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April 11, 2006 at 5:37 am #400
I got the good news today–I’m gonna be a GA at McMurdo starting in August. I just wanted to say thanks to you all, because even though I’ve never posted here before, I’ve done my share of prowling and have found some threads on here immensly helpful. It’s wierd: I’ve been after this job SO long (since I was 15. I’m 18 now), and have spent so much time fretting and strategizing that I feel like I know someone named Mike, and another named Glenn, and so on…
Anyways, you all have been amazing, and I’m really grateful for the site.
I have one question. I’m really into XC skiing, and plan to bring my skis down with me. Do any of you know much about the ski conditions, or, if not, could you refer me to someone who might? I’ve got a general idea of what to expect (not much) but I’ve got tons of nuts-and-bolts type inquiries: what kind of wax to bring, what style of ski, how best to get them down, what kind of waxing facilities (any?) etc…
Anyways, it’d be great if someone could help with that. Thanks again to you all,
ianApril 11, 2006 at 3:47 pm #2927
Wow Ian, that was fast.
I’m not a cross country skier, but it is a very popular pasttime. I went once many years ago. The conditions vary from powdery after a storm, to hard packed and icy. Not much help huh. In the summer there are miles of flat trails along the ice roads to willy field and the ice runways. The castle rock loop is popular. It is a gently rising slope up to the rock then a steeper drop down to the ice edge. It passes the Kiwi ski fields and ends up on the ice shelf for a trip to Scott Base. The skis come off and its a couple of mile walk back to MCM. Cant help with the wax.
MikeApril 11, 2006 at 7:53 pm #2928MightyAtlasModerator
Hey there, Ian —
Congrats on getting the GA gig. I think you’ll enjoy it.
While it is always nice to use your own equipment, skis are a pain to travel with, especially internationally. The recreation department at McMurdo oversees Gear Issue. They have a wide variety of skis, boots, and poles for anyone to use. Free of charge, of course.
Never been XC at MCM, but like Mike said, plan on packed snow and/or ice. It ain’t like skiing in the Rockies!
Take care, and I’ll see you in August.
atlasApril 12, 2006 at 6:35 am #2929
Very cool. Yes, FEMC GA was my dream job–it seemed like a good way to get the lay of the land down there, and at my age was really all that was within reach. I can’t take it for granted yet, though; still got to PQ.
While we’re on the subject: I’d assumed that skiing was only possible over the sea ice. But if you do the castle rock thing, can you ski after the sea ice has all left? And are you allowed to go skiing any time the conditions are okay, or do you have to be in an organized group? I’m really glad that there are some hills, at least.
Sorry for too many questions; I’m just getting exciteder and exciteder and they keep springing up. Thanks a ton for the helpful (really) replies. If anyone who’s into XC happens across this, please don’t hesitate to post or email me or whatever.
Atlas, I look forward to it. You all are great.
IanApril 12, 2006 at 7:03 am #2930brendanstamp05Member
Congratulations Ian, I am a plumber so I will be giving you hell on the Ice, just get ready for it. Josh the paint foreman is an avid boarder and may be able to aid if Mike would pass these questions on or ask him to drop into the site for a spell. Ski’s down there are decent but some are chipped badly and I do not think they had any wax last year at all. Its gonna be fun though and you will be far too busy digging snow for us to ski or anything else.
Lucky.April 12, 2006 at 11:55 am #2931
Ian, The Castle Rock loop is open all year for cross country ski trips. You have to have at least 2 people and check out by radio. You will get a safety lecture once here about that. The back part that drops down actually goes to the McMurdo Ice Shelf which is permanant ice. Once Mid October or so rolls around you will have access to a few sea ice routes. The Armatage trail leaves McM and goes by sea ice around to Scott base. It is an alternate to walking the Scott Base road. Armatage would be sastrugi. If I spelled it correctly. Sort of frozen snow drifts. Once December rolls around the sea ice gets too thin to travel on and they close both routes.
Once the Airfields open, you can ski the ice runway road. That goes straight out from McM to the runway. About a mile or so. Willy field skiway and the road to it are also available.
here is a map of the flagged routes. The ice runway road would go straight out from the bottom of the peninsulaApril 13, 2006 at 4:50 am #2932
Awesome–that’s better than anything I expected to hear. It’s great that there are so many options.
The map was really helpful. I’ve been a little fuzzy on that whole geography for a long time and that did a lot to clear it up. It was also nice to finally understand the difference between where the shelf ice is and where there’s just sea ice. But I’ll get it all straightened out for good once I’m down.
Lucky, I’m psyched for exactly that. bring it
thanks a ton
IanApril 13, 2006 at 5:20 am #2933
There is a closer up photo of the tip of the hut point peninsula. Since 2000 the ice hasn’t melted in front of town. It’s thins out and becomes unsafe to travel on but hasn’t broken up in many years. That historically is not the norm. If you look carefully at the photo you can see the extent of previous breakups of the ice shelf. The ice runway is on sea ice that breaks up, Willy is on the iceshelf on snow pack, Pegasus is on hard ice.
Look here at the the radar image. You can see it even better.
http://groups.msn.com/Antarcticmemories/whereisrossisland.msnwApril 14, 2006 at 5:49 am #2934
That REALLY clears things up. What a sweet island! I can’t wait.
I feel already that it’s gonna be hard to restrain the wanderlust. I bet the gazillion hour work week will drill that outta me, though.
IanApril 15, 2006 at 9:48 am #2935SciencetechKeymaster
Well hey, congrats Ian!
I wish I had started in the program at your age… I’d probably be retired by now instead of struggling to PQ year after year.
Be careful — if you like it and keep coming down, they may make you a station manager someday.
😀April 22, 2006 at 4:31 am #2936ZondraMember
Hi, I’m a XC skier who’s spent a few seasons in McM. Here’s my take on it all: Skate Skiing is much better than Classic. The sea ice conditions are great, and it seems like it was specially groomed for skating. As for classic skiing, there are no grooves to put your skiis in, and it seems like they just sort of slide all over. I know people who are classic skiers, and they take up skating when they get to McM, as the conditions lend toward skating much better. I do both styles when I’m back home. My first year on the Ice I made the mistake and brought classic style skiis. I ended up using the skate skis that the rec dept had, and was happy with them. I’ve since brought down my own skate skis, though. There is a hodge podge of rental eqip through the rec dept. The skate skiis are actually fairly nice, though. Solomon binding system, and if you have your own Solomon skate boots, I reccommend bringing those, as the ones they have tend to give blisters. If you have your own equipment, go ahead and bring them down or have them sent down. The rec dept rents out the skis, and get grumpy when you return them late (which I always do).
As for where to go… refer to the Maps on the above postings. My personal favorite is the road to the sea ice runway, early in the summer. You can leave right from town, and you don’t need to have a partner. Armatage (when it’s open), is great, as it’s also on the sea ice. Or else the road out to Willy, but you have to get over the hill to Scott Base for that (I see some people ride a bike over the hill, carying their skis. Or else you can take a shuttle). The Castle Rock loop is nice, but probably better for touring skis than skate skis. I usually walk up. Coming down the loop on the back side, toward Scott Base is nice for down hilling. I have telemarked down it a few times, but since the telemark gear they have there isn’t that great, I didn’t have a great time. For me it wasn’t worth it to send down my good Tele gear… others find it worth it, though, and I know people who go snowboarding there on the weekends. The trail is fairly narrow, and you must stick to it (just wide enough to make turns). Sometimes there is fresh snow and it can be sort of powdery… otherwise it’s just blownover, crusty old snow. I personally love the skating conditions on the sea ice, and spend most of my ski time out there.
Oh, as for waxing. It’s a very dry snow. For classic skiing I couldn’t get it right. It’s nice and smooth for skating. I prefer to go out when the temps are around 10F – 30F, and had my skate skiis waxed for those temps, and they worked wonderfully. I had them waxed before I came down, but there is a place where you can wax your skis once you’re down there, but I recommend you bring all your own waxes.
Good luck & let me know if you have more questions. Oh, speaking of questions, Mike (or anyone down on the Ice right now), is Armitage open these days? What are the sea ice conditions? I haven’t heard any rumor of open water near town – where is it at?
ZondraApril 22, 2006 at 6:48 am #2937
The sea ice has broken up to the Delbridge Islands, near the Erebus Ice tongue. Armatage isn’t open and probably won’t be until the SAR and FSTP people come in at Winfly. Last year it was buckling and parts of it went underwater. C16, iceberg that almost cut off the icebreakers had moved into Mcmurdo sound and then drifted off. It hit the end of the Drygloski ice tongue and broke off the tip.
Maybe the ice will go back to normal this year and break up. It’s been too many years since we’ve had whales in front of town.
Ian, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the ski trips no matter what. I’ll be leaving at winfly and coming back at the beginning of October, so make sure you look all of us up.
Z, are you coming back?
MikeApril 22, 2006 at 8:12 am #2938
Awesome. I think I’ll probably bring both types of skis, as well as a cold/dry/icy range of waxes. I’m pretty serious about ski racing, so it’ll be nice to be able to keep up both disciplines, even if the classic’s a little sketchy. Double pole.
They’ve got tele skiing too? I’ll be in heaven. This place seems like a mix of all my favorite things. I can see, though, how it wouldn’t be worth 40% of your weight allowance or whatever to send your scarpas and sidecut skis down. I’ll stick to XC at first.
We should definitely go for a spin sometime, Zondra. Will you be down there next summer? One thing–is the wind hard to deal with on the sea ice? Just for curiosity’s sake.
Mike–Full name’s Ian McKay, I’ll be working for Dave Zybowski in FEMC. I’ll be sure to look you up.
You all are great. Thanks a bunch for the great info. You’ve got me wishing I had more time to spend down there! (I’m supposed to start college in New Hampshire in 2007.) Schucks. 6 months’ll be a start.
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