Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

Cape Armitage Loop Hike

The weather gods seem to be against me on my days off here in Antarctica.  I spent a gorgeous week busy in the clinic.  When Saturday night rolled around, the winds picked up and the visibility dropped.  By Sunday morning, it was not looking good for a hike.  A group of us met at 1:30 to hike the 7 mile Cape Armitage loop that takes you passed Scott Base and on to the snow covered ice.  The fire station was debating switching the conditions to a level 2, which would mean that we could not leave McMurdo.  Luckily, all of McMurdo stayed Condition 3 and we were given a radio and permission to complete the hike.

To reach the Cape Armitage trail, we hiked along the road to Scott Base.

The terrain on the road was mostly dirt and snow.  From there, we were able to catch the trail leading back to McMurdo.  The dirt was easy walking compared to the 1-2 inch snow and crust that covered the ice portion of the trail.

As is stated in the trip description, the weather changes rapidly as you leave Scott base.  This is Mandy, our Physical Therapist, shortly after transitioning to the ice portion of the trail.

We follow the green flags that mark the trail.  Black flags would mean danger (crevasse etc), and red flags mean caution (air runway or other danger).  I was amazed how white everything was.  It was often hard to tell snow from horizon.  You were just walking into white.  Without the flags I would have been really disoriented.  At one point, our Australian dentist comments “This is not good,” when she realized that the number of flags we could see decreased from >20 to 5.  We were never in danger, as the wonderful trail crew keeps the flags close together and the trail well-marked.

This picture is from the calmer section of the trail.  As the wind picked up, we had to rest with our backs to the wind to warm up a bit.

I was only able to photo document the first part of the trip.  By the end, the winds were high and my hands were too cold to work the camera.

While I survived the amazing hike, my sunglasses and water bottle did not.  The sunglasses are now in five pieces (victim of the cold) and the water bottle froze and cracked.  I have converted to the indestructible nalgene and requested replacement glasses.  I guess that is why I bundle up!

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4 responses

  1. Kelly

    it looks soooooo cold! Ski season here we come! Stay safe, and tell me if you need me to send you another pair of sunglasses! If I remember right, these are the ones you bought specifically for Antarctica. Darn. Love you!

    October 5, 2010 at 2:16 AM

  2. marisa lord

    Looks like you are really taking advantage of everything. You have now convinced me that I need to travel to Antarctica!

    October 11, 2010 at 11:35 AM

  3. Ashwin

    Holy smokes. Amazing captures here

    October 26, 2010 at 5:46 PM

  4. Jessie

    Thanks Ashwin! These are some of my favorite photos so far.

    October 26, 2010 at 10:15 PM

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