Thursday, November 19, 2015

Made it to F6

Tuesday was an interesting day.  We were supposed to fly to F6 at 11:00 am to open it up and move in.  I woke up pretty early because I wanted to make sure I had all of my stuff packed and just wanted to drink coffee and eat cookies for as long as possible at Lake Hoare.  Well 10:00 rolled around and I had given myself more than enough free time.   By this time I had drank too much coffee and stuffed myself with all the cookies I could handle, and then Macops came over the radio informing us that all helo flights were canceled until noon.  I was starting to get stir crazy in there trying to keep myself busy.  Some people got an idea to try to go grab a huge glacier berry for the Lake Hoare camp.  

I don't remember if I explained this or not (a lot feels like repetition from last year), but the drinking water at Lake Hoare is produced from melting glacier berries (glacier berries are the little chunks of the glacier that shatter when the glacier calves and hits the lake ice or the ground).  Anyways it helps to gather really big ones because they shrink from ablation (conversion directly from a solid state to a gaseous state) over the summer, and there reaches a certain point in the summer where the ice gets too thin and grabbing berries with the ATV becomes impossible.

Anyways, some people wanted to get a really big one and I was all for a fun challenge to get me out of the hut while we waited on the helos.  One of the mountaineers already picked out his suspect and had dislodged it from the berry pile.  It wasn't the biggest one that has been dragged over to Lake Hoare, but it was still over 500 pounds.  We initially positioned the sled beneath the berry and tried to manhandle it onto the sled.  This didn't work because the berry was too heavy to move by hand.  So we grabbed the ATV, and used some ice screws to secure a rope between the berry and the hitch of the ATV.  With this setup we were able to pull the berry onto the sled and bring it back to Lake Hoare.  We didn't set any records for size with this one, and as always the picture just never does it justice, but below is our trophy.  There isn't much for scale, but the sled is about 8ft long.

 At noon we received word that all helo flights were canceled for the day.  I was kind of bummed out, because by this point I was ready to get to F6 to start moving in and working.  I couldn't complain too much, because if there is one place you want to be stranded in the Dry Valleys, it is Lake Hoare with the fantastic cooking and company.  Finally, after a couple hours of sitting around reading and working on this blog business, we got word that helo flights were resuming.

We got a lift from a 212 to our new home at around 3:00 pm.  We unpacked, turned the heat on, and got to setting up our tents.  The wind was pretty nasty which made setting the tents up a real treat.  Then we got around to unpacking all of the gear that was waiting for us at F6.  We started going through everything and quickly realized that half of our stuff was missing, and we had no food or beer.  The helicopter schedules got a little crazy, and no one knew exactly when we were getting to F6 so somehow we landed there without any food.  It wasn't too bad though we had a lot of dehydrated stuff still hanging around from last year, and there were still some frozen tater tots in the freezer.  Our first night at our new home we treated ourselves to a nice dinner of tater tots and rice.

The next morning we had an interesting breakfast.  If you have never tried powdered eggs, well then you aren't missing out on much.  We weren't too concerned though, because although flights were canceled today, we could go raid Fryxell camp which is across the lake, and on the way to the stream gauge boxes.  By the time we worked our way over to Fryxell we were pretty cold and hungry.  We walked in, and the previous tenants had turned the heat off.  No worries, because a nice big lunch would warm us up better anyways.  However, the previous tenants also made sure that there was not an ounce of food left at the camp.  This was a big bummer because we were planning on grabbing some food for dinner as well.  We slowly made the drive back to F6 on ATVs and stopped to open up one more gauge.  On the hike back from the gauge the wind got pretty nasty.  I really don't think I had ever experienced wind this strong before.  I have a video that I will try to load that shows the wind literally blowing us across the ice.  It was pretty fun, and a good way to lift our spirits.  When we got back to F6 we ate some snacks that were laying around, and we got word that someone was gonna hike from Lake Hoare with some food.  We picked them up with the ATV, so it was a pretty quick hike for them, but they brought us all kinds of goodies.

Here are some pictures of home sweet home for a little while.  The far tent is mine with a great view of Lake Fryxell and the Commonwealth Glacier.  The next picture is the F6 hut, the barrels in the foreground contain our fuel, and gray water, and then the solar panel provides us all of out electricity.  It sound impressive that all of our electricity comes from solar, but there isn't much electricity use because our heater and refrigerators run off propane.

Here is our water source.  Unfortunately the glaciers are too far away, where picking glacier berries isn't as efficient as it is at Lake Hoare.  We chip the lake ice with the ice chipper, scoop up the chips into the bucket, and then put the bucket on our stove to melt it into drinking water.

Here is the American flag that I helped Mikey put up last night.  Pretty nice touch to F6, and the pilots really appreciate being able to see the wind speed and direction when they are landing.

We just got done putting all of our food away.  Our shipment just came in on a helicopter.  Opening the boxes was like Christmas morning, never knowing what kind of tasty treat you are gonna find.  Well I should probably go get some work done today.  Hope everyone is doing well back home!

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