By ROB POWELL
It was an unmistakable sound. Boom, boom, boom.
‘ROCK!’ Paul shouted. Not that there was much we could do about it – Paul was on abseil so he managed to pendulum over to the left, but David and I were tied to a hanging stance right where the couloir gets narrow. We watch as the microwave-sized rock came hurtling towards us, bouncing this way then that way at tremendous speed. In a flash, the moment of truth is upon us. The rock bounces five metres above us and comes screaming directly over our heads like a scud missile.
‘Bloody hell, that was close.’ David commented in his usual understated British way. My eyes must have been like saucers. I wasn’t quite as understated in my expression of relief. We carried on down. Not much you can do in this situation, except hope no more come down. Fortunately, we got to the bottom safely. One of us made the suggestion, ‘Let’s bail and go to the beach!’ Everyone agreed. After three weeks of new routing in Greenland, we were all psychologically tapped out.
Three weeks earlier, after many months of planning, we set off from the UK for Iceland, where we would catch our chartered flight to Constable Point in Greenland. After landing in Constable Point, we had six hours to sort our kit and be ready to set off at midnight in rubber inflatable boats (RIBs) to our destination. The reason for travelling at night is that the wind dies down, making the sea much safer.
Unfortunately, due to a medical emergency in the local Inuit village, we were only allowed to board the boats at 1.30 am, where we donned ludicrous-looking survival suits, and set off before we lost the tide. Just before leaving the UK, my wife voiced her concerns regarding the RIB journey. I assured her that these were going to be the type that lifeguards use, the one with the steering wheel in the middle and proper seats. I couldn’t have been more wrong. These were simple rubber dinghies which were severely overloaded even before we got on board. I would say that this RIB journey was one of the most dangerous things I have ever done. The first five hours on the water were terrible with very choppy seas, and waves breaking over the boat, but fortunately, after a while, things calmed down somewhat and we surfed our way into the world’s biggest fjord. All in all, the RIB journey took 13 hours, and I think it took a couple of days for my teeth to stop chattering.
However, if our journey was a frozen hell, it made arriving at the beach all the more enjoyable. It was staggeringly beautiful and warm beyond our expectations, and we took full advantage, stripping down to T-shirts and bare feet. We soon realised however, that although beautiful, the beach was a rather unpleasant place to stay; the mosquitos were vicious! At one point Paul counted 25 bites on the back of his left hand. Clearly more prepared after a lifetime of dodging midges in Scotland, Geoff and Paul brought out their midge nets while David and I were rapidly drained of our blood. A while later I discovered that David’s harness came with a net bag which I greedily stole and pulled over my face to make a mozzie net. It worked, even if I did look somewhat ridiculous. David was now a lone target, but as usual, didn’t complain. He’s a hard man!
Photo: Rob Powell on the Thank God belay on Arctic Monkeys. David Barlow