All is well with the team. We had a great day of activity outside of camp. After breakfast this morning we headed out in a “track van”—a 4×4 Ford Econoline van that is fitted with snow tracks instead of regular wheels. It is basically a 4-wheel-drive snowmobile that keeps you protected from the elements.
We took the van for a five-mile ride from our camp to a spot called the Wave, a huge wind deposit of ice that has formed a wave-like feature around a mountain called Mt. Charles. It is one of the most interesting and bizarre glacier formations that I have ever seen. There is no glacial erosion from solar effects or air tempurature here, so the glacier has formed a curl around Mt. Charles that looks exactly like a barrelling ocean wave. The only thing different is that this one is over 200 feet tall and stationary.
The group split up at the Wave. Some of us were busy taking photos and video for First Ascent while the others in the group got to climb Mt. Charles. The weather was fairly poor today with a cold wind and a bit of snow, so we didn’t stay out for much more than a couple of hours. The climbing party met up with the filming party just after lunch time, piled back into the track van and headed back to camp. However, Jake Norton and I decided to stick out the bad weather and go climbing in the area. We were inspired by the free ride out to the other side of the Union Glacier, but the problem for us was that we would have to ski the five miles back to camp after our climb.
That said, we were really psyched up to climb some of the local peaks as most of them have never been climbed. The Union Glacier camp is in its first year of operation and this part of the range has seen little visitation prior to this climbing season. Due to the poor weather, we decided on a fairly small but steep peak that had caught our eye from camp. Jake and I unloaded our gear from the van and were soon left alone in the cold and blowing snow.
We set off to the base of the mountain and after an hour of skiing we reached the base of the mountain. There was a steep snow ramp on our right that lead directly to the summit and a rock ridge on the left. We decided to split the difference and headed straight up towards a plateau near the summit. The snow was nice and firm, perfect for cramponing as we started but soon deteriorated to any icy crust over unconsolidated sugar-snow. This made the climbing more difficult so we switched over to the rock ridge. The rock quality was good and we enjoyed excellent climbing to a flat notch just below the summit. From there, we had excellent snow conditions to the top. Amazingly, we had a lull in the weather for most of our climb and our time on the summit. We were able to enjoy a few moments of “top time” before descending back to our skis.
We then had a quick snack and headed off back towards the marked trail leading to camp. After an hour of skiing we reached the trail, this meant that we only had 5 miles to go to camp! Checking our watches we realized that we would have to hussle to make it back for the 7 p.m. dinner call. With over 100 people in camp the food does not last long, and neither of us had eaten much since breakfast. The wind had picked up again but it was blowing at our backs and after and hour and a half of flat skiing across the glacier we arrived at camp … with 20 minutes to spare before dinner! The food was excellent. The A.L.E. staff really goes out fo their way to treat us well here on the ice.
We are all settling into various games or books for the evening’s entertainment. We’ll check back in tomorrow with the latest from our adventure here in Antarctica!
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