Monday 17 March: One goal reached

A night at anchor in Neko Bay gave several of the Russian crew – men and women – a chance to party at the bar, with Russian pop music, dancing, and fabled Russian drinking ability. But what is this? they’re drinking red wine? where is the vodka? A myth is crushed. They turned it into long night (for some), but it didn’t prevent an early start: breakfast at 7 in preparation for a full day of activities fuelled by bacon. That is if you were one of the ones deemed “normal” – that is not vegetarian, according to the Russian kitchien crew.

Kayaking and Penguins

Stage 2 of ice climbing for us in the morning means learning how to lead climb: setting your own titanium ice screws in the wall and attaching ropes. My hand is now too sore for climbing, so I assign myself as official photographer and videographer. Peter suggests some action shots of Cim to use as publicity for Transplants in Mind. Pity we hadn’t brought the banner with us from the ship… Parissa radios back to Lynn and out she comes on the zodiac, banner retrieved and the opportunity is saved. It wasn’t be the last time someone would forget something on the boat, was it Jane?

We set up the gear and get our new instructions; now it’s your life on the end of a four inch titanium screw that you set in the ice. You trusted Pete, you trusted your belay partner, now do you trust yourself? Pete demonstrates the technique – it looks easy to get in, but by the same token, I can sense we all think, easy in, how easy out? Pete says it will hold a 2-tonne car, so that extra bacon butty probably won’t hurt.

The nearby penguin colony decides it’s time to go fishing and they troop up the beach below us and head off into the bay. It’s a beautifully calm day and the water is mirror clear and calm as Bhuddist monk on tranquilisers. It’s captivating to watch them flying through the shallow water and off out for an early lunch. I forget about my court photographer duties and just watch the Gentoo show, hoping some of the video does it justice.

Cim partners with Jo, as I’m not climbing and she sets off up the glacier face, scraping away the snow and burying the screws textbook fashion as she scrambles higher. As she comes down Pete’s Argentine helper, Diego, scrambles across on the ice face and sets up some spectacular-looking shots with Cim and the Transplants in Mind Banner with the glacier as a back-drop Not only is he an accomplished photographer, he’s disgustingly good-looking, fit as a butcher’s dog, plays a mean guitar, and dances tango. He can climb like a monkey. He even manages to set me up in a shot so it looks like I’m up on the glacier with Cim too. (Oops, what a give-away.)

Cim makes it to the ground and Jo reminds us that this is what we set out to achieve: Cim has been through the depths of dialysis, come out the other side of a kidney transplant and now proved she can lead ice-climb in Antarctica. We are triumphant.

Jo’s joy for us quickly turns to massive disappointment as she realises we’ve spent so much time getting our publicity shots, there’s no time for her to climb. It’s the second day in a row she’s sacrificed her climb for the good of the group, and the look on her face tells us this time, she’s gone too far. She tells us she was conscious of the time but didn’t speak up. Pete turns the hero again and offers to give up his lunchtime to allow Jo to climb with him while we take the zodiac back to the Professor.

The compensation for Jo, is that the photos of her make it look like she’s out there climbing in Antarctica on her own. Whatever feelings she has she turns into pure spiderman climbing energy and she manages to get as high up the ice face as anyone, and comes back shaking with the exhileration of it all. The disappointment at first, holding herself back and then at last, getting what she came to Antarctica for. Sometimes the hardest thing is asking for what you want.


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