Today has been a day of contrasts. From extreme cold and wind to complete stillness and heat. From hyperactivity to complete lack of movement.
The wind raged all night, but I slept through most of it. From 5:30am on I laid in my sleeping bag and listened to the freight train roar and watched the tent shake violently and to try to rip free of our anchors. Today was our day to climb Mt Charles. We waited for the wind to abate, but it was not happening so at 11:00 we decided to head out regardless. With jackets zipped up, goggles on, crampons on, and ice axes in hand we turned into the wind and started up.
The initial part of the climb was up a 35 degree snow ramp. The wind was fierce and made the otherwise easy climb about 30-40% more difficult. It did not take too long for us to reach the col where the wind intensified. It was blowing a steady 70-80kph with gusts over 100.
The ridge to the summit alternated from rock to snow and from gentle to steep. All along the wind tried to push us down. Close to the top we roped up as the drops on either side became more severe. We reached the top as a team and celebrated. We were treated to spectacular 360° views of mountains and glaciers for as far as the eye could see. We could even see the marathon track laid out on the ice as a snow cat slowly moved along grooming the trail. We took some photos but did not remain on the top for too long. The wind and the cold quickly drove us down.
With the rope floating freely in the wind we started down. The way down was much easier with gravity working with us and the wind at our backs. The final slope to the tents was beautiful as we looked out across the frozen sea of ice that is our temporary home.
Once back at camp we had lunch and laid down to rest. When I woke the wind had completely died and the sun has warmed our tent to an almost unbearable heat. We are only eight km from union Glacier base camp but have decided to stay on the ice one more night. It will be all too soon that we re-enter the chaos of civilization and we want to savour our final hours of peace and solitude on the ice of Antarctica.
Summit life! Scott.