Location: Mavericks, Ulvetanna Base Camp, S 71 49.146′, E 008 21.867′
Temperature: -5 C, sunny and clear, 10 knots.
Date – 25/12/12
CHRISTMAS ON THE MOON
Amazing weather greeted us for our Christmas Day ski tour/recon to the base of the wall. Clear sunny skies and warm temperatures definitely gave the day a holiday feel. We left camp on skis with light packs and headed out across flat wind packed snow.
With Ulvetanna’s sharp spires and towering buttresses looming closer, the group’s morale was high. Soaking in the absolutely stunning scenery we took our time, stopping every few hundred metres to shoot photos and marvel at the views.
The safest approach took us to the absolute start of the NE ridge we plan to climb, where Ulvetanna starts to rise from the flat expanse of ice. We skied to a small col then ditched the skis and scrambled along a rocky spine separating the north and east faces.
To our right, steep snow slopes dropped to the bowl beneath the north face, while to the left the terrain plummeted hundreds of meters over a cliff to a glacier far below.
The team scrambled along this ridge, Ulvetanna’s sit-start, until the mountain shot up into sheer vertical alpinism and we couldn’t continue without rack and rope. Here at the start of the climb, we found a sheltered scoop in the snow field which we decided would make a perfect advanced base camp.
We arrived late and although the sun was warm in our little snow valley, the cold shadow of Ulvetanna relentlessly crept closer. We ran away. Nobody wanted to be caught in that icy shade. Once the sun leaves, temps plummet by tens of degrees and life stops being enjoyable. Existence is reduced to the most basic needs of food and shelter.
Today we could strap on our skis and head back to the sunlight but once on the wall we’ll be forced to endure until the sun completes its circle around the Antarctic sky and brings us warmth again. We’ll live in terms of sun and shade rather than day and night.
After a quick stop for tea we skied away toward our distant base camp. Behind us the sharp spine of the NE ridged sliced upward toward our future camps. The weather was beautiful and the climb looked spectacular.
Tomorrow we’ll start shuttling loads the 4 km they need to be moved. It feels great to be moving toward our objective and we’re looking forward to the adventure that’s sure to come.
Over and out
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