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South Georgia toys with the mountaineers on the Shackleton Epic adventure

Sunday February 10th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

After more than 24 hours hunkered down at the top of Shackleton’s Gap on South Georgia Island, sheltering from a violent storm, Tim Jarvis and Barry ‘Baz’ Gray have set out again on their trek, retracing the footsteps of one of the world’s legendary explorers, bound for Stromness and the conclusion of the British/Australian Shackleton Epic expedition.

Still wearing the traditional gear that they’ve been in since they left Elephant Island on 23 January the intrepid pair departed at around 1700 GMT accompanied by navigator Paul Larsen, who rejoined the group in a support role after reprovisioning the climbers.

Conditions, according to cameraman Joe French who watched the party walk off 'into the clouds' were very overcast and unpredictable.

“It would be clear for a minute or so, then the wind would change and visibility would be poor again,” he said. Heavy rain is again predicted later again tonight local time.

If conditions allow, they could reach the old whaling station at Stromness in a day or so.

While members of the crew including skipper Nick Bubb, and cameraman/mountaineer Ed Wardle were ruled unfit for travel due to the trench foot they developed during the voyage, other members including Larsen and bosun Seb Coulthard (who was diagnosed with a milder case of immersion foot) had decided to trek in a support capacity, providing back-up for expedition leader Tim Jarvis and mountaineer Baz Gray. (Having support equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, medical equipment, is a condition of modern permit regulations on South Georgia).

However, the extreme weather conditions atop South Georgia’s mountainous interior forced Larsen, Coulthard and the accompanying camera crew to retreat to the shelter of the expedition support boat, Australis.

After re-supplying them once during the storm, on the second mission Larsen decided to rejoin the party for the final stages of the trek which will see them continue to follow a similar course to Shackleton’s, climbing ridges of 3,000 and 4,000 feet at various points during the crossing. Having already reached Shackleton's Gap, they will now trek around the Trident, over Crean Glacier and Breakwind Ridge, down through the waterfall, across the lake, and descend through the foothills until they reach Stromness. (The climbers will not take the detour to Possession Bay as Shackleton did only to discover it did not lead to Stromness).

While Shackleton and his men crossed the mountains in comparatively reasonable weather without the use of tents or sleeping bags, Jarvis made the decision at the height of the blizzard-like conditions to put safety first and provide shelter from the elements for himself and Baz Gray in order to survive.

We’ve had to be adaptable to get us this far, and we’ll continue to be adaptable, just as Shackleton was, to help us reach our ultimate goal of honouring his memory as the centenary of the expedition draws near,” Tim Jarvis said.

In doing so, he’s been true to Shackleton’s own words: “Better a live donkey, than a dead lion.”  Sir Ernest Shackleton, Nimrod Expedition, 1909.

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