Boot Scratcher

Mike Jaques
Wed 10 Aug 2022 09:27
66.48.04 N 34.06.06 W
Tuesday 9 August
So after a very wet Sunday evening and a crash move of anchorage to the other side of the fjord to avoid (yes, you guessed it!) incoming ice, we did hourly anchor watches through the night and the wind gradually died out although there were some rather anxious moments when we swung into depths of about 3 meters below the keel. None of this, of course could contend with the tension generated by Episode 2 of “The Control Room”...of which, more later.
Monday morning was dry , the wind had dropped and it looked like the sun might make an effort to break through so thoughts turned again to mountaineering activities so we motored out past Gino’s cairn and into the Northern arm of the fjord to anchor near a rocky beach with good access to an inviting snow slope. Tim and Gringo had engineering work to do and Mike had boat stuff so Mike suggested that Al joined Chris and Olly to “go skiing”. As none of us had skied yet on this trip there was an inevitable long “kit faff” to get skis, skins, sticks etc sorted. We were dinghied ashore and made our way up a large boulder field until we were able to get skins on and ski up a large and steepening snow field culminating in a neat demo of uphill kick turns from Olly and removal of skis and booting up the slope by Al. Chris was so far ahead that nobody knows how he got up. It was a case of quite frequent skis on and of which led to some frustration with Al’s not previously used Vipec pin bindings...Chris said it they are a notoriously bad binding but I think we was just being kind.
At about 450 metres we had reached the limit of the (uphill) skiing and clearly the sensible and desirable thing would have been to enjoy an effortless descent of linked turns in lovely spring snow. The only alternative was a 400 metre slog up either an enormous steep boulder field and or an enormous steep and very loose scree towards the summit of an uninspiring peak...surely nobody could possibly want to do that? Funnily enough, an hour later we had probably limbed a little over 150 metres up it and yet there still appeared to be corporate group think that this was a good idea. Chris and Olly pushed on and Al struggled on  fortunately soon out of earshot so they would be unable to hear the vicious stream of expletives issuing between each tortuous breath...and we don’t even have altitude to blame. It should be mentioned that during lunchtime, Christoph had stripped off his ski boots, produced a pair of trainers and danced up the slope. Having reached the summit he then went for a run along the ridge leaving Olly to return and find out if Al was still alive...he was but was not necessarily convinced that was a good idea..Eventually we all assembled at the summit agreed ( or said we agreed) that it “all been worthwhile” and it was a sensational and unclimbed peak at an altitude of about 780 metres – although nobody was quite sure as the atmospheric pressure had been dong some wild fluctuations. Now all we had to do was revers the route to the skis. A simple descent of the monstrous 300 metre boulder field...what could possibly go wrong? Fortunately, nothing did really although once again, Chris and Olly took in some serious sunbathing waiting for Al to catch up. Then it was on skis ) more cursing at Al’s Vipec bindings and some lovely spring snow. Inevitably Al fell over once (quite well controlled – really wasn’t his day!) which damaged the perfect tracks. A little deft shimming to the skiers right enabled us to ski almost down to the sea shore where an ever patient Tim was waiting to take us back to Umiak with the remnants of our trashed ski boots.
The engineers had had a most successful day and allsorts of damage had been sorted and Mike had cooked a brilliant duck supper.
Naturally the high point of the day was watching the much anticipated and much discussed episode of “The Control Room”. It seemed likely that we might get some answers to the myriad of questions such as “Who had taken the money? Was there really a body in the white van?” ..and most importantly , “would Samantha get her kit off?”
Spoiler alert – there was no body in the van – but I’m sure you all knew that!
The anchorage was very secure and the wind had dropped so no need for anchor watches and Tuesday morning dawned dry and calm. The original plan had been to do some more mountaineering in this area but it was proving again a bit challenging to think of suitable objectives and funnily enough, the others did not seem enthusiastic about repeating the previous days boulder field must have been the way we sold it!
WE wanted to move about 10 miles north into another fjord to look at some alternative peaks..easier said than done. Sunday's wind seems to have broken up many icebergs into more “bergy bits” so even leaving the fjord was a slow business and progress north was painstaking and accompanied by the scraping sounds of ice along the hull. The original objective proved to be completely full of ice as did the next one and the one after and probably the one after that ..but we lost count. So a 10 mile sail turned into a 50 mile one through quite a bit of swell and ice...but eventually by 1800 we have achieved our present beautiful anchorage which seems to offer access to a variety of mountaineering objectives It seems quite likely that we shall stay here until we set sail for the  return voyage to Iceland...but who knows?
Olly cooked a brilliant salmon risotto (I’m sure the fish has been mentioned in previous blogs!) and with no more “Control Room” to watch we just had to be content with our own merry wit and repartee
Watch this space...