This week at Mawson: 11 December 2015

What’s on the radio at Mawson station? The slushy, or kitchen assistant, decides and the picks may surprise you. Amateur climbers ascend Rumdoodle as part of training and are treated to spectacular views.

Slushy play list

A feature of life on Australian Antarctic Stations is the music piped though all the buildings via the station radio. This music is generally chosen by the daily “slushy” or kitchen helper and is the cause of much lively discussion, debate and derision.

This year at Mawson has been a relatively good one music wise and most of our inhabitants have played a great selection of tunes to set the mood at worksites and in the dining room.

It can be interesting to find out what sort of music appeals to different people, Diesos, for example, seem to love Country music and top 40 Britpop while hardened experienced plumbers have a love for big ballad love songs .. hello Mariah Carey! … Who would have guessed?

However there are those whose music suits them to a T .. Meteorological observers and “Frontier Psychiatrist” for example or Female Medicos and “Rocky Horror picture show”

As the station Chef I have heard a wide variety of music this year, some good and some terrible but always interesting and failing that there is always earmuffs and Panadol.

The Slushy playlist of the year went to Peter Layt who seemed to know that Chefs in general are always singing the blues.

A couple of expert slushies at the sink with a load of dishes providing advice on how to clean them.
A couple of expert slushies giving helpful advice.
(Photo: Kim de Laive)
Pete loving his days work as a slushy where he is on his knees scrubbing the floor..
Pete is loving his day’s work as slushy.
(Photo: Kim de Laive)
Linc with only the lower half of his body is showing off his best feature whilst scrubbing the exhaust hood.
Linc showing off his best feature whilst scrubbing the exhaust hood.
(Photo: Kim de Laive)
Angus turning the music up and I discussing the correlation between music volume and fine baking with the use of a rolling pin as a weapon..
Angus and I discussing the correlation between music volume and fine baking.
(Photo: Kim de Laive)

The ascent of Rumdoodle

On 6 December 2015 a team of five intrepid explorers left the safety and comfort of Mawson station to push their limits climbing to the summit of a mountain straight out of legend: Rumdoodle Peak.

Alright, I might need to back up a bit. The Ascent of Rum Doodle is a novel by WE Bowman that parodies real mountaineering records, and describes the first ever summitting of the worlds (fictional) tallest mountain, Rum Doodle. The name of Bowman’s fictional peak has since been adopted by a number of mountains and ridges around the world, including our very own Rumdoodle in the North Masson Range. Our Rumdoodle is admittedly a bit of a “baby brother” to the fictitious peak: 2871 feet above sea level as compared to 40000.5 feet. However, with four mountaineering novices in our group, it was still quite an experience.

The Rumdoodle ascent is a steep scree slope scramble from 460 metres above sea level to ~790 m above sea level, which is exhausting to say the least. Once at the top of the scree the team “ropes up” to complete the next ~80 vertical metres to the summit. Our plan was to climb the peak in teams of three — two novices with the field training officer (FTO) for each ascent — so the two non-climbers stayed at the bottom of the range and explored the local area while we set off.

Once the climbing crew reached the cliff face and I took a moment (several moments) to catch my breath we roped up and began the first pitch: 30 m of steep slab. Our FTO, John Burgess, does a traditional lead climb, which involves pulling a belay line up behind him and placing rock anchors as he progresses. Once he reaches the top of the pitch, he anchors to the ledge and belays the novices as we climb.

After reaching the top of the first pitch there is a ten metre sideways ledge, followed by another ~30 m of steep slab. All in all it is a technically easy mountain to summit, but when you throw in all the Antarctic gear, cold fingers, and what was once a crippling fear of heights, it definitely felt like a major achievement to reach the top. The rewards are threefold too: satisfaction in overcoming mental barriers caused by being in high places, satisfaction in doing something physically challenging with your body, and the spectacular views from the top of the world.

All in all, I think it is an experience that we won’t quickly forget.

A view from a rocky cliff down to an icy landscape
Don’t look down.
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
A cliff side with an expeditioner at top and climbing rope dangling below him.
Up doesn’t look so bad.
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
An expeditioner is climbing a rocky slope, their face covered by goggles, helmet and balaclava, and a cloud-like icy expanse below
Heading past JB on belay, top can’t be far now.
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
An expeditioner takes a selfie using a selfie stick and fish eye lens to show the top of a cliff, land and ice far below
(Photo: Angus Cummings.)
Two expeditioners on the top of a peak, with clouds all around them
Sam on his first climb.
(Photo: Angus Cummings.)