Thursday, July 24, 2008


The moonlit A-Frame

During the winter, the Kiwis let us use their A-Frame for overnight recreational trips. During the summer, they use it to house their instructors during Happy Camper school. Rumor has it that it used to be one of our buildings, but we threw it away and the Kiwis recycled it. Traditionally, it is only available to us once a month, but you can also make special requests. Our friend, Katie, doesn't have the same day off as everyone else so a few of us requested the day off so we could head out to the A-Frame during the week with her.

B-Nelson says . . .

We caught a piston bully ride out to the A-Frame just after dinner on Monday night. We went by Scott Base, past the Kiwi ski hill and Castle Rock turn off, and continued on in the direction of Windless Bite. Then, they dropped us off and headed back to town. We immediately got settled in. We lit the lantern, got some hot water boiling, and unpacked a little bit of our stuff. We had planned to play cards, but all we ended up doing for the entire night was chatting and drinking our favorite treats (Oregon Chai, Monteith's Black, or scotch carried in a recycled wine bag). It was so nice to just be out of town for a change.

Katie, Talie, B-Nelson and me inside the A-Frame (photo by B-Nelson).

A-Frame trips are limited to six people. You can easily sleep three on the right in the above picture and three more can sleep in the loft (the ladder is tied to the ceiling - visible at the top of the picture). The upstairs definitely has more heat, but the downstairs is plenty comfortable if the stove has been running long enough. Luckily for us, the A-Frame trip a couple days before ours had been canceled for weather so the stove had been heating the place for three days. The Kiwis keep the A-Frame stocked with fuel, a few containers of water which may or may not be frozen, sleeping bags, pillows, a lantern, and a bunch of other basic necessities. It is basically car camping at its finest.

A-frame and its outhouse.

When Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to summit Everest, came back down to the ice for his final trip a few years ago, he refused to stay on base. Instead, he chose to stay at the A-Frame (where a small plaque commemorates his stay just to the right of the stove). I'm guessing that his choice has something to do with how big our foot print has gotten here and how different it is from when he first was exploring this beautiful place.

Skiing north to Erebus, sunlight, warmth and home.

After a pretty good night of sleep, we got back to huddling around the fire. I don't think we did much but drink chai, sip tea, and stay warm. It was definitely colder in the morning, but we also didn't have anywhere to be. Our ride would come back to get us at 2pm and until then we were in no hurry. I think we talked by the fire until noon when we finally got motivated enough to out for a ski. When we first went outside, Erebus was completely unobscured. However, weather was moving in and within 30 minutes, you could barely see it. As the visibility continued to worsen, we turned back to the A-Frame just in case things got bad. When we got back, we packed up our gear, cleaned up, and waited for our Haglund ride back to Scott Base.

Our Haglund ride back to Scott Base.

This blog is a little too wrapped up in the facts and really doesn't do the experience justice. It was one of my best nights here in Antarctica for its sheer simplicity. It was a new experience. I chatted with good friends. I didn't need to worry about rushing here or there. It was a special night and I'll remember it fondly. Without these nights, I worry I'd end up with the 1,000 yard stare that Katie looks like she has in the picture below.

Katie's 1000 yard stare . . . . or she is about to become a zombie.

1 comment:

  1. i love that picture of the 4 people standing aligned, ready to ski down the mountain. it gives me a sense of camaraderie, of a group of people -- friends, colleagues -- looking toward the same path but each there for a different purpose. or maybe i'm just bullshitting, i dunno. lol

    now it makes me think ... i'm quite sad you'll be leaving mcmurdo soon ... i mean, i can't wait for you to move onto the next phase of your life, but you'll always have a soft spot for antarctica.