Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Hike up Observation Hill

A week ago I mustered enough energy to climb Observation Hill (also know as Ob Hill) which overlooks McMurdo Station. The elevation is only 754 ft and only a half mile long.  But it is a step climb, by my standards.

Hikers making their way to the top of Ob Hill a week earlier. 

It was a sunny day with the temperature in the low 20s, perfect for hiking.  There was some wind so I ended up wearing my neck gaiter to protect my face.  I also needed my sunglasses because of the sun.  With the gaiter my breath kept fogging up my glasses.  So it was either the gaiter or the glasses.  I chose the gaiter.

One of the webcams on the weather and webcam page is located about a third of the way up.  On this same level is a monument commemorating the site of the first and only nuclear power plant built in Antarctica.  It was constructed in the early 1960s and operational for 10 years, from 1962 to 1972.  It was decommissioned and the site released for use in 1979.

The plaque commemorating the site of the nuclear power plant.

From this level to the top, the grade of the trail steepened.  Snow covered part of the trail and made it difficult to follow.  But it’s heavily used and so I just followed the footsteps of others.  I hike like the tortoise in the tortoise and the hare story, slow but steady.  But even at a slow pace I had to periodically stop and catch my breath.  It reminded me of a hike I did in the Palm Springs area earlier this year with my friends John and Joan.  The name of that trail is the Bump and Grind, and it truly was.  The views from both trails are beautiful but polar to speak.
I didn’t break any land speed records but made it to the top just fine.  I had the place all to myself.  In fact, I only saw two people the whole time, one on my way up and the other  going down.  And both were near the bottom of the trail.

View from the top looking down on McMurdo.
It was well worth the trip.  The views were beautiful.  The cross on top is to commemorate Captain Robert Falcon Scott, a famous Antarctic explorer, and his crew who lost their lives on the return trip from the South Pole in 1912.  

The plaque close to the cross that commemorates
Captain Scott and his crew.
To the north is Mount Erebus (elevation 12,448 ft), the southern most active volcano in the world.  It is located  approximately 20 miles from McMurdo.  To the east is Mount Terror (elevation 10,702 ft).

Mt. Erebus in the clouds with Castle Rock in the foreground.
Note the smoke at the top of Erebus.

Mt. Terror to the right and Mt. Terra Nova to the left.  Windmills help
generate energy for McMurdo Station and Scott Base.

Scott Base, the New Zealand Antarctic research station, is the only green thing you’ll see in this part of Antarctica.  It is so neat and tidy.  They house less than 100 people, so quite a bit smaller than McMurdo Station.  I went over to Scott Base for their American Night last week and visited their store and bar.  They were wonderful hosts.  Close to Scott Base are the pressure ridges which I visited last week, and the subject of my next post.

Scott Base with the pressure ridges in the background.

I stayed on top for about 45 minutes before I made my way down.  The trip down was more difficult than the trip up because of the scree or broken rocks.  My knees didn't like the slipping and sliding.  It wasn't particularly dangerous but by the time I made it down I decided it might be my first and last trip to the top.  However it was good exercise, the views magnificent and something to check off my to-do list.  There is a mid-slope trail around the hill called the Ob Hill Loop and it doesn't have much elevation gain.  That will be my next hike.  

The view from the top of Ob Hill looking east onto the Ross Ice Shelf.

1 comment:

Gianni alsoknownas John said...

The views from atop Ob Hill are wonderful. So great you could make it up there at least one time! That active volcano across the ice shelf would keep me up at night- yikes. I was surprised to read about the nuclear power plant- seems so out of place in a place so pristine!

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