My roommate Andy and I took the day off to do some touring of Ross Island. Turns out this island is a lot bigger than it first appears. We planned a day of hiking and cross country skiing, and we did a whole day! So now, crosscountry has had one more cross country experience – not that I was good at it, not by any means. Man that is tough. And I picked the longest, steepest, most difficult trail to learn on!
The day started out like many Christmas Days did: with sleeping in. And it was nice. After a late breakfast Andy and I suited up, checked out with the firehouse, and were on our way – the wrong way. I had asked for directions, and Andy referred to a map, but nevertheless we found ourselves on the wrong path. We were next to the giant golf ball – a place we weren’t supposed to be. After climbing the wrong mountain we were able to see the trail we should have taken and made our way over to there. At least the view wasn’t bad.
Andy resting before we even got started.
McMurdo from above. Observation Hill, the tallest thing on station, doesn’t look so big from up here. About here is when I remembered that most of my photos wouldn’t show what I saw. This is a big bummer, but through my sunglasses I was able to capture more contrast and definition, although some were out of focus. Then, with Photoshop I can correct for color some, although some of the tinted shots turned out nicely. I’ll get to those.
Here is one of them. After turning around and putting skis on we started uphill again, albeit much less steep. This is what we saw.
The second is blurry, but you can see another golf ball thing, and behind it is one of the nicer views of the trans Antarctic mountains. These things are stunning. Thankfully I took a lot of photos so some could turn out nicely.
Then some action shots
This last one is of an “apple”. It was put up there to help stranded hikers in a storm. Inside you’ll find blankets, cots, sleeping bags, stove and fuel, plus emergency rations. There was even a phone! Saving people here isn’t like doing so in the States, especially in bad weather.
After this break we crested the hill and saw the most beautiful view: the one we worked for. Between us and Mt. Erebus was Castle Rock, the destination and namesake of our trail. I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
I took a LOT of those, almost none came out right. This is what I was fighting with.
Castle Rock is pretty neat itself. It’s volcanic, just like the rest of the island, and it contains several types of rock. It stands at the peak of our trail, we were sweating from the workout, and we wanted to climb it. Just for the view of course 😀
First we had to get there. Another group caught up to us, they were hiking and supposed to be slower. Oh well, I was learning. Also we had a nice view of Williams Field where a lot of our work takes place. It is on Ross Ice Shelf just south of McMurdo Station. Planes with skis are allowed to fly there. Just wait till I show you pictures of a C130 with snow skis taking off! And lastly was the second Apple, aptly double in size to the first one.
Castle Rock turned out to be pretty big, and even the snow hike to get to its base was pretty steep. You can see the Kiwi PistenBull sloping on the hill. Seems they wanted to do some climbing and skiing too.
Here are some pictures of Andy and Castle Rock and then one of me. You can’t tell, but Erebus is behind me some tens of miles.
Again, we were surrounded by beauty. With Erebus to our North, the Ice shelf to our South and east, and the Trans Antarctics to the west with a frozen sea between us, we had no bad views. These mountains capture my attention every time I see them. I wish the were easier to photograph
The trip back was slightly more eventful. It was downhill for the most part and, again, very steep. I was afraid to ski on that steep slope. Even earlier I had lost a ski on a slight decline and it got ahead of me by about 50 yards. So while Andy slalomed back and forth I sat on my skis and slid feet first down the hill. And it was fun. With my YEE HAW I barreled down the hill. Eventually the skis got away and left me on the hill. They kept going. This time wasn’t so bad, so I tried again, but after my Yee Haw and eventual fall the ski didn’t stop. It kept going down the hill, farther and farther away. Besides going the wrong way to start off this was the longest delay in our return. It took me a long time to find that ski – I bet it traveled almost half of a mile downhill, and it wasn’t on the path either, which worried me cause we’re not supposed to leave the path for danger of crevasses. I got it back and we continued down hill. At one point it was too steep, and we were close enough to the bottom to lose the skis, so Andy and I sledded down on our butts again. That was pretty fun.
Finally at the bottom we were on level ground. Where the path meets the ice shelf the Kiwis have made a nice ski slope. We stopped to admire their ability and grab a quick breather. It was a hot day, and we ended up taking off all but the last layer of clothes. Maybe it wasn’t actually hot, but with no wind, lots of sun, thermal clothes, and exercise it sure can fell that way.
And a couple of the Kiwis.
You can kind of see what I’m talking about with the processing. The second almost looks like a sunset.
We were tired by this point and trudged on. At least the ice was flat, but now it was too slippery and proper skiing was not as easy. I ended up just pushing with my arms and poles for some of the time. Finally after a 1.5 mile hike we were back on station. I don’t know the final distance, but it was approximately 10 miles with the middle 7 on skis (either on my feet or under my butt)
Before Checking in and heading to the Christmas Dinner, one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time!!!, Andy and I stopped for a couple photos. It was a great day, and I finally got to do some recreation/exercise. As tired as I was it was quite refreshing.
And lastly, the link to all the photos. This time there were a lot I didn’t put in, but they are nice.