Blood From A Stone

Blood From A Stone 01

Prologue

Is destiny a consistency we can only see or make sense of in hindsight? Or is destiny that voice in your head telling you “this is what I’m meant to do”, as you haul rocks from a river with a wild smile on your face and a warm sense of belonging, like there’s nowhere else in the world you’d rather be or should be at that moment.

I’m not sure that history is a good blueprint for the future, or that I can say with any certainty that I have a destiny of any kind, but I know now that some things seem to have been set in stone during my childhood.

The 80’s was a very different time to grow up in, not least of all because it’d be another 20 years or so until we finally developed the technology to make the real world redundant. Health and safety regulations were a lot less popular back then, and if I’d have chosen to throw myself off the top of the monkey bars, there’d be nobody to blame but myself, and rightly so. We were all just a little more untamed back then, a little less under the influence of civilisation, and the burden of cheap and ubiquitous technology.

My family was lucky enough to share a garden with some other tenants who weren’t particularly interested in it, although come to think of it, maybe my siblings and I had just innocently marked ouBlood From A Stone 02r territory out of the desire to run, climb and play everywhere possible. But besides functioning as our own personal sanctuary, the garden became a focal point for another reason, and that was because we had curated a peculiar zoo from a hodgepodge of rescued rabbits, homeless pigeons and other assorted birds. Our guinea pigs had the luxury of mowing the lawn from the safety of a purpose-built and easily-moveable, open-bottomed cage, courtesy of mother, while the chickens were free range, and produced organic eggs before it was cool.
This was my unusual normality; being outdoors, playing in the dirt, and living in close contact with animals, surrounded by nature itself.

In the early days, before the zoo had really begun to take shape I had a pet guinea pig called Furry, or King Furry to give him his full title. I guess you could say that I loved him more than anything in the world, so when he died I was devastated. Some time before that, during one of the long summers of my youth, my older brother and I each found a large rock at the beach that we decided to bring home with us. This was fine with our parents, we just had to make the journey across the dunes and back to the car each carrying his own treasure. The rock I found that day came to mark the spot where the King was buried, at the bottom of my mother’s garden amongst a patch of wild strawberries.

 

Blood From A Stone 06
The King and I

 

Following the Monumental project and Living by Your Own Strength I began to think about the possibility of building my own stone structure, and what sort of techniques would have to be employed to enable me to do so single-handedly and with basic tools.
I considered building a small Dolmen consisting of 3 large rocks, but the problem was in finding a location where I could mine or excavate such huge pieces of stone on public land, and how could I find a transportation route to the building site that wouldn’t be disruptive? But without any effort my problems were solved when I came across an unusual landscape that had the elements of wilderness that I had previously looked for in a building site.

Jonas Lake, or ‘l’étang de Jonas’ in French, is an artificial lake created by damming two small rivers that run in a southerly direction towards the town of Ambazac in the Limousin region. In August 2015 a leak was discovered in the drainage channel so authorities decided to empty the lake in order to carry out repairs.

 

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One of the first things you notice upon arrival is that the lake bed is lined with hundreds of tree stumps, presumably cut down to make way for the lake. These two converging rivers in a barren basin of mud punctuated by a dead network of decaying wood set the scene for my latest project.  I returned the following day and immediately set to work.

What follows is an account of my experiences, the challenges I faced along the way, and the solutions I devised to overcome them.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————January 18th – First day

It had snowed since yesterday and was still snowing when I arrived just before 2 o’clock. The first thing I did was to get as close to the river as possible to have a look at how big a bridge may have to be, and how possible it was just to get in and out of the river. The snow

Pyramid Building Etang de Jonas (10)
View of the ramp looking upriver

and colder temperature meant that the ground was firm enough to get right up to the river’s edge in some places, and I decided to get down into the water. The water isn’t much
deeper than the top of my boots in the deepest areas where I have been so far, but the distance between the water and the top of the riverbank is 1m or more on average. Because what used to be the lake bed is now the edges of the river, the ground is extremely soft, so once I had descended it was almost impossible to get back out. Luckily I had taken a long stick with me just in case, but nevertheless with each step I was sinking about a foot into the clay and silt, and struggling only made things worse. After freeing myself I decided that the first important task was to build a 
ramp to give easy access to the river from the Northern side where I arrived from. It was easy to find logs and fallen branches in the woods that surround the lake, so most of the effort went into carrying and dragging them down to the river. Where the water meets the bank is where the mud needed stabilising the most, so this is where the biggest logs went. The first part of the ramp that leads out of the water rests on a partially collapsed part of the bank, although it seems big and stable enough not be a problem. I placed two vertically poles on either side of this ramp so that I have a hand hold if needed.

Once the ramp was functional I spent the rest of my time in the river fishing out rocks and throwing or placing them as far in as possible from the river bank so that they could be collected later. Some of the rocks were loose and others, particularly the larger ones, were buried so they needed to be dug out by hand with the aid of sticks and other suitable stones. I had found one such rock and had begun to uncover it, but it turned out to be much larger than I had originally thought, so I left it for the time being. After a short break I decided that the last thing I would do before going home would be to remove this huge rock. After much more digging it was finally unearthed, and so now the real challenge had begun. Weighing an estimated 100 kilos I couldn’t simply lift this rock and throw or even place it on the edge of the bank to be collected later. The weight of it meant that even if I did manage to lift and carry it, it would sink into the mud once I let go and would be unrecoverable without twice as much effort as was needed to remove it in the first place. I looked around and walked further upriver to where the bank was collapsed and lower, with a smoother incline than the area where the rock was found, so I decided to roll it upstream against the current, to a position that looked more promising. The ground had also seemed more firm at first sight, but my attempt at placing the rock down proved that it wasn’t. I got out and went to fetch more logs to support the rock on its ascent of the river bank. The first meter was the most difficult as I slowly rolled the stone across the softest part of the mud, moving the supporting logs piece by piece to form the path in front. Once out of danger, I continued to slowly make progress, moving the rock a further couple of meters away from the water so that anyone who may pass couldn’t simply kick it back into the water, and also so that if any of the bank did collapse, the rock would still remain a safe distance away.

Estimated time: 3 hours

January 20th – Second day

I arrived early, at about 10 o’clock in different conditions again. The snow had gone, which was to my advantage as I could now clearly see any rocks, logs and other materials that were previously hidden by the snow, but on the other hand, the warmer temperature meant that crossing the mud was much more difficult than the previous day. I began by walking around to check on the situation, to see if anything had moved and if the ramp was still intact. I had decided that the ideal place to build would be one where the structure would still be visible once the water filled the lake again, so I chose to began moving the rocks I had found already towards a little bay where there is a huge tree stump which seems to mark the edge of where the water would be.

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The tree stump that marks the edge of the building site

Depending on how high the levels rise, once in place, the structure should either be just on the water’s edge, or partially submerged. This is something I have taken into account, and have decided to try and compact the ground to form the foundation using a heavy log, so that when the ground becomes wet again it will remain much more stable.
While moving the rocks I noticed another buried near to where yesterday’s huge rock still stood. I decided to dig it up to have a break from carrying, but unearthing just the top revealed it to be four times bigger than I had thought. I spent a long time digging down around the edges about a foot deep, stopping along the way to see if it could be moved. It wasn’t until I reached the bottom edge of the rock at one point, that I was able to use a couple of logs to progressively lever the rock out of its hole, while using other logs, smaller rocks and part of an old wheel to prevent the rock from slipping back down. I was then able to get my hands underneath to finally push the rock the short distance it needed to be free.

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During the excavation of the second boulder, the first waits in the background, supported by a series of logs

After what seems like the biggest effort so far I now have 2 huge rocks which need to be pulled, pushed or flipped back to the building area, except that this new rock seems almost twice as big as yesterday’s biggest. I noticed that once I had gotten the huge boulder from the river, it gave me the confidence to move others of similar and bigger size, and the more I pick up, carry, and throw, the more I get a better idea of what my physical limits are. I feel like I am learning to try harder and to persevere.

After my success with the second boulder I decided to cross over to the other side of the river to see how solid the ground was, and to take a closer look at some groups of stones that I had seen earlier. I was able to get out and then later, back in again without the need of a ramp, so I spent some time unearthing and moving rocks from the closest group down to the river opposite where I had removed the big rock yesterday. There were still other small groups of stones along the bank that I had yet to collect, so I added these new ones to the group. Some stones were light enough to be thrown all the way to the other side, others could be thrown into the water on the opposite side, and others were simply dropped into the water as close as possible. The mud meant that the energy used to try and throw large rocks across the river was simply absorbed and made me sink more, so I didn’t spend too much effort on trying, especially because it was relatively easy to get down into the river and then lift these new rocks onto the other bank. For the heaviest ones, I didn’t bother trying to use the log sled technique again, and instead used the rocks themselves as a support for others. I had already seen a large boulder on the edge of the bank, and had used it once or twice to get out and into the river without having to need the ramp, so I knew that the ground was stable enough. Using this rock that was already in place, I first lifted the next rock onto it, and then rolled it further along, repeating this process with others to form a group of stepping stones that could be progressively removed later on.

So far I have been concentrating on collecting the biggest rocks I can find, and generally haven’t bothered with anything smaller than roughly 5 kilos. As I intend to use the largest rocks for the base of the structure, with the base being the biggest part, this initial stage should require the most time and effort, with each additional stage becoming increasingly easier. My only worry so far is that the lake is filled up before I have finished, and with this in mind I have considered separating the collection and construction phases, although this will lengthen the overall process.
I have about half the stones needed to form the base back at the building area so far, although half of those are too small. I will continue to focus on the biggest rocks and hope to have enough by the end of this week.

I marked out North, South, East and West on the building site and am considering making a large ring of rocks to encircle the main structure.

Pyramid Building Etang de Jonas (12)
Marking out the compass points for the four corners

I found a piece of rope and some string and have tied them together to enable me to accurately draw a large circle as a template. The weather is meant to remain between 5 and 13 degrees the rest of this week with perhaps a little rain, which means that transporting all the rocks across the soft mud will be the biggest problem again. I already have other rocks marked out and ready to be dug up, so along with the groups of rocks on the opposite side of the river I have a lot of carrying to be getting on with. My hands are in a pretty bad state due to scraping my knuckles while digging, the cold water and mud have also dried my skin out so my hands are beginning to resemble the dry lake bed itself.

Estimated time: 6 hours 30 mins

 

January 22nd – Third day
My objective today was to move the two large boulders back to camp and to excavate and move another that I found in the same location where the other two had been left. I began with the smaller rock that I had retrieved from the river, and with the support of several logs, rolled it all the way bPyramid Building Etang de Jonas (11)ack to the building site. I had wanted to simply slide it along, but there was too much friction and it kept wanting to turn over, which used up a lot more energy and time than expected. It took an hour to do this.
The weather today had been mostly wet, which made the work hard-going, plus I didn’t feel much like working either. Juggling my own training along with this project and the near 2-hour return journey from home to the building site is very demanding, because I haven’t had any real rest days so far. Next week I plan on training and working on the same day, so that the following day I can have a proper rest before continuing again. This one day on, one day off schedule should be more productive, and I intend to get to the site as early as I can.Pyramid Building Etang de Jonas (20)

The second rock, which seemed quite a bit bigger by comparison was technically easier to move, even though it took more physically effort. I had decided to use the small length of thin rope that I found to tie a log to the rock which would be then used to lever the rock along. The mechanical advantage meant that I could now drag the rock along the mud without the aid of the supporting logs, and without the need to waste time doing so. The rope broke at about the halfway point and although I had some difficulty reattaching it, it managed to hold up the rest of the journey. The resulting pattern made in the mud perhaps explains the technique better.

The excavation of the third boulder was quite difficult, despite the fact that I used the levering technique early on to avoid having to do more digging by hand. What made things difficult is that this rock is the biggest yet, and close to my limits for what I can move on my own. After finally freeing it from its hole I spent about an hour trying to move it further away so that once I began dragging it, there would be no risk of it falling back into the hole. Instead of making progress I had only succeeded in moving it further away from the building site. Trying to move the rock with the rope and the log lever wasn’t working because I couldn’t get the rope into a good position, and it was too wet and muddy to try and untie the knot in order to re-tie it tighter. I decided instead to go back to using the logs as support in addition to a couple of concrete pipes that I found. I managed to get the rock up onto its supports and move it a short way before I had to leave in order not to get stuck in the dark.

Estimated time: 4 hours 30 mins

January 25th – Fourth day

On the path that leads to the building site I collected various pieces of string and discarded rope that I had seen before, and along with a longer branch found in the woods I moved the third rock back to base without much trouble. I then marked out the placement for the stones with each corner facing a point on the compass. I placed the stones in the order that I had found them, with the first from the river taking the North corner, then the South, and the rock I had just moved went to form the East. I then began digging up a final rock that I had found in the vicinity of the south and east boulders which turned out to be large enough to form the final corner.

Pyramid Building Etang de Jonas (23)
The corner stones in place

Once the corners were in place I went back into the river to see what large rocks might be available without having to dig much or at all, where I managed to find a further 3 rocks that were too big to carry, and suitable for the base. A combination of previous experience and determination made getting the three out and onto the bank seem much easier than before. I also retrieved some smaller rocks at the same time, which can be collected as needed.

The areas where I had removed these new rocks were further upstream from camp, and I had decided to begin by moving the furthest stones back first. With the rock well tied and the branch providing ample leverage I managed to get the stone back to camp in record time – just seven minutes over a distance of around 100 meters. I put the stone into position with the others and went back to continue on. The second rock was also moved with reasonable speed, but the third gave me a lot of problems as it continually came untied, and I even resorted to dragging and rolling it some part of the way.

The warm, dry weather meant that it was quite easy to move about on the surface of the mud, and now that I have finally begun construction it’s given me a little morale boost to see things taking shape. However, I think that I have underestimated the time it will take to complete the first layer, and therefore the whole project. If I decide to complete the entire base of the structure with only the largest rocks I can find and move, then I will need around 16 or more in addition to the ones that have already been placed. But if I simply construct the outer wall of the base in this manner, then I will only need about half that amount. I already have one which I left in place, and imagine that several more can be found in the river, while any others can be found across the river and in the rock piles that are scattered there. Now that I have removed all of the large rocks closest to the building site, this next phase is set to be the biggest challenge yet. As long as I can move the rocks quickly and efficiently as demonstrated today, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

Estimated time: 6 hours

January 27th – Fifth day

The day began well as I managed to quickly move the last large rock which was waiting to be collected, and then proceeded to fetch more from the river and its opposite side, and bring them back to camp. I had moved four or so back to camp by midday, and after a short rest to refuel I began to unearth a rock that was half in the river, half in the mud. As usual, it turned out to be bigger than expected, and my attempts at getting it out failed. I had initially tried to move it up onto the bank from its exact position which turned out to be a mistake. After about an hour of getting nowhere, the progress I had made early on in the day had slowed to a halt and I was close to giving up. A couple of times I left the rock to go and sit down for a short rest before trying again, but still I had no luck. I had wasted a large amount of energy on fighting against the huge weight of the rock and the mud that drained all of my efforts. The various logs and rocks I had put in place seemed to have made no difference, and for a moment I imagined leaving it where it was and giving up entirely. Luckily I persevered, but I decided to try a different approach. A little way upstream the bank was much lower and much firmer due to the roots of the old tree that still held the ground together. There I would be able to get the rock out with greater ease, so I pushed it back into the river and began to move it along. I didn’t get very far before realising that simply moving the rock upstream was an equally difficult task in itself, and instead decided to roll the rock out up a ramp consisting of a parallel pair of branches.

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The ramp and central post used to prevent the rock from slipping back down into the river

Having the ramp begin much further away from the bank meant that the shallower incline was much easier to overcome, and the branches provided just enough friction so that the rock wouldn’t slide back down, while allowing me to slowly shift the rock one side at a time. This final solution was much neater and more organised, and is what I should have done from the start. There is another rock of similar, if not bigger size close by, so I will have the chance to try this technique out again if I feel up to the challenge.  Once the rock was finally on dry land I managed to move it about two thirds of the way back to camp before leaving. The problem was that both the rope and string I was using kept breaking, as well as the long branches that I was using to lever the rock along. This is the biggest rock I have tackled yet, and its weight means that I need a really strong lever that can withstand the journey. The main branch I was using as a lever had broken while moving a previous rock, but I managed to complete the journey by attaching a short piece of wood as a handle to enable me to lift the rock between my legs and swing it along. Using this technique I could travel in a straight line and move relatively quickly, the downside was that it requires a lot of lower back and leg strength, and is limited to the more manageable size of rocks that are too big to be lifted and carried on the chest.

The outer wall is almost complete now though, and as the form begins to take shape there is a strange kind of power or importance that seems to stem from the structure as it gradually changes into something defined.

Estimated time: 6 hours

 

January 29th – Sixth day

I didn’t have much of a focus today, and spent the morning moving smaller rocks back to the building site from various areas scattered around. I also explored the opposite bank a bit further in order to have an idea of the size and number of rocks that were available to take immediately, and which could be unearthed and moved later on.

I found a narrow area of the river where a large tree stump protrudes from the bank providing a stable support while simultaneously shortening the distance between both sides of the river. I removed the two long branches I had used last time to remove the large rock from the water, and put them in place to form a bridge from one side to the other. This would allow me to move the larger rocks I found without the huge energy cost of hauling Pyramid Building Etang de Jonas (28)them from the river each time. That is, if the bridge works.

The rest of the day I spent excavating and trying desperately to move a boulder I had found on the opposite bank. It is by far the largest I have found, and after three hours or more I had only succeeded in moving it to the edge of the hole from which it came. Although it is almost free, these last few inches are no less difficult than the rest. I used a combination of about four different logs and a number of stones to gradually shift and lift the rock, while filling in the gap underneath. This part of the process is the time when having a second person would be most useful, as I have to simultaneously lever the boulder using all my bodyweight, while moving other logs and stones into position in the newly created space.

I discovered a technique that I should have really began employing sooner, which was to lay a log horizontally across the hole to provide support beneath the main logs that were doing the levering. Without this support log, much of the levering power is lost as the sides of the hole disintegrate quickly and the lever sinks into the mud instead of doing its job.
No further building took place today, but I have now at least found what should be enough large rocks to finish off the base of the structure. The real test now is whether or not my bridge will support the weight of this latest boulder, and I only have one chance at getting it across the river because if it falls it will probably be irretrievable. With that being said though, I find that my boundaries for what is and what is not possible keep expanding through perseverance, and each time I find and move a bigger rock, I feel more motivated to continue on, to not give up, but to try and find new solutions and the strength to carry them out.

Estimated time: 6 hours

February 1st – Seventh day

Continuous rain over the weekend made the ground very soft and the height of the river too much to cross in many places. I spent most of today moving stones from all of the different locations scattered around, back to the building site.
I also managed to find at least six large rocks that I quickly unearthed and moved across the river. I dug up an additional couple of rocks that are similar in size to the biggest one which still remains half in, half out of its hole. These three rocks will be left until later as I don’t know how much time and effort I Pyramid Building Etang de Jonas (19)can afford to spend moving them, so I am

concentrating my efforts on what I know is certain. I added a further two or three rocks to the base of the structure, and with the majority of the rocks I have collected so far, now in the vicinity, I have a better idea of their total volume and how many more I may need to collect. I’d estimate that I have at least 50% of what is required to finish the project. I made a lot of progress today, despite the weather conditions, although visually speaking, not much change has occurred. As always, a lot of effort is required for a minimal result.

Estimated time: 6 hours

February 3rd – Eighth day

My first objective today was to bring more stones back to the building site before continuing construction. Further rain had made the ground waterlogged, and I realised that my constant movements around the area, back and forth from the river were churning up the mud and making things more and more difficult. The state of the ground had been deteriorating since day one, however, it was only now that I really noticed. In many places where I could previously walk freely, I now sank almost a foot down with every step, which was made worse every time I made myself

Pyramid Building Etang de Jonas (27)
The base near completion

heavier by picking up rocks. Moving about on the mud has taken on a sense of danger again that hasn’t been there since I first worked on the site, and the difficulties in moving average sized rocks is making the prospects of shifting the three huge boulders which still stand where I unearthed them, smaller and smaller. After spending some time constructing and nearly finishing the base though, I realised that I may be forced to try and move these three, because the number of usable rocks in the immediate area seems to have rapidly dried up. I have been forced to go further and further away from the site in order to find materials, which means that the time and energy to bring back rocks has also greatly increased. Using the three boulders to complete some of the second level would hopefully require less time and effort than collecting their equivalent in smaller rocks.

The base is made from roughly 50 stones of various sizes, and there remain a similar amount of rocks waiting to be used. I think that my estimate for the total volume needed is off though, and I may have only collected as little as a quarter of what I actually need. The time required to finish is around 6-8 weeks.

Estimated time: 6 hours

February 5th – Ninth day

Today was a slow day and I was late to arrive and get to work. I spent what remained of the morning successfully removing the smallest of the three large boulders, and trying again to get the largest out of its hole. Time away from the task had allowed me to approach it anew, and I was able to remove the boulder with the aid of a rope and using the levering process as before. However, the size and weight of the rock, coupled with the soft mud means that even though it’s free from its original hole, it seems impossible to move it without it getting stuck again.

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An unstoppable force meets an immovable object

I keep giving up on this rock and then trying again, and have made progress in this way, but I am worried that the cost of the effort is too high. My final solution for moving it is to try and lay down a solid base for it to lay on directly after I lever it from its current position. This is the same problem that I have faced before when trying to remove large rocks from the river, although this one is perhaps twice as big as anything I have moved before.

I have been using the tree trunk that spans the river in order to conveniently cross, as the number of areas where I can easily get in and out, both empty handed and with rocks, is being slowly eroded away. This crossing point is promising though, as the river bank there is the lowest I have seen, and the presence of a network of old tree roots make the ground very firm and much less likely to deteriorate over time. The path that I take from there, back to the building site is also comparatively firm and hasn’t been overused. The only problem is that this area is upstream, which means that if I manage to free the rock it will have to travel in a zigzag pattern in order to get to home, which is almost directly opposite. As always, the fastest route is not necessarily the most direct.

After lunch I concentrated on building, and used up the majority of all of the rocks, big and small, that were available at the site. I even made one trip to the river to collect smaller, hand-sized rocks to fill in the gaps in the foundation. Now that the base is finished the structure is slowly growing upwards, almost imperceptibly. There is rain forecast for every day next week, so ignoring the biggest of the rocks, I plan to use the time to collect as much material as possible, so that the following week I can focus on building.

Estimated time: 5 hours 30 minutes

February 8th – Tenth day

I didn’t feel like working today, especially in the rain, which lasted all day, but I was still satisfied with what I managed to accomplish. I alternated between collecting rocks and then building with them, and the second level has really taken shape. I focused on taking small rocks which actually turned out to be much more time and energy efficient, although not ideal for lower levels of the structure.

Estimated time: 6 hours

February 10th – Eleventh day

When I arrived today to my surprise the lake had begun to fill with water on the south-eastern side. It was difficult to tell by how much, no more than a foot perhaps, but it was enough to remind me that I didn’t have all the time in the world to complete this project, and for a moment I even thought of simply accepting defeat and going back home. I realised though, that as long as I gathered enough rocks and transported them back to the building site, when the water level rises I would still be able to complete the building process.

I decided that this was perhaps my last chance to be able to traverse the river, as much of the banks had been eroded away recently, and the level was much too deep to enter in many areas. So I spent the day exploring the western corner of the lake where I hadn’t really ventured before because of how far away from the building site it is, but nevertheless, has an abundance of decent-sized rocks available. The fact that I didn’t have to really dig, meant that I could put all my efforts into moving as many rocks as possible, without struggling to remove them, which has previously been a big drain on time and energy.

At three different points along the riverbank I made groups of rocks, which I then threw across to the opposite side. At the crossing point I left the biggest rocks, which I later pushed into the river to form a temporary bridge in the water, and then removed them one by one with the furthest first, using the others as stepping stones to avoid getting wet.
I had hoped to be able to move all of these stones back to the camp by the end of the day, but there were much more than I had imagined, and I only succeeded in getting them all to the other side of the river. The water level didn’t seem to have risen during the 8 hours I was there, so hopefully I will be able to recover everything next time.

The good news is that thanks to this day of frenetic activity, I think that I have almost everything I need to complete the structure. So if the water level doesn’t rise, or only continues to do so very slowly, I may be finished by the end of next week, instead of the end of next month.

Estimated time: 8 hours

February 12th – Twelfth day

I left late and underestimated how much it was raining today. I arrived completely soaked through and didn’t feel much like working. Luckily, it seems that the lake had only been filling due to the amount of rain we’ve had recently, which means that I am not so much in a hurry to finish now. The work I had done the previous day had still been a good move though, because with the water level being even higher today, it was now impossible to cross the river. As planned, I spent the whole day simply moving the rocks back to the building site, with the exception of the 4 largest boulders. Now that all the material is together in one place it looks as if I have enough to build the next 2 levels at least.
Dry weather predicted for much of next week should mean it will be a productive one, and I expect to finish by the end of the month.

Estimated time – 5 hours 30 minutes

February 15th – Thirteenth day

When I arrived this morning I had expected the water level to have descended or at least stabilised, but it had in fact risen much more and was coming increasingly closer to the building site. Due to this I decided once more that the best course of action was to continue to collect more rocks while I still had the opportunity, beginning with the four boulders I had left closest to the river. The first two I had to roll, and managed to lift and carry the other two back which took me until midday.
After lunch I went to the eastern part of the lake which was the most in danger of being covered, and I began to uncover the biggest rocks I could find and then take them back. Although the distance to the building site is almost twice as far as it is to the nearest part of the river, the journey is mostly on firmer ground that is more sand than mud, so I didn’t have to struggle so much.
It snowed on and off the whole day, but the ground had a chance to dry out a bit over the weekend.
I may spend one more day collecting rocks before beginning building, and that all depends on the water level next time I return.

Estimated time: 6 hours

February 17th – Fourteenth day

The water level had dropped when I arrived so I decided to spend some more time building. I began by placing the biggest of the rocks on one of the corners, but then decided that it was better to build from the centre outwards so that the heaviest rocks would form a solid centre around which the rest could be placed. The structure now stands at around hip height and looks like it will be finished soon provided that there are no issues with the rock supply.

Estimated time: 5 hours

February 22nd – February 24th – Final days

The water receded to normal levels thanks to dry weather, so I was once again able to access the other side of the river where I had left some large boulders. I also removed several more from the river itself in order to pack out the centre of the structure. The problem now was that I had to lift these heavy rocks high enough to place them on top, which wasn’t an issue in the beginning. The area around the structure had also become quite muddy, as now the majority of my efforts were spent on building.

As the work progressed I used the smaller stones to fill in the gaps and to support larger rocks.
During the final stages of building I chose rocks that were relatively flat to enable me to make the top layers as even as possible. I had begun with the vague notion of layers, but wasn’t at all strict in constructing this way. Instead, I focused on simply building upwards, being careful to keep the edges as stable as possible.

Pyramid Building Etang de Jonas (1)
View from above

My goal wasn’t to build a perfect pyramid, to do that would require much more time and having to select and shape rocks at every step of the way. In short my goal was to experience the building process along with all its obstacles, hardships and triumphs encountered when working alone through self-discipline and dedication. The pyramid is but a product of this experience.

Estimated total time spent working: 95 hours
Estimated journey time to and from site on foot: 33 hours

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Epilogue

I feel that it ‘s still too early to talk about my experience of this work, however it’s clear to me that through this process I physically adapted to become more efficient at coping with the demands that I placed on my body. More importantly though, I feel that this was a valuable lesson in perseverance and trying harder.