Tag Archives: Stokes Peaks

Snow Clearing and the End of Winter Trips

The last couple of weeks have seen endless low pressure systems hit the Antarctic Peninsular bringing stormy weather and lots of snow.  Winter trips have continued with life as a field assistant meaning alternate weeks on base or out in the field.  This weekend marks the last weekend of winter with the first planes due through Rothera next Saturday.img_0440Adam posing on the ridge between “Max” and “Mouse” in the Stokes peaks.  All the Stokes peaks are named after dogs and are a popular destination for winter trips.  Two days after this Adam and I experienced gusts of wind up to 70 knots (force 12 is described as 64+) which destroyed our toilet tent resulting in some adventurous toilet experiences.img_0238Kate approaching the summit of “Morgan” in the Stokes on her winter trip.  I realised at the end of Kates trip that I will have spent about 12% of my time in Antarctica camped at Trident East.  While not far from base the options for skiing and mountaineering from this camp are amazing.img_8331With planes now due in a week snow clearing has started in earnest with both machines and people power.  Above – Window in the accommodation building surrounded by icicles and buried in snow.
img_8324Snow clearing the runway.  Snow clearing can only happen on good weather days meaning long hours for the Matt the mechanic and the other drivers.img_8323People power on the Hangar doors.  This took ten of us a day of digging and chipping before we could get them open.  Turns out they’re snowed in again now!img_8314Hector watching as Matt clears in front of the Hangar with the JCB 436.img_8378 The last of the winter trips was myself and Al last week.  Above – Al looking up at the next pitch of one of the routes we did on the second day of our trip.  Al and I headed to the other side of the island (back to the Myth campsite) with the hope of climbing one of the bigger peaks.img_0953Al on the summit of Mt Liotard just after 11am.  Mt Liotard was named for a french observer who surveyed the peak in 1909 and is visible from Base across Ryder Bay.  The tenth photo down in this blog post  We heard of a brief weather window on our second night in the tent so left camp early to get up and down before the high winds came in.  You can see the edge of the weather front coming in from the right of the shot.  img_1037Al skiing back to the Ski-doos with the summit (on the right) already in the clouds.  We were pretty lucky with conditions with great snow from col (directly above Al’s head) all the way back down.  Probably about 4km and 1000m of descent on perfect powder!img_1050The other reality of winter trips – Al with a cup of tea and snow melting on the stove.  About 25-30% of the time on a winter trip you are stuck in the tent as the weather is so bad.  The first day of lie-up is usually nice and relaxing and a great chance to do lots of reading.  Books, games and lots of cups of tea are the order of the day.img_8416More normal winter weather.  Al and I spent the last day of our winter trip determined to get out climbing finding some very Scottish conditions.  I’m not even sure if this photo is of me or Al as we were both wearing the same BAS issue clothing.img_8498Even after six months stuck with each other its amazing the efforts people still go to.  Bradders (Polar Bear), Emily (Zebra), Tom (Lion) and Jesus (Girrafe) dressing up for one last saturday night before we get invaded.

Posted in ali rose, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Midwinter, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Rothera Winter Team, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , |

Winter

Antarctica doesn’t really have an Autumn perhaps because there’s no trees.  Or maybe its just a British Antarctic Survey thing where you go straight from the Summer season to the winter one just to simplify things.  With twenty one of us left on base and the last ship gone a few weeks ago we are very much into our winter at Rothera.  This means shorter working hours (theres now only 1.5hours between meals instead of 2) rapidly decreasing daylight and of course winter trips.  All staff who winter get two weeks off base away on a winter trip.  These trips are a combination of a chance to get a break from life on base (and for others to get a break from you!), learn new skills and get the “real” Antarctic experience.  With four field assistant at Rothera two of us head out roughly every two weeks with another person in tow somewhere on Adelaide island.IMG_0609

 Octavian on the summit of Trident peak on the first day our winter trip.  Options for winter trips include Mountaineering, Climbing, Skiing and Snowboarding, Crevasse exploring, Skidoo sightseeing trips and drinking tea (or whisky) in the tent.IMG_0686

Enjoying a cup of tea in his hammock.  Rothera is almost visible over the left edge of the Hammock.  You don’t have to get far away from base to feel pretty remote.  IMG_0695

Skidoos leaving camp.  Skidooing outside of the Rothera flagline involves being linked up just in case one goes into a crevasse.  You can just make out the rope coming from the back skidoo.  The sledge between the skidoos carries the emergency gear and pretty much goes everywhere with you.  Basically enough food, fuel and kit to spend three weeks fixing your skidoos.

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Stunning views North after some easy mountaineering in the Stokes peaks.

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As there is always two trips out at the same time its great to camp together and go visit the other tent in the evening.  Or in this case follow in the other parties footsteps all day and not have to break trail.  Octavian and Ben looking happy with their day in the Stokes.

IMG_0709My second trip was with Saz.  Despite being stuck in the tent for a couple of days we got quite a bit of climbing and mountaineering done.  Saz below “Spiritual Harmony” on Trident peak (the curving gully on the left)

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Milky way over the tent at night.  There some amazing photography opportunities if you and your camera can face the cold.  This took me a while to get right as it was pretty cold and I had had a couple of glasses of Port. IMG_0743The tents are really comfortable especially with both the stove and tilley lamp going.  Saz making Chocolate fondu as dessert after a cheese fondue for our main course.  Saz and I had decided when we wrote the proposal for her trip that photography and food were going to be a priority, we ended up with a huge amount of cheese and chocolate, pizza, pancakes, full brunch with homemade tattie scones and a fair bit of booze

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Skidoos under the edge of N26 Nunatak.  Saz and I headed here to snowboard in the big bowl in the middle of the photo.  Our skidoos had struggled to get this far so at least we knew there was lots of deep powder to fall into.IMG_0767

Feeling pretty happy to have survived one of my few snowboard runs in the last few years

IMG_0782Crevasse exploring is always pretty popular.  Stunning and beautiful for the winter tripper and a bit stressful for the Field Assistant.  Saz abseiling into the second chamber of a crevasse we found.  I was standing on a very hollow sounding floor at this point so we didn’t stay long.

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Drying clothes inside the tent at the end of the day.  All that stuff hanging in the roof is hopefully going to be dry by the morning!  You can also make out the speaker (small red thing in the centre) for the music, the jar of Marmite (standard BAS issue) and a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15yr old.

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Winterers can also choose to go “Man-Hauling” – basically skiing and pulling pulks rather than using ski-doos.  I went to pick up Al and Lewis from a manhauling trip last week and took my big lens to get some shots of them steaming to the end.

IMG_0960When not on winter trips theres still plenty of fun to be had near to Rothera.  The Ski-in, Ski-out accommodation helps.  Al loading a skidoo for another quick mission outside the accommodation building.

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Scoping out another ski line

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The sea ice was also forming last week so we did a couple of training sessions on how to assess it for safe travel.  Dave showing the dive team what to do on the first day that the sea ice was thick enough.  Personally I think the idea of travelling any distance on sea ice is pretty crazy but it is a necessity for the dive team who still have sciencey stuff to do throughout the winter (and who have to dive under the ice!)

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Skiing out on the sea ice surrounded by icebergs.  The ice has to be 20cm thick to travel on.  The bindings on the skis are just bendy plastic that strap onto insulated work boots.

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John testing the waters. You might be able to spot how we cut the hole in the ice.

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Theres been some clear nights in the last couple of weeks so its been great to be outside with a camera.  The full moon has been spoiling it somewhat though I spent a great evening with John, Tom and Adam at the cross taking surreal photos.  Above – John (meteorologist), Tom (Doctor) and Myself admiring the view.
IMG_2489The weather doesnt always play ball!  Above – Hector topping out of a mixed route in the spindrift having experienced hotaches for the first time on a day when we thought there would be no wind.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Long Exposure, skiing, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , |