Layers! Layers! Layers!

The Antarctica expedition participants convened in Ushuaia, Argentina last Saturday. On Monday – their last day in Argentina before boarding the boat – the group hiked the Martial Glacier. According to the 2041 team, “this is first contact with almost antarctic conditions, an important chance to test gear and perfect technique before the team makes landing on the continent.” Here, Luba writes about the hike.

glacier hike 2

The most memorable part of my preparations for this journey was coming to grips with the dizzying array of “technical gear” available on the market.  This was a world previously unknown to me – a world of “technical T’s” and “ultra waterproof” trousers and “wind blocking” fleeces and “fast drying” socks.  I dutifully purchased all the required items, having put my trust in both the exhibition packing list and a set of stocky, suntanned, sandaled, shorts-wearing (in the middle of the London winter) outdoor-store attendants who looked like they knew a thing or two about surviving adverse weather conditions.  I emerged from NorthFace and Cotswalds and Mountain Hardwear with copious amounts of shiny new equipment and considerably less cash.

Today, I had my first chance to put this technical gear to the test.  We were advised to wear clothing in layers, so we could quickly adjust our bodies to changing temperature and moisture conditions.  So, I had on this morning silk socks covered with wool socks covered with hiking boots; long johns covered by khaki safari pants covered by bomb proof North Face trousers; a thermal shirt covered by a “mid-layer” T-shirt covered by a fleece covered by another bomb proof North Face jacket; silk glove liners and industrial strength gloves that made me look about ready to take on a few rounds with Mike Tyson.

Apparently, these multiple layers of bright purple polypropylene were meant to provide “moisture control.” In fact, they just made us all feel as though we had rummaged through our parents’ closets and stumbled upon some vintage 1970s polyester leisure suits.  And sadly, my hands remained cold.  Alas, even modern technology cannot get around the problem of poor circulation.

glacier hike

All kitted out, we assembled as a team and roped ourselves together – strengthening our nascent trust with a few carabiners, rope, and well-tied “figure 8” and “butterfly” knots. Before we started to climb, I surveyed the motley crew that comprised our team: a senior executive with a strong southern drawl, a psychologist, an eighteen year old girl who resembled Little Red Riding Hood, and a young female student from the UAE.

As we began to ascend the mountain and to work a bit harder, the layers started to come off.  First the hats: apparently you lose 60-70% of your body heat through your head.  Next were the gloves and then the jackets.

Other layers came off too: the perfect southerner was in fact the son of a Spanish refugee fleeing Franco’s regime. Little Red Riding Hood emerged as a passionate photographer and campaigner for healthy eating.  The girl from the UAE posed in photographs next to the rock where she broke her leg last year, cutting short her Antarctic mission and her dream to show what girls from the UAE can accomplish.

I left the hike delighted that she had made it up and down the mountain.  I shared in her triumph when she completed the first part of her new mission.  I also left wondering which layers we would continue to shed over the next two weeks as we acclimatized, and which we would keep close to us to protect us from the elements.

– Luba

2 Responses to Layers! Layers! Layers!

  1. Pingback: The recap of a busy week in Antarctica … | #BainVoices

  2. You really had a very exciting adventure!

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