Training climb of Middle Stork near RotheraNovember 23, 2012
Still waiting for better weather in the Larsen B region, as a fairly significant storm has been slowly making its way across the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. In contrast, the weather in Rothera has been generally superb, with clear skies and gentle winds. I’ve been running every other day or so, doing some image processing work for Ted, and playing some guitar in the evenings. But this morning I heard that my current general field assistant (GA) Roger Stilwell and radio officer Karen Fowler, who I had met in Punta Arenas, were planning a ski outing. I asked them if I could go too, and they graciously accepted.
By the time we actually set out, Roger had decided to make this more of a mountaineering training (mostly for me since Karen has more Antarctic mountain experience). So in addition to our skis, we strapped on climbing harnesses and associated jingle-jangles as well as carrying crampons. Our goal turned out to be a ski/climb of Middle Stork, a 515-meter peak just west of Rothera Station. After a short skidoo up to the Kaboose, Roger rope-towed Karen and me up a 200-meter bunny slope to practice our skiing. Karen did great, and I … didn’t fall, which considering the fact that I hadn’t done alpine skiing in several years was a great accomplishment.
After another short rope tow, we roped up and skin-skiied into Stork Bowl, including negotiating a rather steep cornice ringing the east side of the bowl. We then zig-zagged our way up the steepening north side of the bowl. I had to change from skis to crampons part way up since my somewhat inferior skins and somewhat more inferior technique kept causing me to slip. But with Roger’s assistance–helping me with my crampons and carrying my skis–and Karen’s patience, we made it to the saddle between South and Middle Stork where we stopped for lunch.
Karen and Roger also exchanged skis for crampons and we continued up the steep southeast flank. We dodged a couple of small crevasses (slots as they’re called here), and summited at about 1 p.m. The weather on top was warm and windless, thus without the usual anxiety about weather and approaching darkness that mountaineering in Colorado usually evokes. We cramponed back down to the saddle, removed the skins from our skis, and attempted more alpine skiing in the bowl. This time I had several butt-falls but no face plants, and Roger had to haul me by my rope harness back up over the cornice, back to the skidoo and more rope towing to the Ramp. Many thanks to Roger and Karen for a fantastic outing!