Last Sunday, after a week of hard work we were all ready to break free for some outdoor fun. The field training officers had picked out a site to do some ice climbing at Thala Valley, between the station and the wharf area. Many thanks to Adrian (polar engineer), Maso and Johan (plant operators) who made a large trench over summer as part of site amelioration works in Thalla Valley - the trench works very well as an ice climbing wall!
The event proved to be very popular and so the group was split into two teams. We had great weather for photographs and even saw little groups of penguins wandering up and down the track all day. But before we started climbing we had to don crampons, harnesses and remember how to tie a double figure of eight before we were eventually issued the all important ice axes. Next up was the totally counter-intuitive task of shoving my toe into a waterfall of ice, digging my axe into the mountain and trusting (a) the rope on my harness was secure (b) my axe would hold me (c) my forearms wouldn’t give way and (d) I could fight the fear of all the above. I tried to bring back dusty memories of doing this years ago in the French Alps but this way harder, colder and more difficult. The FTO’s said they deliberately picked an “easy” spot - but, apart from Seamus who ran up all the faces like an ice spider, the rest of us found it pretty challenging. So it was a great feeling of accomplishment to finally get to the top of the anchor whilst along the way being asked to stop, pose and wave for the paparazzi down below. Although for anyone who had a fear of heights this was ill advised. Despite my enthusiasm, my technique was rusty and I was quietly told by FTO Ian “err... best if you have 3 points of contact at all times”. Point taken. Seriously. Once everyone had lots of practice we watched the experts do an easy scale up and seemingly float back down. I loved it and can’t wait for another session - which has already been promised!