The view from above shows the vast amount of infrastructure needed to keep the base running.  Above – Halley modules in the centre with the various vehicle lines, container lines, accommodation and garage modules.  The lines at the top of the photo are enormous windscoops leading to the “hinge zone” where the Brunt ice shelf meets the continent.931A6312-HDR Classic Halley view.931A6327 Christmas day – Doug climbing in Halloween crack.  Mark (FG), Doug (Air Mech) and Olly (Pilot) snuck off on Christmas for a quick climb in Halloween crack.  Having to ski-doo there, set up the ropes, abseil in etc meant there was only time for a couple of climbs each but a great way to spend Christmas!931A6332 Some things are the same on Christmas day the world over – lots of washing up!.  (Though I’m not sure Marks Hawain shirt and flip flops are standard)931A6343 Straight after Christmas it was back out into the field for me.  I joined Neil at Bluefields depot and then moved to a Depot in the Shackleton Range.931A6362Filling in the days with igloo building.  Rob (who switched with Neil) came to join me while I did constant Weather observations for the aircraft.  10 days of staring at clouds, drinking tea and reading.

Back to Rothera in the next couple of days and then back into the field for a couple of weeks before heading home.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Halley Research Station, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Mt Vinson, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |