Keeping an eye out for crevasses

Published on 17.01.2010 - To the South Pole and beyond…

Cécilie Skog and Ryan Waters continue unhurriedly on their way towards the Transantarctic Mountains.

Skog and Waters know what lies ahead of them: the section of their trip that they will be undertaking shortly promises without doubt to be the most difficult, if not the most dangerous of their entire adventure. It has to be said that very few people pass through this part of the Frozen Continent. For the past few years, most of the expeditions -even the professional ones- that we cover here are limited to treks between Hercules Inlet and the South Pole or from the Ronne Ice Shelf to the South Pole. Without wanting to play down what despite everything is an extraordinary feat of daring and endurance, it has to be said that the main difficulties of these two routes, which have now become 'classics', can be summed up in terms of crevasses and a few fields of sastruggis (apart from the weather conditions, of course, which can be appalling here and elsewhere in Antarctica).

In this case, with the Skog/Waters expedition, things are a little different. They are now approaching the Transantarctic Mountains (named by US ACAN, United States Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, in 1962). This massif features a good number of glaciers that travellers have to negotiate on their way down to the Ross Ice Shelf and on to the base at McMurdo and Scott Base. Yet, whether it is going up or down, Antarctica's polar history has demonstrated that these glaciers can be extremely dangerous. For a start, they are dotted with numerous areas of crevasses that very often are covered by a thin ridge of snow that crumbles easily under the weight of someone passing over them and which makes them practically invisible to the naked eye.

It's through this terrain that Skog and Waters will be venturing in the coming days. "We have tried to avoid these difficulties for as long as possible by keeping to the west of our route," wrote Waters in his update on 14th January. "But this time, we're in the thick of it. The Devil's Dance Floor is calling..."

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