24 December, 2012

Novo to Basecamp Arrival

Categorised under:
Alastair Lee, Athlete Blogs and News, Leo Houlding, Ulvetanna

Novo to Basecamp Arrival

The 7th Continent – Leo

Date: 21/12/12
Location: Novo, S 70 49′ 16″, E 11 35′ 19″
Temperature: -5 C, light cloud, 1 knot SE.

Ulvetanna Leo Houlding planeThe Il76 is the most amazing beast of a plane, authentically Russian! A porta loo strapped inside a cold war cargo plane.  No windows in the cabin but since Antarctica is not a state the crew allow passengers in to the Millennium Falcon cock pit. All ready feels like an action movie.

We landed on the blue ice runway at Novo at 4am in full daylight. Temps -10 C with 10 chilling 10 knot SE wind. Unloading the 20 tons of cargo was chaotic. We located our mountain of kit, loaded it into the childhood fantasy Arctic Trucks and drove to a converted shipping container to re-organise and get some rest. The kit is extremely well organised, everything is colour coded and labelled and we are ready to be abandoned in the last great wilderness. We even have time for Dave to test his new MkIV camera jibb. The footage looks Hollywood!

We meet Mike Libeki and the American crew on their way out. Old friends on opposite ends of amazing adventures. They lost 3 tents and never took of their goggles in 30 days due to extreme winds. They still managed to climb and look very satisfied if weathered.

Ulvetanna team on runway

The ALCI, the Russian logistics operator is an impressive and complicated set up.  Servicing the scientific and governmental needs of the 16 base spread across the whole of Queen Maud Land, an area half the size of Europe.

The unstable weather patterns lead to an ever changing flight schedule. We are told we may be delayed by up to a week.

No longer nervous about what tomorrow hold’s in the dark, warm container the tired crew sleep well.

Ulvetanna team at Novo

The end of the world? Leo

Date: 22/12/12
Location: Ulvetanna Base Camp, S 71 49.146′, E 008 21.867′
Temperature: 8 C, Cloudy then Sunny, 0 knots

What a day! We’re here. It’s unreal.

Yuri stormed in at 7am

“Good news Comrades, we fly in one hour!”

I frantic scramble to mobilize from deep sleep into this long planned operation.
Thankfully we are ready and within two hours the plane is packed and we a about to lift off.

Ulvetanna team in front of plane

By happy coincidence our pilot is the very same Canadian cowboy that dropped is into Mount Asgard in 2009 in an identical plane. The iconic DC3. Louis is a dude, super cooperative and psyched to help our aims in any way he can.  Another old friend Sam Beaugy and Francois his French partner share the flight. They will be in the area for the same period as us though at a different camp 15 km away. Maybe we can share Christmas!

After an hour, at noon we catch our first glimpse of the mighty fang that is Ulvetanna, Louis is stressed about the cloud and eager to land immediately without our requested fly-bys. After a couple of low passes to assess the snow conditions he commits and we land smoothly.

We taxi across the white expanse towards the surreal peak. We want to base camp out of the line of Ulvetanna’s shadow, but not too far away from the wall.

About 5km from the wall we open the DC3 door and jump into 40 cm of soft snow.  The cloud cleared revealing a perfect blue sky, no wind and temperatures of upto 10 C. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine such perfect conditions for this much anticipated and critical moment.

We are blasted by the propeller wash as the we hold down our kit as Louis, the DC3 and our last link to the world flies away.

It takes us 12 hours to establish what is without question the sweetest remote Base Camp I’ve visited, more details to follow. According to the Mayan’s the world ends today. Be weird to be out here if it did!

Mavericks! – Leo

Date: 23/12/12
Location: Mavericks, Ulvetanna Base Camp, S 71 49.146′, E 008 21.867′
Temperature: 8 C, Whiteout, snow, 0 knots.

Ulvetanna team relaxing

Warm night, slept on top of sleeping bag. Surprisingly cold outside. 24 hour solar radiation seems to really warm the tents. White out conditions, no sign of wall. light to no breeze. Would be easy to be lost with in 100m of camp. Must be diligent with GPS and compass when leaving camp. Suddenly feels very serious.

Haven’t yet checked in with Russians on sat phone. I wonder if the world has

Day spent beefing up and styling out our home for the next 38 days, we have dubbed Base Camp – Mavericks. Building protective snow walls is strenuous but satisfying. Best to make use of these gentle conditions in case the weather gods start playing. Be interesting to see how sweet it is when the wind starts nuking?

After an initial erection fight the Weatherhaven cook/mess tent (mavericks) is a dream and forms the hub of camp. Almost like a bivi hut. Chris already rules his kitchen with iron fist.

Toilet igloo is more of a wind break and a barrel sunk into the snow 30m down wind, marked with bamboo stakes and flags. The studio / communications tent is in action. 140W of solar power is currently charging laptops and camera batteries well even in poor light. The BGAN satellite internet is working like a charm and we are now online and ready and able to share Mavericks, Ulvetanna and our epic adventure with the world!

Please comment below if you’re following as we’d love to know our efforts to share this stuff are being enjoyed.

Berghaus Store

For outdoor clothing from Berghaus including men’s waterproof jacketswomen’s rucksacks and more then please visit our online store.
You can find a wide range of gear for climbinghill walkingmountain biking and other activities.

(29) Comments

Have your opinion? Have your say…

    Hope you & team are all settling into Base Camp nicely.
    Superpsyched for you all on your epic adventure.
    Have fun :-)
    Johnny & Lina

    Johnny Bravo

  2. keep blogging as your adventure unfolds as it’s really cool hearing how it’s going; tell us more about how it feels to be on the verge of an awesome undertaking… Happy xmas and a safe 2013


  3. Merry Christmas all. Great to read the blogs and share your amazing adventure. Stay safe.

    snow bunny

  4. Hi Hope your Christmas went well and you are all still smiling. Tomorrow we are all walking on the tops above Cragg Vale. Daisy will be with us we finish our walk with afternoon tea. Obviously very different to any walks you take. Thinking of you all.


  5. PS Tell Jason Burnley won 2 0 on Boxing Day


  6. def going to enjoy and follow the blogs keep em coming . good news Jas burnley 2 derby 0 sounds mega organised ” colour coded ! ” eat lots of greens ! bet you cant wait to start on the route it’ll be magic .
    uncle T

    Trevor Dewhirst

  7. I am enjoying your blogs immensely and am delighted to hear that your adventure has started well! What beautiful photographs, the weather at Christmas looked amazing- far better than the cloudy north of England! Best wishes and good luck to everyone!
    Anita France (Teacher at Westfield Community Primary School, Wigan).

    Anita France

  8. Hope your Christmas was good and that Chris managed to produce a feast in his mess tent. Following you with kids at school. Katie :)

    The Plumb Family Crooklands

  9. Hey there Sonny Boy. Big up to the Maverick Massive – and Happy New Year. Wishing you every success for your imminent onslaught. Don’t forget – keep a cool head in your kecks! Will be watching your progress. Daddio

    Mark Houlding

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