There's something odd in the water in Maize Beck. My water bag's first draught had a mosquito flying about inside and a tadpole swimming widths. Phil very kindly scooped me a fresh bag. Since then I've been having very strange dreams.
|MILES & MILES OF IRON COLD STRETCHING TO INFINITY AND BEYOND|
The previous evening we very nearly witnessed a schism. The
alcoholics fit young things in our party were on the point of mutiny and making a dash for the pub in Dufton. It was only their weak minds and a total lack of leadership that held them back. So they chose to remain, and suffer the rigours of hypothermia, frostbite and slide into a welcomed death with their companions. I would prefer to believe that their forge-hardened decency and ingrained moral code held them back, to remain true to the team. And this is what I shall record in the expedition diary.
I'll let the pictures tell their own ghastly story for a while.
|ICE COLD IN ALEX|
|SIR ANTONY GORMLEY, IN ANOTHER PLACE|
|THE HERBS AND SHREDS OF PLASTIC AT THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER DRAWER|
|WITH FUEL EXHAUSTED, LORD ELPUS CHUCKED IN SOME YORKSHIRE TEA AND CHEWED THE ICE CUBES.|
Leaving the the break-away faction to fill in their shallow grave, the slower set set out for the final push to the last of the supply dumps. Rescue was out of the question and it was with Courage and True British Grit that we headed out off for the edge of the ice shelf.
|IT WAS THE CLOSEST I COULD GET TO PUTTING THEM BEHIND BARS.|
Pressure was taking its toll. Grown men, explorers of the highest calibre, were cracking under the strain.
|ANDY WEEPS WITH FRUSTRATION. PHIL, CORRECTLY, AVOIDS EYE CONTACT.|
Imperceptibly, the roar grew louder. And yet louder still. We could sense a mighty drop ahead of us, hidden in the mist and spray. Could it be? Dare we believe it? But more importantly, will it go?
|OUR FIRST SIGHTING OF THE MIGHTY NIAGARA.|
|ANDY & JAYME ARGUE OVER WHO HAS FIRST GO IN THE BARREL|
There is a short and unseemly tussle over who should have first go in the barrel. The Pieman, experienced in such matters, settled the issue by kicking it, empty, over the edge of the yawning abyss.
|CRUELLY, LAS VEGAS HAS STOLEN ALL THE WATER AND THE 'MAID OF THE MIST' IS AGROUND ON THE ROCKS BELOW|
In the years since my last visit it transpires that Las Vegas has siphoned off the water that used to leap majestically into wild freefall, for its pulchritudinous vice dens hundreds of miles away on the far side of the vast Gobi Desert. Today Niagara is but a sad trickle, dripping down onto the beached, bleached bones of the broken 'Maid of the Mist' far, far below.
|THE AFTERMATH OF EATING YOUR DOWN PILLOW AND FARTING. IT'S NO LAUGHING MATTER|
"Last night, I dreamed I ate a ten pound marshmallow. I woke up, and my pillow was gone."
|THE CLOUDS OF DOWN SLOWLY CLEAR TO REVEAL YET MORE BLEAKNESS|
With the bit firmly between their teeth, the Splitters hurtled down the long icy slope to civilisation and the tea shop at the Stromness Whaling Station. The more measured of our ranks strolled with dignity down the hill, now certain of the team's safety, and revelling in the satisfaction of a mission accomplished with fortitude, against startling odds. I made a note to mention Gerry in dispatches, for his unflinching attention to duty, logging the expedition's progress through thick and thin. Special mention should also be made of Lucky the Dog, whose boundless enthusiasm saw us all home safely. Lucky made it home, replete with all four legs.
|HOLE IN THE WALL PASS, JOHNSON COUNTY, WYOMING|
Infamous landmarks came and went as we descended, down and down to the scattered huts, battered by year-round Antarctic blasts that made up the whaling station. The Norwegians were surprised to see us, the world having given us up for dead, but set-to and provided fried breakfasts fit for kings.
|DECORATED REMNANTS OF THE BERLIN WALL.|
Eventually we all made it back home to our loved ones. However, sadly, the story does not end here. The call of duty is strong, and The Challenge is calling once again. In less than a fortnight, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, will be setting off once again.
I will leave you with Lord Elpus's rousing speech in the carpark in Dufton.
And for Mr Williams' delight, here's Lord Elpus's rousing encore!