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HSX Antarctica Adventure Underway

HSX Antarctica Adventure Underway

Our intrepid polar adventurer Joe Doherty is now well into his expedition to Antarctica.

You can follow his adventures on the HSX Antarctica webpage – click Read More for links.

Joe started his epic trek three weeks ago, and has now skied halfway to the South Pole. He is expected to arrive shortly after the New Year – weather permitting.

To view Joe’s blog click here, and to track his progress on the map click here.

HSX Antarctica at The OMM

HSX Antarctica at The OMM

Over the weekend Ollie and Chris took part in The Original Mountain Marathon (The OMM) a 2-day mountain event, combining endurance, navigation and mountain survival skills:

This year’s event was held in the Tweedmuir Hills in the Scottish Borders, and began with a torrential downpour, ensuring we were soaked from the start. To ensure that no team has an unfair advantage over fellow competitors, route maps are handed out on the start line, with each team being given a minute to plan their route to the first checkpoint. Competing in the C-Class this year, we had to visit a mix of compulsory checkpoints, before being given free rein to choose a series of optional points to really test our route planning skills. For much of Saturday the terrain under foot was terrible, consisting of shin deep heather, peat hags and ankle deep bogs; none of which are conducive with running!

After covering around 34km, and with darkness rapidly descending, we still had two checkpoints to find. We certainly hadn’t intended to be out for this long, but were happy to find them relatively easily before sprinting into the overnight camp. We were surprised at the number of head torches still out on the hills after-dark and thought that maybe we hadn’t done so bad after all! Having spent well over 10 hours out in the hills, we found ourselves sitting 39th out of 44 finishers; it was a good morale boost to know that 31 teams had already retired. At the overnight camp we soon discovered why two men really shouldn’t share a one-man tent (especially when one of them is over 6ft5!), however, enjoyed being warm and dry and sharing a ‘wee dram’ before bed.

OMM 2

06:00 seemed to roll around far too quickly, even with the extra hour gained from the clock change, and we were woken up in traditional OMM style – with a rendition of “Scotland the Brave” on the bagpipes! Having secured an early start time we were packed up and on the start line by 07:44. Mercifully, day 2 had been slightly shortened by the race organisers; in recognition that day 1 was much longer than it should have been due to land access issues. Starting with stiff legs, the organisers naturally eased us into the course by placing the first checkpoint of the day 250m uphill! We soon warmed up and found ourselves traipsing over an all too familiar mix of heather, peat and bog; just what our battered legs wanted! But before we knew it, we were visiting the penultimate checkpoint, meeting the first proper track of the weekend (thank God for engineering!) and were finally able to move quicker than a slow trudge! On our decent from Glenheurie Rig, we passed Chris Laws and Richard Batstone, who were also representing Team HSX, and successfully crossed the finish line at a jog after a 7 hour day.

One of the key points we took away from the weekend was the importance of accurate navigation. Rather than worrying about pace, good navigation can allow much more time and ground to be made up. For us, this meant we managed to find all of the checkpoints straightaway, whilst lots of other teams, having initially overtaken us, spent ages trying to find the markers and losing significant amounts of time (on day 1 we were 20 minutes out from checkpoint three when we passed one team still looking for the marker – a mistake which was likely to cost them around 30-40 minutes!).

Overall we came 35th out of 39 finishers in C-Class, with a further 5 teams dropping out on day 2. We were both particularly proud of this result, considering that half the field retired. Although enjoyment of the OMM is always retrospective, for now it’s time to rest up and get ready for the Welsh 3,000’s this weekend… No rest for the wicked!

Please follow our progress here or via Facebook or Twitter!

HSX Antarctica on the Road

HSX Antarctica on the Road

The past few months have been pretty busy for the team. Having taken the expedition on the road, we’ve been visiting a lot of local Scout units to share our expedition and the spirit of adventure it embodies. Through troop evenings and the ‘South Pole relay’ we’ve been excited to see the enthusiasm on the faces of Hampshire’s young people. From the H0014 jamboree at Buddens Scout Centre in August to teaching the Livingstone Troop at 3rd Portchester a few expedition tips in September; the team are looking forward to 2015 and getting out seeing more of you!

In the meantime, the team have recently been sighted training for their next challenge; either running along the muddy tracks of the new forest for hours on end, climbing the coastal cliffs of Swanage and Portland above raging seas or dragging car tyres up the seemingly endless Hampshire hills. A weekend doesn’t pass when the team aren’t pushing themselves to the limit. The question is, what are the team training for? Watch this space in the new year when the team will be launching their most extreme challenge so far, whilst raising money for our chosen charity; the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Think you know what the team are up to? Post your ideas below!

Barbequeing

Tom showing signs

Matt running

Joe climbing

HSX Antarctica on the road

Why not give us a Tweet? @hsxantarctica #HSX2018

Throwback: H.O.T (HSX On Tour) trip diary – June 2013 – The French Alps

Throwback: H.O.T (HSX On Tour) trip diary – June 2013 – The French Alps

Being able to rescue your team members from a crevasse is an essential skill that the team hope never to use in anger in the Antarctic. However, in the pursuit of learning such an important concept, the team ventured to the French Alps in July 2013 for two weeks of fresh alpine air. Not only was this the first taste of European Glaciers for many of the team, an attempt on the summit of Mont Blanc (4810m/15,780feet) was also expected, representing, for those not well versed in Himalayan trekking like Joe and Ollie, the tallest mountain they had ever attempted.

The team left the New Forest early on the morning of July 2nd,in order to catch a ferry across the channel and drive 800 miles to the picturesque town of Chamonix; the gateway to the Mont Blanc massif which contains over 100 mountains over 3000 metres. It is also home to some of Europe’s biggest glaciers including the Mer de Glace and the Bosson’s Glacier, which formed the central location for the team to practise their rescues skills. Crevasses are formed as a result of the movement and stress generated by the glacier as it winds its way down the valley. Ranging in any size, some are gaps less than a metre, easily navigable by foot, whilst others can be many metres metres wide and stretch the length of a football field.

The danger with crevasses comes when they have been covered over by snow left from the winter, becoming impossible to see to the untrained eye.  Knowing how to get out is one thing, but avoiding them is arguably more skilful and so the team hired the expertise of a French Mountain Guide to give some instruction. He showed the team how to walk “roped together” on glaciated terrain to provide safety when in a group and gave us a useful rope setup we could use for hoisting someone out of crevasses using karabiners, ice screws and Tiblocs. Working with crevasses

Once all the necessary skills were practised, the next objective was the summit of Mont Blanc. The team chose this to give them a physical challenge that would put teamwork to the test, plus the gratification that comes with saying you have summited the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe! Although Mt Blanc is not extremely high, it was important for the team to acclimatize properly, as the risk of developing Acute Mountain sickness (AMS) is extremely high if not adapted to the altitude (symptoms range from dehydration, dizziness, headaches, and nausea). Slowly gaining altitude, whilst walking high during the day and sleeping lower at night allowed the team to acclimatise in the best way possible in a fairly short amount of time.

Setting up camp in the Vallée Blanche, both a mixture of nerves and excitement were felt by everyone. The team slept until 12am and after some food was eaten and harnesses and ropes were clumsily donned in the dark, lights far off in the distance showing the other climbers that were beginning the same task, the team set off on a slow plod up the snow slope of Mont Blanc du Tacul. Progress was slow, often walking 30 paces and stopping for a moment to catch breath back; it was going to be a long night.

On the slopes of Mont Maudit (the team were on the three monts route having to ascend the slopes of Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit and finally Mont Blanc) a 50-metre, 80o technical snow climb required the team’s full attention in the dark; a slip here would have caused a 400-metre fall to the gullies below. The team made quick work of the climb and were soon left with the final 300-metre slog up to the summit dome. This seemed to take forever and was filled with false summits to make it even more mentally challenging for the team; a suspected side effect of the altitude and the desire to be on the summit. At 8:32am the team had summited Mt Blanc. Overwhelming joy, happiness and exhaustion lead to man hugs, selfies and watering eyes (the cold!?) at the top of Europe’s highest mountain. The team had done it.

Have you been to the Alps?

Share your stories with the team on our Facebook page  or tweet us @hsxantarctica using #HSX2018.

 

One and a half times the size of the USA: 10 surprising facts about Antarctica

One and a half times the size of the USA: 10 surprising facts about Antarctica

How much do you know about Antarctica? The team has been busy doing their research about the continent they are going to spend 80 days on in 2018; here is our top 10:

10) The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was -89.2oC (128.6oF), recorded at Vostok Research Station on 21st July 1983

9) The highest recorded temperature at the Amundsen-Scout South Pole Research station was -12.3oC (9.9oF) in 2011

8) Only 2% of Antarctica’s surface is not covered in ice; called an ‘Antarctic Oasis’ these are generally found on the warmest part of Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsular, mountain tops and some coastal areas

7) The South Pole has a desert climate, almost never receiving precipitation and air humidity is near zero

6) Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and driest place on Earth

5) Antarctica is one and a half times the size of the United States with an area of 14 million km2

4) The West Antarctic Peninsular is the fastest warming place on Earth, experiencing increases in mean temperature in the order of 1oC per decade since the 1950’s

3) Antarctica is losing 159 billion tonnes of ice per year

2) Until about 50 million years ago, Antarctica had a temperate climate and evergreen forests, having been part of the supercontinent ‘Gondwana’. Captain Scott and the Terra Nova expedition were the first to provide evidence of this after the discovery of ‘Glossiopteris’ fossils; an ancient tree fern found on all of the Southern Continents

1) The Antarctic Ice Sheet contains 27 million km3 of ice; 61% of the fresh water available on Earth