We have seen a lot of them. But first, here is Tom Carrell’s report of climbing a real South Georgia peak.
Stephen, Gavin and I set off early after Martin had risen even earlier, concerned that we shouldn’t set off without the full nutritional benefit that only his cooked breakfast could provide. Miles dropped us off in Ocean Bay by Zodiac to the bemused looks of assembled fur seals, penguins and a small herd of reindeer. Not unreasonable, I suppose, as the sight of three men on the beach in full ski kit is an odd one the world over.
The temperature is warming (ie above freezing) and the snow at sea level is steadily melting, so we had a good slog uphill for a couple of hundred metres before reaching good snow cover and beginning the ski approach to our objective – Black Peak. Higher up, massive avalanches had swept the slopes and so we picked a long, sinuous route up a ridge system to be safe. The pace was steady and relentless, slowing down up high as the gradient steepened above exposed hardpacked slopes that had been stripped by the spring avalanches. We swapped ski for crampons and ice axes to reach the spectacular ridge that ran between the two summits. Unusually clear weather gave us fine views all around, from Pelagic Australis moored next to the wreck of the Bayard around to the Szielasko icecap now below us – an area of permanent accumulation of snow and ice on top of this small range of mountains. We were unsure which summit was highest so climbed both, paying attention to avoid a large cornice undercutting one.
Skis on for the descent, we had an exhilarating ride down – big sweeping turns until the lower, softer snow and complex systems of rock ledges required a more cautious approach, picking a route down as far as we could ski.
All that remained was a three kilometre walkout in skiboots to meet the boat now moored in East Cumberland Bay – with that satisfied feeling of tired limbs and new memorable experiences. The elephant seal watching us embark gave us a more nonchalant look, as if he’d seen it all before.
OK….. that sets team B’s stroll over the headland in context….
This afternoon we are still at anchor in Cobbler’s Cove. This morning most of us did an exhilarating walk/scramble up steep slopes of snow and scree from the cove shore to visit the macaroni penguin colony at Rookery point. A small advance guard of about a dozen had arrived, ready to breed after long months at sea. Soon they will be coming ashore in hundreds. The pioneers were standing about between the tussocks, looking suitably debonair with their macaroni feathers blowing in the wind.
I attach a picture, with the promise that it will be the only penguin photograph to appear in this blog. If anyone requires insomnia treatment, come round to mine once I am home and I will show you the other 5,212.
We are about to sail round to KEP to fill Pelagic’s water tanks ready for the passage back to Stanley.
Tomorrow – Prion Island and the albatrosses.