Seeing our impatience Steve suggests a cross-country skiing excursion and Ian and I jump at the chance. Hans and Christian are not keen as they want to sunbathe outside their tent. They are sharing the one tent as they often climb together, it will get them used to the close quarters when they finally get their chance to attempt Vinson. Ann Ward, the camp’s doctor hears about our planned trip and asks to come with us. She’s good company so we are very happy to agree. The skis are kept in a storeroom and when we inspect them they turn out to be rather battered and worn. There are no special ski boots. Still beggars can’t be choosers. The boots I have with me are really only for climbing and trekking and I have a difficult time fitting them to the skis. I manage it somehow but they feel pretty loose and I’ll just have to take my chances.
Steve skis ahead with Ian and I follow with Ann. Soon we are all whizzing along and it’s very exhilarating. The ice is bumpy and it sends us spraying ice in all directions. Ian is the first to come off and then Ann takes a tumble. Then it’s my turn. Steve is as competent on skis as one would expect from his other skills and never falls over. We start to ski as a unit and fan out like easy riders moving more or less gracefully forward in formation across the great white Antarctic plains.
Antarctic Circle On World Map Photo Gallery
Steve leads us towards a small plane wreck, hardly visible in the snow unless you know what you are looking for. It’s the body of a Cessna that crashed a few years back. Powerful winds had caught hold of it and toppled it on to its side. Although the pilot was relatively unhurt, the tangled body of the plane serves to emphasise the constant dangers there are of high winds and ever-changing weather that we all must be on our guard against. Max would be only too aware of these precarious situations and obviously wouldn’t fly unless he felt confident enough he could cope with the conditions.
We take photographs of the crash and of each other on skis then it’s time to turn around and race back to the camp. Ann is soon in front although I guess Steve is content to let her win, as he skis comfortably alongside me and has no difficulty matching my pace. Right on cue, as we ski into camp my bindings on both feet loosen and I nosedive into a perfectly placed snow ramp. Nothing but my dignity is hurt. I limp nonchalantly past the tent of Hans and Christian who, true to their word, are lolling in the sun outside. It looks so strange to see two men sunbathing wearing thick clothes and only allowing the sun to beam to their faces. It doesn’t seem too wise, but then again, they are Swiss and they know more than most about mountains, snow and sun. We wave happily to each other and they seem more cheerful than I would be in their forced stationary circumstances. They seem quite content to sit it out till the weather decides. The four of us put the skis away and head to the hut for hot chocolate and biscuits. I am starting to get used to this life, insulated from contact with a faster moving pace. It’s definitely a danger signal and I immediately get to my feet.
I decide I still want to explore some more today and would particularly like to climb on my own for a time. I ask permission and it is readily given. One of the managers just needs to know in which direction I am heading and my intentions in case they have to come looking for me. I point at the far ridge of the Ellsworth Mountains, just beyond the airstrip and say that’s my goal. I load up my day pack with some food and water and a few other necessities which I feel I might need. I am asked if I want to wait for a lift on a ski-doo but on my first day I prefer to rely on my own resources. I put on loads of sunscreen, two pairs of gloves, my thick and heavy hat and thus suitably attired, set off.