Antarctica in Pictures, Part 8: Camp Neptune

We left Williams Hills Camp in the afternoon, following our flagged track back to Camp Neptune.  Pillow Knob stand tall behind us, and Camp Rock to the right.  The small bit of rock visible on the far right is officially-on-the-map Teeny Rock, the northern-most point of the Williams Hills.  Its Bitsy Rock, which we had set foot on, was the southern-most.  
Back at Camp Neptune, it was time to set up camp for the last time.  We had a week to examine three objectives, so when the weather became the most unsettled of the trip, we didn't mind spending an extra day in camp.

The Scott tents are virtually unchanged from Sir Rober Scott's designs 100 years ago.  The double wall, canvas structure is incredibly strong in foul weather, sleeps up to four crammed, and allows someone stand to their full height inside.  We bunked two to a tent.

Another game of chess.

And a lot of eating. | photo Claire Todd

Finally the weather cleared up and we set out to examine Web Nunatak, Astro Peak, and Elbow Peak.  These sites are 30km away from the Foundation Ice Stream, and their expected to give us the oldest dated rocks. | photo Claire Todd

Tossing rocks at Sombrero Rock.  The glacier was impressively crevassed around this area. | photo Claire Todd

Climbing up Astro Peak. | photo Claire Todd

Looking up the NW Ridge of Elbow Peak. | photo Claire Todd

The summit register on Elbow Peak.  We were the third and fourth teams to reach the summit.  This USSR team summited in 1980. | photo Claire Todd

On our last scheduled day in the Neptune Range, we took a field trip 25km up-valley to the dry Miller Valley.  This incredible area is swept bare of snow by the wind, and glaciers no longer reach over the ridges.  The white quartzite feature in the middle of the photo, which we named Mammoth Rock, appeared to have a climbable, fifth class feature on the right skyline.  I'm open to any financial support for a climbing expedition to here and the peak to the right, which was made of the same rock and had several appealing buttresses.

On the way back to camp, Seth and I made a detour and climbed Elbow Peak - we weren't on the original climb a few days earlier.

I got to ski the SW Face, unarguably my best line of the trip.  600+ meters of skiing. | photo Seth Campbell

Afterwards, I started calling in hourly weather observations starting at 2:00am.  Everyone came in at one time or another to check in with me throughout the night.

Finally it was time to drop camp.  The very last thing we took down was the "dunny".  Because we were moving camp so extensively, we did not pack and ship out our solid waste.  Instead, we simply dug an outhouse, which always had an incredible view.  Snow walls helped provide privacy and block the wind.

Kat and I had to cargo-net the pallets, which we finished literally as the aircraft circled overhead.

The snowmobiles needed to be palleted as well.  Their studded tracks meant we couldn't just drive them onto the aircraft's aluminum deck.

The flight crew used a winch to drag the pallets onto the aircraft.  Just like our put-in five weeks earlier, we were pulled out in two flights - essential cargo and personnel on the first flight, and the snowmobiles, remaining fuel, and non-essential equipment on a second flight.

Leaving the Neptune Range.  The pallet in the foreground are a set of solid-fuel Assisted Take-Off rockets, which we never ended up needing.

By the time we had taken off, I had been awake for 32 hours - I spent most of the flights back to McMurdo asleep.  We flew two hours to the South Pole, where we topped off the tanks just enough to continue on three and a half hours to McMurdo. | photo Claire Todd