This week at the station

This week at Mawson: 7 February 2014

The ferocious Fang

This ambiguous title does relate to an animal, metaphorically speaking. Antarctica presents many challenges on many levels and this title relates to one of mine, a mountain called Fang.

I am just a suburban boy, (to quote Dave Warner from “The Suburbs”) and a sandgroper to boot. You really have to go hunting in the Porongurups, in the South West of W.A., to find anything a climber would show a flicker of interest in.

Our intrepid leader said, “Look if you want to go climbing, get onto the climbing wall in the Green Store first.”

So I did, and after my induction, our Field Training Officer John, a kindly, patient gentleman, brought me into the world of “On belay, climb when ready.”

Next I needed a destination and a posse.

I had Fang in mind because I had been into the David Range before and a hut sits right at Fang’s base. Keldyn developed a plan and John and I became his accomplices in crime.

Fang is 1005 metres high and is named because it resembles a dog’s canine tooth in profile. We climbed from the hut on the western side through a short scree slope to a ridge and onto the climb proper.

John’s expertise was confidence-inspiring and his professional approach comes with a money back guarantee. We roped up twice through the more exposed (read, scary) sections.

The last ten metres were the most challenging for me and I needed close instruction (read, John did carry me on his back) to be able to summit.

However, it was sweet to overcome ones fears and triumph over this climb.

Why do it? It is a physical pursuit, it requires technical know-how and it absorbs you which are all great for the brain box.

Thanks to John and Keldyn for inviting me along.

Mal Vernon

Mawson climbing wall
All in all it's just another ... the Mawson climbing wall
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)
Expeditioner sitting in the rocks on a belay stop near Fang Peak
Keldyn takes a breather on a belay ledge
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)
Expeditioner belays a rope along the ridge of the peak
John on belay duties
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)
Distant peak on the icy plateau
A distant peak in the otherwise great white hell
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)
Expeditioner wearing helmet and harness at the start of Fang Peak climb
Keldyn mentally prepares for the climb
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)
The dark rock of the Casey range rises out of the ice plateau
The Casey Range to the west
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)
One man holds the rope secure while the other lowers himself over the edge of the Fang Peak.
Keldyn approaching the belay ledge
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)
Mt Parsons is a dark rock peak rising out of the icy surrounds.
Mt Parson looms to the north
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)
The author smiling on the summit with Fang Peak Mt Elliott behind.
Mal on the summit, Mt Elliott behind.
(Photo: Malcolm Vernon)

Twintops visited

Having been given a short reprieve from being forcibly deported back to Australia, a number of us headed inland to an area that has been identified as a possible alternative lading site for Mawson.

We travelled through the famed Horden Gap and out to Mount Twintops. On arrival we soon found that the area at the way point was more snow-covered than blue ice, but fortunately an area just north seemed suitable. Having chosen a site we marked it, and made camp near the mountain.

After a bit of dinner we climbed up the scree slopes to the peak. Close to the top there is a small cache of food under an unusually large and out-of-place rock. Right at the top we found a drum marker that has been signed be passers-by all the way back to the 70’s. There was also a small broken glass jar with a piece of paper signed by crews as far back as 1958.

We made it back to camp as the sun was setting, and turned in for the night. Some woke to clear plateau morning; others (somewhat involuntarily) had stayed up most of the night to experience the fresh mountain air. We made a way though a few crevasses to the site, and set to work. Soon the wind dropped and the temp rose enough to make the work quite pleasant.

We soon finished all the work required and bumped and jolted all the way home to Mawson. As always it is a great privilege to get out to areas that expeditioners let alone the wider population ever make it to.

Twintops camp with 5 tents and 2 Hagglunds parked next to them.
Twintops camp ground - clean modern facilities.
(Photo: Pete W)
Food cache of Horlicks drinking powder, a tin of butter and biscuit in a plastic cover.
The local shop with a cache of old food found
(Photo: Pete W)
A note dated 1958 with names of expeditioners listed
Notes from the past, 1958
(Photo: Pete W)
Surveyer measuring with distances roped out across the ice.
Measuring up
(Photo: John Burgess)
Measuring the landing site with surveying instruments
More measuring
(Photo: John Burgess)