Morning – Georges Point
After 2 days of sea crossing we awoke with excitement to see the shores of Antarctica. The weather in the weeks earlier had been warm and wet but as we crossed the Drake Passage a cold storm had brought fresh snow to the Peninsula giving the mountains and glaciers we could see a fresh duting of new snow. With a stiff breeze at our backs the mornings climbing team, comprised of passengers without crampon compatible boots, made a shore landing at Georges Point.
The seas here were a bit rough so we moved slightly from the normal landing site to a more sheltered one where we ended up accessing the glacier directly.
The glacier here was free from snow and down to bare white ice – with no crevassing evident the team were able to walk in snow shoes (for grip) higher on the glacier where we roped up and made our way to a short col low on the flanks of Mount Tennant – for a non-technical group this was an amazing journey that required them to cross a few interesting crevasses and a short medium angled slope. Amazing views – photo opportunities – good laughs and a glacier excursion were exactly what was needed after 2 days of sea travel! The return to the shore was faster than the climb up and shortly after we were eating a well deserved lunch and coming to the realization that we were actually in Antarctica!
Afternoon – Spigot Peak
A smaller team was pulled together for the afternoons journey up Spigot Peak. Conditions on the peak were testing with firm hard rain frozen snow covered in places by a fresh dusting of wind driven snow from the previous 2 day storm.
A colony of Chinstrap penguins call Spigot peak their home – these sea going flightless birds are mountaineers in their own right – and to see them ‘surf’ the snow slopes to ocean below to go hunting for fish to feed their chicks. Some of these birds can be found more than ½ way up Spigot Peak!
Given the conditions the team had to make their way between the hard, icy surface and the exposed rocky snow filled terrain. Steep exposed crampon work with Andy and Mal using short roping techniques allowed the team the sneak their way past the dinner plate hard ice to make the final summit – the 360 degree views of ORNE harbour and the Gerlach Strait were amazing – even with a rapidly greying sky, stiffening breeze and dropping temperatures.
But here we were only ½ way – we still had to descend – so carefuly retracing our ascent route we made our way back to the shore where our zodiac was waiting to take us back once more to our warm home – Ortelius.