Weather issues have held up the team from making their way to the mountain. So the Mount Sidley 2019/2020 season has yet to begin in earnest.
First the three members of the team who were already in Antarctica tackling Mount Vinson were delayed in returning to Union Glacier by foggy conditions at Mount Vinson base camp. Now it looks as though the conditions at Mount Sidley are not ideal.
ALE will not fly to Mount Sidley unless there is a high degree of certainty that it will be safe to land when the plane gets there. Unlike at Union Glacier there are no groomed runways. The pilots land where they judge it to be safe. This could be in the crater or on the ice sheet.
ALE have installed fairly sophisticated infrastructure to enable good quality weather forecasting in the Union Glacier and Mount Vinson areas. But this does not exist at Mount Sidley. Therefore the professional weather forecasters that ALE engage have to rely on generic weather models to assess what conditions are likely to be at Mount Sidley.
This year I am anticipating that the Basler will be used as transport given the size of the party. The Basler cannot land in the crater because it is not a short take-off and landing aircraft like the Twin Otters. So it will land on the ice sheet.
Whilst the team waits, they will either socialise in the large mess tent or ALE will organise trips outside the camp.
Yesterday the five non-Vinson team members climbed Charles Peak. This lies about 8km (5 miles) across Union Glacier and provides a good leg stretch. It is a straightforward climb with little objective danger. It also gives the guides an opportunity to assess the client team.
Although there are no significant technical difficulties in climbing this peak, I can claim it to be the only place where I have fallen into a crevasse. Well that may be a bit of an exaggeration. My right leg went in up to its knee. Even if I had gone in much further, the crack was narrow enough that my body would not have squeezed through.
Wikipedia quotes a height of 990m (3,250ft) for Charles Peak, though my GPS measured 1,040m as its elevation. It is a rocky summit that thrusts out of the ice. Its most significant feature is its ice scoop. This is an icy valley that has been scoured by the action of the wind.
The image above shows Dave Roskelley’s Garmin track from the camp to Charles Peak and back again. The shadow of Mount Rossman towards the bottom right of the image casts itself over the camp. Charles Peak is top centre. The wind scoop is clearly visible to the right of Charles Peak.
On my trip we started from the right hand end of the scoop and followed it down to the left, around the loop to the bottom left of the peak and then back up and right. The final section of the climb was up rock so we took our crampons off for this section.
From the summit you can appreciate the awesome nature of Antarctica. Here are some photos from my trip.
If the weather forecast for Mount Sidley that I am looking at is correct, it looks as though the weather will improve there on Tuesday. Perhaps we will hear more then.
Dave Roskelley is running his own blog and you can find it here.
Update – 13th January 2020
According to Dave Roskelley’s blog the three further Sidley team members have been named. So the whole team is:
- David Roskelley (USA)*
- Vaughan de la Harpe (South Africa)*
- Andrew Hughes (USA)
- Arthur Marsden (South Africa)*
- Oleg Mezentsev (Russia)*
- Donald O’Connor (South Africa)
- Roxanne Vogel (USA)
- Rob Williams (South Africa)
- Andy Chapman (UK – ALE guide)
- Josh Hoeschen (USA – ALE guide)
Those marked with an asterisk will finish the V7S with the Sidley climb. They will also finish the Seven Summits/V7S combo.
The blog also indicates that they hope to fly to Mount Sidley later today.
[Note blog further updated on 14th January 2020 to add the names of the two ALE guides.]
The next blog is here.