The next stage of my field training was in the basic mountaineering skills required for anyone who wanted to make it off base and into the more interesting areas of the ridgeline above Rothera. Unfortunately by this time the weather had deteriorated considerably, with snow clouds closing in and 30 knot winds to contend with.
Once again, with my fellow newbie and our trusty Field Assistant, we headed up into the hills above Rothera and to the edge of the ridgeline. As soon as the going got rougher, we stopped to strap on crampons and rope up – crevasses are a real risk, and the safest way to travel is with someone else tied on to you, who could potentially hold your fall if you do suddenly drop down a big hole!
With the wind howling around us, and our faces battered by tiny ice crystals, we headed for the shelter of the craggy rocks at the top of the ridge, where we practised various self-arrest techniques – i.e. using an ice-axe to halt your fall (or your roped partners fall) on snow and ice. With these skills under our belts, we were able to head up further into what became a stunning walk along snowy ridgelines and broken rock.
Once back on base, it was a shock to step indoors and for the wind to suddenly stop. My face felt as though it had been scrubbed briskly all over with a brillo-pad – skincare, Antarctic style.