Mountaineering near Half Moon Bay
Well, our last day of exploring could not have been any better. The weather was perfect… some blue sky, sun out, stunning views, and pretty warm. Now by warm I mean 5º Celsius, but at this point that is pretty warm to me. My last expedition was a mountaineering trip. I had the option to maybe to a 4th kayak trip, which would have been amazing, but I wanted to stretch my legs, hike a bit and have my feet on land one last time. The hike was amazing. We harnessed up and tied ropes between us just in case someone fell into a hidden crevasse. We also put on snow shoes. The hike was on a glacier and we walked up along the side of a mountain ridge. As we got higher we were able to see the Half Moon Island and its bay with our ship safely anchored in it. It was beautiful and did look like a half-moon… who would have thought it, lol. As we climbed the weather seemed to get hotter and hotter. I had to shed layers quickly and was dripping sweat at one point. It still amazes me how little clothes you need down here, especially when you are being quite physical.
At the halfway point we stopped and three people on our team removed themselves from the rope, found a nice place to rest, and the remainder of us continued on up the glacier. We also saw the technical climbers making their way up the mountainside, using crampons and icepicks to scale their way up… it looked sweet. If I would have brought the appropriate footwear I would have done it in a heartbeat… next time!!!
It was pretty steep at times and difficult enough snow shoeing up, although more than doable. The top was great. White everywhere, blue skies with some clouds, wonderful shadows on the snow and mountains cast by those shadows, and the views of the surrounding mountains and bay were to die for. On our way down one of our guides, Tim, got a call from the crew on the main landing location on Half Moon Bay. They asked us all to wave at them because two of the 4 Desert runners were having a wedding ceremony and they wanted us to wave at them. It was just another unique moment on this wild trip.
Polar Dip #2
Once back at the shore line we took off our gear and took the Zodiac back to Half Moon Bay where three of us decided to do a Polar Dip. This was my second Polar Dip and I was very much looking forward to it. It would be nice to cool off after a physical morning hiking, and with the weather being so lovely it just felt like the right thing to do. Anant, Ali and I hit the shore, stripped down and dove in. I decided to actually swim a bit this time and got far enough out that I was no longer touching the ground. It was cold, very cold, but also quite refreshing. And there, standing on the shore drying ourselves off, would be our last opportunity to stand on land for the trip. We got back on the Zodiac and returned to the Plancius ship, hopefully to touch land again back in Ushuaia.
Wedding and Talks
In the evening we were able to celebrate with the wedding couple, drink some champagne to their prosperity, and even eat some wedding cake which the kitchen staff bake on the ship… very impressive. There was a lecture in the evening by our mountain guide, Tim, too. He shared his experience, with lots of amazing photos, working for the British Antarctica team back in 2000-2001. He was a field assistant and helped the scientists safely complete their studies, often bringing them to very remote locations. He would also organize outings for the staff, like hiking and skiing, to help keep moral high. He made it sound like a sweet job, and I must admit I am tempted to try and find a way to spend a season or two working down here myself… we will see : )
Back to Ushuaia
In the afternoon we took up anchor and left Half Moon Bay. The waves started picking up again and the ship started rolling. Leaving land behind us, we hit the Drake Passage and began our two day journey back to Ushuaia. People were already getting a bit sea-sick. The crew seemed to think that this was normal sailing conditions and weather, but for us land-lovers who had been used to being in calm conditions for the previous 5-6 days we were in for a long journey. Weather reports said that things might get much worse, too. Fifteen foot waves and the possibility of being locked in our cabins for safety would be a real possibility. Here we go…