1969 Manhauling Trip to the Sandefjords
- John Edwards (text) Martin Pinder (pictures)
The 1960’s had not been a great decade for travel on Coronation. There was a trip across the sea-ice to Sandefjord Bay with two dog teams in October 1960 but a later attempt to sledge overland up onto Pomona Plateau was foiled by crevassing. Wave Peak was climbed in October 1963 by Bailey, Tilbrook & Topcliffe and Cape Meier was reached in “Desmarestia” in 1966. In November '66 Lindsay, Burgin & Thornley climbed the west face of Devil's Peak and 2 days later the last two ascended Wave Peak with Smith. Apart from these ventures, however, hardly anyone had set foot on Coronation since the major surveying trips of Bridger, Cordall, Matthews, Grant & Tickell in 1956/57. However, during the winter of ’69 two pairs of Fids independently dreamt of going and climbing the beautiful but distant Sandefjord Peaks. After consideration it was decided it would be safer and more practical if we combined forces and took a pyramid and mountain tent - with no dogs on base it would have to be man-hauling of course.
So it was that on 29th August, Martin “Cookie” Pinder, Eliot “Che” Wright, Dave “The Grin” Rinning & John “Percy” Edwards found ourselves being towed over the sea ice by skidoo to our first camp near the refuge hut at Shingle Cove. The next day we set off on skis pulling a load of 875 lbs (almost 400 kg or 0.4 ton) in true Scott / Shackleton fashion up onto the Laws Glacier.
Before long we had to relay on anything other than a gentle incline, pulling half loads up and then going back to bring up the rest. The downhill sections were no easier as the sledge tended to run away with us in tow, and when we traversed slopes the sledge tended to capsize. Around Deacon Hill we came across the first huge crevasses and it was then that Dave’s experience sledging at Adelaide became invaluable. It was now clear there were actually 4 peaks running N/S but we still had to get up onto the Pomona Plateau. On the steep descent from Deacon Hill we lost control of the sledge completely and it careered off downhill, fortunately coming to a stop at a flat col rather than veering off down the crevassed slopes to the north or south coasts. The Tilley lamp got smashed so it would have to be candle light from now on but that didn’t matter too much as we already felt we were low on paraffin!
Nine days after setting off we were camped at the foot of the peaks and on the 6th Sept (Che’s birthday) we set off, first on skis and then on foot, and managed to reach the top of the highest two summits. We told base of our success by Morse that night and, after 2 days lying-up waiting for a NE gale to blow itself out, we set off again and climbed the remaining two. Four virgin summits! What joy!! It didn’t matter to us that they were only around 2000 feet high. We then set off back to base, minus the radio as this had suddenly packed up, filling the tent with acrid fumes. The sudden cessation of communication caused some concern on base, as we had planned for a 14 day trip but still hadn’t returned after 3 weeks even though the weather appeared fine over most of Western Coronation. We did not know this, however, as high winds funneling from the north had caused cloud formation at the foot of Deacon Hill where we were camped so we spent 6 days lying-up in a whiteout! Eventually we got going in not ideal conditions and had a narrow escape when the bridge of a large crevasse caved in as our skis crossed it. Fortunately we managed to halt the sledge before it slid into the hole and possibly pulled us in with it. On our final day we covered 15 miles and returned to be greeted as heroes by our colleagues on base. After 24 days (13 of them spent lying up) and 67 miles we were tired, dirty & smelly but ever so happy that we had achieved our objective and completed a journey that had not been done before. As far as I’m aware it hasn’t been repeated since and perhaps this is unlikely in the foreseeable future now that Signy is a summer-only base.
John Edwards with photos by Martin Pinder