Friday 11 May 2018

Up and Out

Yesterday was a starkly contrasting day to Victory day. The Russian team arrived in a whirlwind of boats, engines and fuel cans. Not long had they arrived and Glenn was at work checking the engines over and assessing any repairs. Luckily these seem to be minimal after last season's high water.

Boat preparations
Millie and I then prepared for a 3pm helicopter out to middle camp. We loaded our supplies into the helicopter, said our goodbyes and made our way to the village to collect staff and more supplies and luggage. 

Glenn replacing starter rope
Above the village, the narrow neck of the river was full of ice but I had a chat with Bill last night who said they were having a lot of ice flowing down the river past them so we can only assume that this has broken up.

Up to the village to collect supplies
Arrival into middle was very easy as the young security guys had cleared off most of the walkways. I helped Yura and Vova to finish much of what they had started and then engines were loaded into boats and sledged to generator. Bear pool and the usual boat parking bay are essentially an ice jam. We will have to work with what we have for the first few days and above all, stay safe as there will be quite a bit of ice still along the banks and therefore coming down the river.

2018's first Helicopter arriving at lower camp
The good news is that there is more of the same weather today. Yesterday was warm and the sun did a great job of melting the snow. We had a slight frost over night but the sun is now back out doing it's work.
The river between Varzuga and Middle now open
We are hoping to get all the water reconnected today. The generator is up and running and seems to be working fine. We have found all the things we need from last year's team and all the missing picnic equipment too.

Sun set over middle camp last night

It's still a bit early to risk wetting a line but I can certainly say I'm eager to give it a go once the ice flow has lessened. For those travelling out today, safe travels. Pack for warmth and very early spring conditions.

Jack Selby (Operations Manager)

Thursday 10 May 2018

A warm start

As predicted, this morning is much warmer and last night was nowhere near as cold. We have a sunny outlook and everyone is up beat. The river is high and bringing with it large chunks of ice.

Engines on and boats to the water
Yesterday we got the last of the printing and organisation sorted. We saw Mischa in the evening who let us know that the helicopter was due to arrive today at lunchtime ish...

Evening sky over the Heli Pad
This morning we are getting boats checked and in the water. Millie and I are heading up to Middle Camp after lunch and have everything packed and ready to travel. Bill and Ceri are set for Lower next week and also ready to accept the Kitza cook and manager as they arrive on Saturday.

Blue and high river this morning

The river is looking blue and beautiful with ice chunks flowing down it as we would expect. In all truth everything is looking pretty good and we are ready. It will be a cold start to the week and careful wading will be essential. Layers and fleece will be mandatory. However everyone here is bullish for a good season ahead and we are ready for some guests and lots of fish!

Jack Selby (Operations Manager)

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Victory Day Today

It is Victory day today which means we have only the international team in camp. Up in the village our team are preparing themselves for this afternoon's celebrations. Last night Millie asked Bill if there was a big meal involved in the celebration. Bill's reply: "Only to line the stomach!"

Victory Day
Sergey and Max left the camp yesterday to get some last minute supplies in Murmansk and to be ready to greet incoming fisherman on Saturday. The ice track between us and the village is beginning to get quite chewed up and poor Sergey had to pack his things into the sledge and then run up the hill after the skidoo.
Sergey before the 200 yard dash up the hill
It seems to be a breakfast thing but each time we settle in for breakfast another raft of ice arrives. This morning quite a large raft slipped gently down to us and began to break up on the shallower water in front of us. It is clearly from close to the village because there were snow mobile tracks all across it. For a time things plugged in our narrow channel but the river came up and forced it to break up and flow through.
Bill is ready!
Last night we had news from Middle Camp that the ice was breaking up around the island. We expected to see this reaching us but it must still be built up behind the village. Tomorrow the forecast is for 11 degrees C and no frost at night so with luck this should trigger things.

Heli pad cleared for tomorrow
Millie and I have been told that we might be heading to Middle tomorrow by helicopter. If this is the case I will hope to be sending Friday's blog from Middle with images. We are both very eager to get up there and get things prepared for guests as soon as possible.

A large raft of ice
Jack Selby (Operations Manager)

Tuesday 8 May 2018

An encouraging sight

We all dashed outside last night to see a good built up raft of ice pushing into our section of open water. Having broken away from above the wires there was naturally quite a bit of excitement from the camp. It all began to build in front of us and then stopped. Our open water had been filled! This morning however the way cleared and we have quite an expanse of open water in front of the lodge and below the lodge a narrow channel.

On the move
Yesterday was a hive of activity. We shocked ourselves with how quickly and easily we got things up and running. Ceri and Millie did an excellent job of splitting the dry food order and making a list of things still to acquire. All the new camp equipment is also now parcelled up and ready for the off. We had a warm hearty supper last night and Bill joined the kitchen in trying on the new aprons...

Bill and Millie choosing aprons

We were joined by more and more of the Russian team yesterday. It was Banya Sasha's birthday yesterday and he was on very good form chatting to "Fred" (Glenn to us). Christina made her way to camp late last night from Umba and everywhere was busy with set up week chores.

Camp supplies all divided and ready
Overnight we had a little rain but it was quite cold again. It was disappointing to see the ice blockage was still there but as we sat down to a scrummy breakfast the landscape started to shift to the south. We now have quite a section of open water. As we have learned from experience though what we see here and how close the river is to breaking are two very different things.

My temporary quarters
The Russian team arrived this morning over the snow mobile track through the woods as there is now no way to get to and fro by river. We had an international inspection of the river and are now setting to work to get the Bill Drury rental sets replenished and up to scratch and the girls are busy in the kitchen prepping for the week ahead.

Feoder and Bill discussing movements over night
Having discussed the current situation with Charlie last night it has been decided to go full steam ahead for week 1 and work with the conditions as we find them. We will keep a close eye on the weather and the river over the next couple of days. It is overcast today but there is talk of 11 degrees C in a day or two giving us hope for that much needed lift in the water height to clear the ice and banks. Fingers and toes crossed.

A bit more open water post breakfast

Jack Selby (Operations Manager)

Monday 7 May 2018

Here we go!

After arriving in Murmansk on Thursday evening we have busied ourselves with the usual supply purchase and logistics planning. On Sunday morning we packed everything into the vans and set off for Varzuga village. The travel was smooth and the last section of dirt road was remarkably well kept meaning arrival into the village around 7.30pm.

Arrival into Lower Camp
We got all the supplies and luggage into the lodge and found a delicious soup and pasta dish waiting for us care of Sousha. Millie (Middle Camp cook) and Ceri (Lower Camp cook) set to work to get the cold supplies into the fridge and after everything was in it’s place we sat down to a civilised supper. Someone even managed to find a bottle of red wine.

Division of supplies
Now to the most pressing matter. The river. It’s certainly a lot thinner and there is far more open water than this time last year. We arrived and were a little down cast but a light rain had began and the forecast is for nights to remain above freezing. Even as Bill and I made our inspection there were small rafts of ice coming down stream from above and this was the tell tale last year that things are starting to move. Unlike last year they are breaking up and carrying on down stream. Last year the chunks were busily freezing up against the blockage. It would make everything complete if we woke up to a broken river tomorrow.

First night inspection
For now we have bluebird skies and warm sun to transfer snow melt into the river, then under the ice and then to carry it away. The change from last night is highly encouraging with a nice blue channel opening down the true left bank. Everyone is jolly and refreshed this morning and as ever we have a focused and driven team helping us both Russian and British.

Bluebird Sky this morning
More camp detail tomorrow as people and the tundra starts to wake up.

Jack Selby (Operations Manager)