We were bumped off our flight back to Christchurch at the last moment to cut weight on the plane so it had a chance to take off, giving us at least one extra day in McMurdo. Since we knew there was zero chance of flying out later in the day, Liz and I decided to make the best of the delay and do the Castle Rock hike here in McMurdo. The delay means the earliest I can be back home is Sunday the 13th because there are only three flights between Sydney and Los Angeles each week. That sucks a lot, but it meant we got to do this hike, so it wasn't the end of the world. And it was a beautiful day for it. 33 degrees F, almost zero wind, and enough clouds to keep us cool during our ascent. Here are a bunch of pictures chronicling the adventure. Enjoy!
Above town we found a disc golf basket when looking for the start of the hiking trail. Yes, that's right - there's disc golf in Antarctica.
We headed the wrong way at the start of the trek, but we got to see Obs Hill from the back. There was a patch of pretty red rocks to break the monotony of brown and black everywhere.
It's been really warm here in McMurdo. Above town where the hike starts there was a giant lake of melted snow. Not a big deal, except that it was the first open water we've seen in months.
The hike is mostly along a snowy peninsula up to Castle Rock, a prominent rocky outcropping a couple miles out of town. The trail (rather, snow) started out in pretty rough shape. Lots of ice/rock craters to twist an ankle in. But it only lasted a quarter mile or so and then cleared up for a nice pleasant walk.
Getting pretty far above town now. Obs Hill is the pointy hill in the background.
Apple 1 - a survival hut a mile into the hike. It's out here in case hikers get caught in surprise weather.
Inside the Apple. Rations and survival gear to last long enough to get rescued in case anyone gets stranded out here.
Castle Rock first appeared after reaching a crest just past the Apple.
Around 2:30 we heard a plane and turned around. It was the LC-130 headed to Christchurch (the black speck in the middle of the picture). We were supposed to be on that plane... ah, well. Perhaps tomorrow?
As we got closer to Castle Rock the clouds started breaking up to reveal the base of Mount Erebus another 25 miles away.
Another Apple at mile marker 2, just shy of Castle Rock.
This one was a little bigger inside.
Finally made it to Castle Rock. Now, to find the way up...
Rounding the corner, we finally spotted a trail to head up. This is still more or less the front face. The trail was around back and little less steep. There were ropes anchored to the rock to help us up and down, though.
At the summit looking back towards town. Obs Hill is the tiny triangular peak just to the right of the left-most rock outcropping.
Me at the Castle Rock summit, with looming Mount Erebus in the clouds.
Rocky islands in the sea ice behind me,
A cool volcanic rock we saw on the way down.
After climbing back down we looked back at a seemingly endless line of flags marking our way.
Standing at the base of Castle Rock after climbing back down. And we only got a little sunburned despite packing our sunscreen in our palletized bags. Take THAT ozone hole!