The Taaffe Ridge walk is a favourite amongst the 76th ANARE. This week Clokey shares some amazing pictures and a recent trip account.

Taaffe Ridge, the jewel of the Vestfold Hills

Radio Transmission 1245 08 Sept ‘23

“VLZ Davis, VLZ Davis, Taaffe Party on 7.”

“This is VLZ, go ahead.”

“Hey Tom, red and blue Häggs with seven persons heading onto the sea ice enroute to Taaffe ridge, will call in on the hour every hour.”

“No worries Clokey, have a great weekend.”

We are off, seven expeditioners, two Häggs and 28 different types of electronic communications to ensure all contingencies are covered in the event of an emergency. It’s a perfect spring day in the Vestfold Hills, “the Riviera of the South”, -20°C degrees, clear blue skies, zero to five knots of wind and nine hours of sunlight.

Within 500m of our journey we are passing an array of icebergs and islands.  Sadly, it is too early in the season for our penguin and seal friends but they will soon be arriving in droves, bringing life back to the frozen and barren land as the summer rapidly approaches.

An hour or so after leaving station we arrive at the start of our walk.  The Häggs cannot go any further across the bay as multi-year ice and fragment icebergs have made the surface too jagged and rough to drive across.  The vehicles are shut down, gloves and goggles donned and field packs loaded onto our backs.

The breeze has picked up and with the wind chill, the temperature feels closer to −30.  We slowly make our way around the fragmented sea ice onto the shore. Scrambling over the tide cracks, up some blizz tails, over some boulders and around other obstacles we eventually make our way into the valley below Taaffe Ridge.

From here, the path is quite simple. We walk over a sequence of frozen lakes connected by small land bridges, each lake a few meters higher in elevation then the last. During summer the array of waterfalls and crystal clear water would make for some epic swimming (if it wasn’t in the sub-zero climate of Antarctica). Both sides of the valley are fringed with high ice cliffs, all different and spectacular, marking the end of the Antarctic Ice Plateau and the beginning of the Vestfold hills (0.5% of the Antarctic continent is ice free).

We eventually make our way to the end of the valley. It's quite easy to forget that 80% of the walk has been achieved on various forms of frozen water. The cold quickly whips away from you any warmth generated during the hike so after taking some pictures, it’s time to turn around and head back to the Häggs. Remembering we left them unlocked and with the keys in the ignition, we hope they haven’t been stolen!

A 15 minute Hägg drive across another iceberg-filled frozen bay and we are at Platcha Hut, a remote field hut with the basic necessities to ward of the cold for the night: a gas heater, gas stove and some bunk beds, our 5 star accommodation for the night.

“VLZ Davis, VLZ Davis, Taaffe party on 21” (UHF channel 7 seldom works in this area)

“This is VLZ, go ahead”.

“Hey VLZ, health of party is good and Häggs are off the ice, at Platcha hut for the night, will call again 0900 tomorrow”.

“Thanks guys, have a good evening”.

Mick Cloke