Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tsanteleina-Soches (a.k.a Project carry-lots-of-stuff) - Part 1

If I had to use one word to describe my recent fieldwork to Italian Alps it would be:


After much reading on man-hauling sleds in excess of 100kg across the Antarctic Plateau or the Greenland Ice Sheet I thought shifting half a dozen steel tripods and logger boxes up some moderate glacier slopes would be a breeze!  I have never been more wrong.  In fairness, some of the slopes were a tad more than moderate, and the snow conditions were such that snow-shoes were over-kill and without all energy was zapped from your legs by the snow.

Nevertheless, me and my crack team of Chilean experts: Flavia Burger and Oscar Espinoza, were up to the task and formed what I believe to be the first British-Chilean Olympic snow sled team.

With Oscar harnessed to the sled arms and myself with a rope improvised to the back of my climbing harness we pushed on for 20, 50 or 100 steps at a time before an intermission of heavy panting and sweating... 'breathtaking' scenery.   Fair to say we earned the several mountains of food our chef cooked us back at the refuge.... an army of us probably would struggle to finish the resultant quantity if I'm honest... though it was powerful fuel for our early 9:30 bedtime.... starting the process again the next morning, and the next.

The field season was an 85% success in my view.  15/17 stations were set up and 1/4 of stakes drilled.  The main issue arised from the time of year and the general weather conditions.  Because the snow cover, rapidly melting away when the sun eventually made an appearance, only extended to the front of the glacier (being mid-June) and required a 2 hour steep walk with back-packs- bordering on the comical -loaded with equipment.

Glacier hides away over the crest.. the walk takes around 2 hours from the Refuge dey Fond

One day I was a Chilean ice-cream salesman with a logger box strapped to my chest, the next I was broadcasting a new Italian radio station from a 3m weather station tripod sticking of my bag or a 2m sled making me look like a fieldwork turtle.  I particularly welcome fellow glaciologists and their own accounts/pictures of funny equipment carrying.  My own personal account below.

A return visit in around 10 days from now will aid in finishing the setup and drilling some ablation stakes - previously halted by time constraints and super-dense and wet snow.  A visit to our two full weather stations, 'Eddy' (named for the Eddy Covariance instrument attached -the star trek style thing) and 'Juan' (named because it was the first generic Spanish name that came to me) should hopefully provide an initial insight into meteorological conditions for the glacier..... finger crossed for good data! :)

Massive thanks to my fantastic field help Flavia and Oscar (and for the photos!).

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