We’re onto the second round of winter trips now and i’m just back from a week out with Mairi. Mairi is one of two wintering marine biologists based at Rothera.
With all the darkness it’s been a while since most people on base have had a chance to get out into the hills and do any mountaineering so before heading out I did a re-cap on glacier travel and crevasse rescue with Mairi. With so many non mountaineers (i.e. scientists) working out in the mountains and on the glaciers here in Antarctica we generally teach crevasse rescue with the use of jumars instead of prusiks for a more “idiot proof” (no offence intended!) and easier to learn system. However during recreational winter trips with certain base members it makes sense to work with prusiks for the weight saved and for general interest for those wishing to pursue mountaineering elsewhere in the world.
The weather has been very variable over the past month or so but at the start of last week things were looking very good with a stable area of high pressure sitting over most of Adelaide.
We set out from Rothera on Sunday and drove our skidoos to the Northern area of the Island to set up camp beneath Mount Bouvier. It was one of our intentions to try and reach the summit of Bouvier which is the second highest peak on Adelaide (2230m). Again as with the rest of the peaks on Adelaide the height isn’t massive on a world scale but they rise from sea level so many of the ascents are on a scale with that of peaks found in the european alps for example; all be it without the altitude there is still the very real hazard of the cold temperatures and the remoteness of mountaineering in Antarctica during the winter.
From the info I had seen about the South ridge it sounded like we could ski most of the way to the summit - sadly the snow conditions were not suitable for this and we ended up taking our skis for a nice walk in the end! Eventually realising that the skis weren’t going to help we ditched them about half way up to collect on the way back down.
The day started out perfectly in terms of weather but unfortunately it didn’t hold out as the forecast had indicated so we didn’t manage to get up Bouvier but we did make our way up the bulk of the South ridge before thick cloud and poor contrast stopped play.
Taking our skis did have the advantage of giving us a great descent from the col back to our skidoos. The bowl at the foot of the south ridge had caught lots of fresh powder, and although not very steep it was great fun putting in fresh tracks in such beautiful surroundings.
The weather forecast provided via HF radio from base was warning of far worse weather to come so we broke camp and made our way back through the Macallum’s pass to camp nearer to Rothera for the remainder of the week. Once at our new camp site we made the most of the pleasant evening to go for a short ski tour up Trident as it looked like this may be the last good weather of the week.
As we had been warned the weather crapped out big style for the remainder of the week and we were tent bound. We had two nights with winds in the region of 60knots which was very interesting(!), but a good indication of what the Scott Pyramid tents can handle.
On Saturday the winds died down and the cloud cleared enough for us to travel back to Rothera. Another great trip!