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More Snow, Build a City
Sunday, December 05, 1999: Daily Stats

Wade McKoy
The Team's Call from Antarctica
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Howdy Mountain Zone, this is Wade McKoy with the Antarctica Ski and Snowboard Expedition. The storm of the century continues today and 18 inches of new snow has accumulated at our 10,000-foot elevation Camp II over the past 48 hours. We've been stuck in our tents for three days passing the time with the usual reading, card games and journal entries. Coombs brought a chess set and Koch and Stoup are talking [Unintelligible] and not having much luck because that time is much coveted by Coombs and Collins who are having a rivaling chess match.

Presently it's 9pm, it's calm, snowing lightly, about 15 degrees Fahrenheit with a visibility of a quarter mile north towards Vinson and up to several miles to the south towards the Branscomb Glacier. It snowed all day and then cleared at about 7:30pm for about an hour-and-a-half, and then it started snowing again. Mark Newcomb, upon seeing the clearing, rallied Dirk Collins and Doug Coombs for a ski tour to Base Camp to collect more food and fuel and to carry down shit bags and garbage, which we have quite a bit of.

Those three are the only ones with skis, that's why they were the ones that went down — that's not the only reason, actually Newcomb was itching to do something and Coombs is always itching to do something. I think they wanted to get the heck out of here. The two snowboarders, however, left their skis to save overweight charges, which Doug Stoup may actually have to sell his car to pay for. And I have left my skis at Camp III to save weight so I can carry up more camera gear on the next carry.

It did clear through quite nicely. In fact, it looked like it was going to just go totally blue, but it only lasted for about an hour-and-a-half and then it started snowing again and it's snowing now. But during that clearing period we could see slough avalanches, the debris that had come off Mount Shinn, which is to our north, but otherwise there was no evidence of avalanche activity.

And ANI Guide, Dave Hahn, reported on the daily 8pm radio call that during his food run, down the headwall to Camp II and back up again to Camp III, he experienced two-to-three inch surface releases, but on the whole he said the snow felt stable. He said the storm was atypical coming from west to east, where the normal storm direction here is east to west. And he warned of potential high avalanche danger with wind loading and slabs creating if we were to receive easterly winds, which are the predominant winds in this area, so we're going to have to watch the weather and be real careful. But we could charge up there right now and it seems like it's pretty safe, and if those guys get back pretty soon that might be what we do. I don't know, we'll have to wait and see.

Our awake-sleep schedule has shifted itself to rise and shine at the crack of noon with bedtime at about 3am. Initially, during the first few sunny days on the mountain, this took advantage of the warmest part of the day, which was from about 10pm to 2am. And now in the stormy weather it's working really well because the evenings tend to clear. Last night at about 10:30 we could see out past the clouds all the way to the rise. It was just flat light and seems vast beyond all others in this world — anything I've ever seen.

The view might have done it, or it could have been the completion of another fine meal of Ramen noodles with salami and cheese, peanut butter stirred into hot chocolate, beef and turkey jerky, gorp and tea. But whatever it was, something got the boys all amped up to build things. The team split up into various groups of contractors and subcontractors, and in a two-hour fury of arms and elbows, snow saws and shovels, they erected a seven-foot tall pull-up tower with an entrance off the kitchen island, which, after its third remodel, now sports a cooking alcove, a service bar and a trash hamper and rebuilt the 30-foot long wind wall after tearing down the first one that was hastily constructed and had started to lean.

The snow blocks were cut to various microwave oven-sized dimensions and Mark Newcomb joked that he wished he'd brought his tape measure and level. Kitchen design was by Dirk Collins who has been building snow forts since he was a kid. Pull-up tower construction was overseen by Stephen Koch who, this whole trip, has been manic about daily workouts. [Unintelligible] Doug Stoup, trip leader, who Koch nicknamed "pecs" and ... pull-up, [Unintelligible] hydraulic-powered love machine. And a totally good stove by Doug Coombs, who first [Unintelligible] 'we are going to build a city!'

I took part in many photo sequences of blocks being cut, excavated, lifted into place and fine-finished with wedges and chinking. When I put the camera down and tried to make myself useful as a laborer, the best I could manage was to steer clear of the whirling blur of workers in motion.

At 2am, all was declared sound and good and the American team retired for the evening. [Unintelligible] in their bags... British team moved in with us despite our warnings of noisy late nights, but now I can finally go to sleep too. Okay, see ya.

— Wade McKoy, Correspondent


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