A caning in the Framnes and an unexpected night in the field at Mawson this week.

An unexpected night in the field

I have installed myself in a comfortable armchair, in front of the bay windows, overlooking the windswept rocks. In my hands I have a cup of Jasmine tea. I have arrived at Mawson.

After three days on the station, I already have so much to tell, however today I have decided to share with you our first journey off the base to Mount Henderson. It is our first journey off the base and only one day after our survival training.

So, jump in the Hagg with me and lets’s go!

Mount Henderson is the mountain that captures your eye when you arrive at Mawson. Its jagged cut shape that in the crystal clear light makes you want to go to it, to touch the rock.

It’s Friday night and the station relaxes noticeably, the weekend is here. Justin offers to drive us to Hendo and find this giant of a mountain. We climb into the Hagg and set off on a battling jerky trip over the Sastrugi climbing up onto the continent towards the plateau.

After an hour’s ride we arrive at our mountainous neighbour who looks over us daily. To view it up close is an incredible experience.

We travel on and around the mountain edging into a gap where we find the Hendo field hut. I am thrilled to be here, I wrap up in my survival gear as I want to feel the rock under my feet, to climb, to get closer. We clamber higher and higher towards the summit and upon reaching it we stop to admire the jaw dropping scenery. Icebergs are scattered out to sea. Seemingly weightless, floating on the sea ice as the sun sinks slowly lighting up the mountain in floods of orange.

John is back at the hut, already painting on his field easel trying to capture the moment.

After 30 minutes of calm, the wind picks up, the “Katabatic” has arrived. We scramble back down to the field hut to find refuge in the cabin. It comes in the form of a hot cup of tea.

It is late, and although the nights are short the sun is setting. Time to leave and return to the station. We climb aboard and prepare to go. But our Hagg will not start. Justin radios for help and tries to find the problem. He has no luck. The lateness of the hour and the windy conditions mean help can not come until the morning. We will need to spend the night in the hut. In the light of candles and the now howling wind we climb into the four bunks and gently fall asleep.

The next morning the wind growls like a grumbling captain. As if to welcome us to his grand ship, that is Antarctica. Justin rises at dawn and bravely challenges the conditions to work on the Hag. Finally after several hours he finds the culprit: a blown fuse. Before he can fix it the wind tears a door off, but with some duct tape and ingenuity we are able to resume our journey back to the station. Our heads full of memories of the night we got stuck on Mount Henderson.

Darron and John get caned in the Framnes Mountains

Over the last couple of days before the first of the summer personnel arrived by plane, Darron and John headed up the hill into the mountains to complete the job of installing new cane markers along established travel routes.

These canes provide visual reference points for expeditioners following GPS waypoints and routes when travelling on the plateau.

Over the years the canes become bruised and battered by gale force winds and blizzards, as well as succumbing to the vagaries of melt streams.

After a long day spent completing the cane line routes to both the Central Masson and South Masson Ranges, we spent a few hours hiking and exploring in the South Masson area.

We explored a little known wind scour south of Peak 994, and discovered an impressive cornice.

Some low grade rock climbing enabled us to scale the ridge between Peak 994 and Peak 1001.

Making our way towards Fang Hut, we stopped en route to investigate a desiccated seal carcass found lying on the plateau.

No one knows how it got here, but carbon dating may go some way towards solving the mystery.

The evening was spent relaxing and exploring the area around Fang Hut, where we stayed the night (as always, John opted to bivvy outside in the elements, this time on top of the ridge leading up to Mt Elliott).

The following day was spent completing the cane line down to Hordern Gap, before making our way back to station in preparation for the imminent arrival of the summer expeditioners.