Caste Rock Loop Hike
Sundays are hiking days, our only day off during the week. I did the big one this week, Castle Rock Loop, 7 miles roundtrip, with Solomon, Mel & Martin. The route takes you way out a ways from the station, onto the plateau of Ross Island and into the Antarctic "wilderness."
We start out going up over the hill heading out of town. This shot is looking back towards the town (you can see Observation Hill above the red flag at upper right, the white geodesic dome on top of another hill at right, and the frozen sea ice above that... all things often seen much closer in the background of just about any photo taken in town).
About a mile into the hike we reach the first of two warm-up huts called Apples. Inside are thick sleeping bags, first-aid stuff, and a visitor log. Outside is the bathroom, a yellow flag (or "P-Flag").
Here I am one mile in, bundled up, warm and freshly relieved.
"Castle Rock in sight. O the joy!"
The wind rips through these flags that direct the route. Winds were calm in the afternoon when we headed out, but were strong enough to make for a FIFTY BELOW wind chill just a few hours earlier in the late morning. Weather can change erratically to extreme conditions, which is why we have to check in with the firehouse before doing any hiking out of town, where we get a radio to call for help and give an estimated time of return, after which they send out the Search and Rescue team if you don't check back in upon return.
Castle Rock, part of the only 2% of the continent that isn't covered in ice.
From here we also see Mount Erebus, a still active volcano. There's a small steam cloud hovering just above the opening, but hard to see here. I hope to get much closer to it in the future...
****One of my favorite pictures taken down here, miles of snowdrifts and ice, piling up like sand dunes. It looks completely unreal in person.
Continuing on, following flags, seeing nothing but clouds and exposed rock to break up the white.
About 5 miles in, face covered in frost. Sometimes the frost in your upper and lower eye lashes freeze together when you blink!!
Approaching Scott Base, the New Zealand base a couple miles from ours.
They obviously have a more institutionalized culture of light-heartedness, as seen by their Welcome sign, and you may notice all their buildings are painted bright green, like a kiwi (which is what we all call them).
We round the final corner to a perfectly-timed sunset over McMurdo station. Of course, the sunsets last about six hours these days, so there was a wide window during which we could "perfectly" return to such a dramatic sight. Thanks for reading and following along!