I have been living and working at Casey Research Station since early November. This summer the weather has been particularly friendly with only the one blizzard first week of Feb, and an unprecedented run of calm and sunny days.
This weather geek says possibly a product of last September's “Sudden Stratospheric Warming” (see link below to excellent article by Craig Brokensha and BOM explanations) and the resulting negative SAM that so dramatically impacted the conditions back home in Australia.
As a result the seasonal melt has gone to levels previously not seen by the long-time Expeditioners down here, and the run-off creating a myriad of small creeks and bigger crevasses across the moraine and down to the Ocean.
With this I have been fortunate enough to do some ski touring out to some of the field huts, from short day trips to a recent overnight trip. Lightweight tool of choice around these parts is the pattern base Madshus Eon at 62 underfoot. So about 40mm less than my preferred. Great to hike and glide around on, but for a rusted on at the heel Alpine/AT - boy they were a nightmare when it came to turning. Especially on the blue ice that is such a large part of this Continent. To put it politely the self talk mantra was “pizza, pizza” among other more colourful words !
First tour was a day trip to the abandoned Wilkes Station which is about 18 km - a 6hr round trip. Previously a US Station which they handed over to Australia in 1959. As Wilkes had originally been built as a temporary station, rapid deterioration occurred in the extreme Antarctic environment. By 1964, the buildings had become a fire hazard due to fuel seepage, and the constant drift snow buried structures for most of the year. The deteriorated wooden buildings needed constant repair and in 1969 was closed and Australia relocated across the Bay to what is known as the Casey Repstat (or Replacement Station).
Last week a group of us went out to scope the Cane Lines (travel routes) for potential to re-open the field for the usual weekend recreational trips. We skied to Robinsons Ridge, where there is yep, Robbo’s Hut!!! Was 40km round trip with an overnight stay at Robbo’s.
Not long after this pic (above) we ended up removing the skis and walking to make better time, and ultimately safer progress over the unforgiving lunar-like surface.
The resorts back in Oz would call it “firm and fast”…..
One of the GPS waypoints along the Cane Line.
This one known as the R-line.
The canes have to be core drilled into the ice, similar to ski race gates.
Official log on to VNJ Casey (Comms) for the duration of the trip was “Robbo’s ski party”. Mandatory “scheds” are done twice daily at 1900 and 0800 hrs. Advise Station of our position, welfare of members, weather obs, intentions, state of track and vehicles etc, and also confirm CO2 monitoring is on.
Like all good backcountry trips I came home a tad battered and bruised, sore feet testimony to Station-supplied touring boots and the mileage, but otherwise intact. They say earn your turns tho this was a different kinda deal. Looking forward to getting that extra width, some serious edges and softer snow under my feet.
Also now looking forward to flying home in a couple of weeks, when the weather allows, seeing my wife and family again after nearly 5 months away from home, the grass under my feet and some South Coast sand between the toes , and salt water back in my veins.
Oh and longer than a 3 minute shower!
What an adventure, what a summer!