14 January, 2013

World’s Scariest VS Ridge

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

World’s Scariest VS Ridge

Location: Mavericks, Ulvetanna Base Camp, S 71 49.146′, E 008 21.867′

Temperature: 5 deg C, clear, high level clouds, 0 knots.

Date: 11/1/13

Stanley: “Hold on Guys” (Spoken in that chilled out American way) “There is no way that we are going to haul all our sh*t up this ridge, never mind Al and Jas dealing once we jump off.” Over.

Jason:….. Silence

Stanley: “Stop hauling and lets go down to ABC and have a chinwag… Over”

That conversation was the start to a slight turn of events and another epic undertaking.

It was Leo and Jason’s “rest day” after an epic day of pushing and fixing a line up the ridge. It was now Stanley and Chris on the front line pushing forward fixing more rope and heading towards the headwall. The boys are making good headway, the day was warm, no wind and no cloud.

We had not had any radio contact with Stan and Chris for the whole day as we had lost line of sight for our radios to work. At around 14h00, Leo and Jas got out of their Pyjamas and headed over to the start of the climb to begin with hauling the first load up to the ridge. The first load consisting of 2 large haul bags (each one big enough to smuggle a sheep) and 3 portaledges all with a combined weight larger than Leo or Jas.

Now this was a rather interesting operation to witness let alone film. The boys “Jumared” some 100m up the ropes before starting to haul the load, Leo starts taking up the tension of the haul rope and being attached to the other end of the line, he begins walking down the rock face (as a counterweight), not much reaction from the massive load sitting on the snow some 100 meters below them.

So Leo begins to jump on the rope which eventually turns into violently throwing his weight onto the line, finally there was movement and the load started its journey up the snow slope, until the load got caught on the first rock it hit.

Both Leo and Jas attached themselves to the haul line, now both violently jumping on the rope in tandem (a rather beautiful synchronised display of rope access in action) trying to free the haul bags.

Still nothing. Jas goes down to the bottom to free the load while Leo continuing with his violent jerking on the side of the mountain until Jas climbs back up again to give Leo a hand.

Once again, no sooner had Jason arrived to help Leo, the load got stuck again, Down Jas goes again. Abseiling on one line, and not wanting to go all the way down to the bags, he then walks across the face some 5 meters and then making a final jump, grabs hold of the massively tensioned haul line. So now Jas is suspended horizontally in mid air, 50m off the ground shaking and yanking on the rope, resembling a human arrow with Tourette’s ready to be launched into Antarctic Airspace.

Finally after a couple hours of hauling (with some great snag free examples too), just about ready to start hauling the load to a “ledge of sorts” 3/4 of the way up the face, Stanley rocks up at the top of the face, returning from an absolutely epic ridge traverse and radios in. Seems like the traverse was a complete nightmare with just a 15kg day pack, never mind dragging massive hemroid like haul bags from your waist, always in a constant state of having to Jumar or abseil along the horizontal lines they had fixed.

After much deliberation and chinwagging, it was decided that Leo and Jas were going to go complete climbing and fixing ropes to the base of the headwall (up the ridge commonly known to us as the dinosaurs back.)

Then after a rest day, Leo , Jas and Stanley would make one massive push of a day and completely strip off all the ropes from the bottom up to the Cole of despair.  (That is 17 pitches and some 1100m of rope). Then about 1 pitch up the dinosaurs back they were going to fix ropes down to the snowline some 500m below.

Despite the fact that we had run out of rope and needed to retrieve a load of the rope used on the ascent for the rest of the headwall, it also meant there would be a realistic and safe route already in place for Al and Jason who were going to have to come down alone after Leo and Stanley’s wingsuit off the mountain. Without this route in place, Al and Jason would have an absolutely mammoth task possibly very unrealistic task at that. All the rope and climbing gear would be up on the wall so the reality of Leo and Stanley climbing back up the mountain to help would not be possibly, leaving Al and Jason on the mountain to deal with everyone’s kit, all the climbing gear, all the sheep smugglers and all the rope fixing needed to get off the mountain. So there was only one real option.

So 4 days ago, Leo and Jas completed the ridge. The world’s scariest VS. (Very Severe) route and 2 days ago, the boys set off on their mission, 14 hours later,  they all returning (at around 23h00) completing their objective. All looking pretty knackered but also looking pretty please with themselves.

In fact they had not factored in the walk back on the snow, which they had to use an 5mm tag line to abseil down the snow slope which ran out halfway down the slope. It is ironic that after that epic long scary mountain mission, they are now faced with negotiating the remaining 50 meters of slippery icy snow slope with rock shoes/ boots which offer as much traction on snow as a pair of snow blades. I think after so much slipping and falling, the boys just resigned to the sitting position and ended up sliding down the slope on their bums.

In the mean time, over the past few days, some of us have disappeared for a couple hours here and there to do a bit of exploring of the area. Al, Chris and myself went to investigate a small rock on its own in the middle of the glacier, Seems like that little rock was pretty big and that couple hours ended up being half a day.

But the views were amazing, travelling up the eastern valley and seeing the range behind Ulvetanna in more detail.

2 days ago Al and Chris went to pay a visit to the Frenchies that joined  us during Christmas.

They are based next to Holtanna. Took them 11 hours return. (5 hours each way) Not a bad way to spend your day. Apparently, they had much better mix-a-drink orange juice than us and even had a platter to serve an array of French goodies for lunch. A platter!

Plan for the next few days. Well yesterday was a rest day, today everyone is hauling everything up the new line that they just fixed. They then plan to make a move to the top of the ridge and establish a wall camp either tomorrow or the day after depending on how the hauling session goes.

Cheers for now


PS. Just heard over the radio, the boys are still hauling kit up the new line and it is 22h00. I am guessing it’s going to be another rest day tomorrow!

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.

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