Winter Trip

20 April, 2004

Sledge Golf

After a few days of pretty rough weather and a reasonable amount of snowfall, Dougal, my ever ready Field Assistant, and I finally made it up onto the Glacier to lash the Sledges and prepare for Dougals 1st and my 3rd winter trip. Both my winter trips during Winter 2003 ended up at Trident, where most people camp if the weather is too bad to pass through McCallums Pass. McCallums Pass is a heavily crevassed route down off the Wormald Ice Piedmont, and up through the Shambles Glacier onto the Fuchs Ice Piedmont on the other side of the Island! It is quite a dangerous route needing good visibility and contrast to ensure both parties cross safely.

This time I was very determined to get through and see the Island and Mountain Range from the other side. Time was running out! Most of Monday was spent preparing and securing the survival and living equipment to both the Nansen Sledges. The Shack arrived and by the time we made it back down to base, a few old familiar faces were walking about. Monday night was spent on the ship, catching up with all the previous years winterers that we had said goodbye to less than a month previous, praying to the weather gods for the following day to be nice and clear. It was not looking good….

Tuesday 13th April.

It’s snowing!!!! Can’t believe it! We both prepared the remainder of our kit and sat down with a cup of tea to decide our next move. Our time was ticking and we only have 6 days to make the most of what we can. The decision was made to head up the hill and wait at the caboose for the weather to improve. It didn’t! We managed to do some snowboarding down Vals, our local ski slope, and then retired to the caboose for more tea! After 4pm, it was getting late, and not possible to move anywhere, so we settled down for a night at the caboose with Tim and Andy Miller, Sledge Hotel. Out came the stars!! It turned out to be an amazingly clear night! How the weather is unfair sometimes!

Wednesday 14th April.

It’s clear, lets go!! We were on the Skidoos and heading for McCallums Pass by 10am. Not a bad start! Still quite a bit of cloud around, and had to wait at the top of McCallums Pass for a few minutes to decided whether it was clear enough to risk passing. The cloud started rolling in, but we decided to go for it! Up and out with no problems! We had made it. The Fuchs Ice Piedmont! Now just another 60 km down to the Chilean Base Carvajal! The cloud came in quite a bit more, and after waiting an hour playing Charades, Tim and Dougal decide it was too bad to continue. We set up camp, pitching the Pyramid Tent, and making the inside liveable. Just before dark, we ascended the nearest nunatak and skied back down! The easy way to descend a hill! It had been a good day, but quite tiring. Time for food and sleep!

Thursday 15th April.

Whiteout! Lots of low cloud, snowing and all we could see, was the other Sledge party’s tent. Not a great day for travelling anywhere! A day of cards and tea!! Beautifully clear night so lots of star gazing! Again, very frustrating!

Friday 16th April.

It’s a beautiful day! Clear skies! Finished packing the camp away onto the sledges and were ready to depart by 10:30. Not bad going, as it does not get light until just before 9am! Looking Southbound, our path was slowly disappearing under a mass of cloud! I could see my 3rd attempt at reaching Carvajal falling away from me.

We headed south, but were soon stopped and forced to head northbound once more. We decided it was best to get back through the Shambles while the weather was good, so we did. The fresh snowfall the previous day made it very difficult to get both skidoos and sledges back up through McCallums Pass. After an hour of towing each sledge with both skidoos we reached the top of the Pass. We were back! By this time, the cloud had really moved in, so we made it a few km back towards Trident and then set up camp once more.

Saturday 17th April.

Yet again, another white out! I managed to make quite a bit of headway through my book during the best part of the day! Not much to do outside unfortunately! I am a little disappointed as I was really hoping to get some snowboarding done on some of the local peaks around Trident, but we can’t even see them! We were suddenly bathed in sunshine, so we hurriedly packed what we needed and took the half unit over to Sunnyside bowl, part of the Stokes range. We geared up and started our ascent! It wasn’t too far to go, and we reached the summit in about an hour.

We had amazing views to the North, and took 5 minutes to just admire the view. It is certainly something that you take for granted after a while down here. You need experiences like that to make you appreciate them once more! The cloud was rolling in yet again so I strapped into my snowboard and Dougal prepared his skis, and we started our descent. Down a ridge then over into the bowl! It was perfect powder snow, and felt fantastic as we carved our way down the hill. Unfortunately the descent is over so much quicker that the ascent. We started heading back up for a second run but the cloud came down once more, so we had to use the ‘force’ to board and ski back to the skidoos in low contrast. It was time to get back to the tent! Probably the best snowboarding I have ever done!

Sunday 18th April.

It was time to head back. We had enough contrast and visibility to see our way back, but not to ascend any peaks, so we packed up camp and headed for home. A little disappointed not to snowboard some of the larger peaks, but quite satisfied for one week! We arrived back in time for lunch, tea and medals.