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Climb-p4

The climb from the glacier was difficult. At the start, the deep snow continued and with every step, the crust broke underfoot and they sunk into the soft snow. The surface changed to ice causing them to slip, but with being roped together and using ice axes they made the ridge line. Here, mostly free of snow the ridge was covered with rounded or angular blocks of granite.  Many eroded by the continual winds in the area and some with hollows containing melted snow.  The spaces between the blocks were often filled with deep soft snow. Although the going was easier there was the ever-present danger of slipping into the  snow-filled gaps between the boulders. These granite blocks and boulders proved a danger.  A slip into the soft snow between the rocks could result in a twisted leg, a sprain or even a broken bone.  Any one of these injuries, to a member of a small isolated party, high above a glacier in Antarctica could prove a disaster.

Browning and Abbot resting during the climb. Browning, in the foreground,
and Abbott, behind, sit on the snow on a steep slope.  The rope in the foreground would be connected to Priestley who took this photograph.Browning holds an ice axe. 
British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Debenham Collection).
(Freezeframe, SPRI, p54-16-386dd)

 Continuing along the ridge, they reached the first peak.  Priestley in his book states:

 From the top the view proved to be magnificent in every direction but the north, in which direction we particularly wanted to see. In this direction another and higher hill intervened,...

Now, 3.30 p.m. they made a short halt, took some photographs and had a drink of water from one of the pools found in the granite boulders. 

Priestley decided there was enough time to reach the next peak, so they set out.  Climbing down they crossed a snow valley ridged on either side, across a small tributary glacier, up to a spur on the other side towards a granite outcrop halfway to the peak. During this crossing Browning found a crevasse, but was quickly hauled out.  They followed the out-crop some distance until moving onto a snow slope, they finally reached the crag above the ridge.

Priestley in his diary[i] describes this crossing to the next peak.  He writes about being so exhausted they had to stop every few hundred yards to rest because of the constant pushing their feet through deep-crusted snow then having to lift their feet high to proceed.  They went on struggling over snow-covered Sastrugi, slipping and stopping their downwards slide with the quick use of their ice axes. Eventually they reached the next ridge by using their ice axes to slowly pull themselves up the icy slope.  Again, they had to climb over and around snow covered boulders, slipping into waist-deep snow among the rocks and those wearing soft finneskoes were continually stubbing their toes. Following the ridge, they reach a peak 3,680 feet above their campsite. This height was determined using an aneroid barometer. Having taken readings at the base camp, Priestley would have read the difference in pressure on peak, and converted this change into feet. 

Unfortunately the view to the North was again blocked, this time by a “convex” snow slope. Although Priestley states that the views were good in everywhere except to the North, his view to the West would have been blocked by the peaks on the opposite side of the glacier.  These peaks hid the Corner Glacier which they were to discover in the following weeks.  Perhaps not mentioning this is reasonable as his concern was the area to his North and East—the northern and southern slopes of Mount Melbourne where a possible routes to Wood Bay could be found. 

Priestley beside a wind eroded rock containing a pool of water. The sun’s heat, absorbed by
the rock, has melted the wind-blown snow accumulated in the eroded basin. (Freezeframe, SPRI, p48-14-7)

Now 5.30 p.m., nine hours since leaving camp at the mouth of the glacier, it was time to return.  So after a short rest and a drink of water from a granite boulder Climb-p5 the party started back. Now the going would be mostly down and with the wind at their backs. Priestly writes, Our progress downhill was quite steady, for every fall was in the right direction...[ii] 



[i] Raymond Priestley, ‘Priestley, Diary, 1 Jan 1912 to February 1913, SPRI, MS 298/6/2 BJ’, sec. 20 Jan. 1912, SPRI.

[ii] Raymond Edward Priestley, p. 207.

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