Observation (Ob) Hill is a volcanic feature located adjacent to McMurdo Station, Antarctica on the western tip of Ross Island. The hill is a convenient for locating McMurdo Station when out on the sea ice or flying back from any remote field camp. Hundreds of people climb Ob Hill each year, some multiple times a day, to enjoy the view of Mt. Erebus, Mt. Terror, Scott Base (New Zealand), the Dry Valleys, Black Island, White Island, both airports, and Castle Rock. The primary trail to the summit is Class 1. However, the peak is accessible from any direction.
Although Ob Hill is a treat to climb with no technical skills required, getting to the base can be a challenge. Generally, two options are available:
1) Individuals can apply for a position with Raytheon Polar Services. You will be be competing for a job at McMurdo Station that could involve washing dishes, firefighting, or plumbing.
2) Write a successful grant (or be part of successful grant) funded by the National Science Foundation for research in Antarctica. Studies cover a variety of subjects, from sub-iceshelf ecology to the glaciology of Dry Valley glaciers. Once awarded, the grant will pay for nearly every aspect of the trip.
Once in McMurdo, a 0.5 mile walk down the main street is all that is necessary to reach Ob Hill. The main trail begins behind the Byrd Field Center.
As outlined above, getting to Antarctica is difficult. However, Ob Hill does not require any lectures on safety or other paperwork. Anyone in McMurdo is free to climb the hill whenever they want. It is critical to remember that removing rocks, vegetation (an occasional lichen on the peninsula?), disturbing wildlife, or littering is a violation of the Antarctic Treaty and will result in significant fines or expulsion from the continent.
When To ClimbI recommend attempting the summit in summer when the peak can be climbed without flashlights 24 hours a day. Although rewarding, any winter ascent will require more technical clothing and the view will be quite limited. Heavy snowfall and nearly constant -30 degree Celcius temperatures make winter ascents a challenge.
Mountain ConditionsCurrent conditions can be checked out regarding McMurdo Station.
Miscellaneous InfoIt is quite common for flights out of Christchurch, NZ to turn around 4 hours later. Weather in Antarctica is unpredictable and fierce. Should you find yourself on a 7.5 hour flight that lands you in the same place you took off, be happy you can now say you are part of the "boomerang" club. But don't fret! You'll get another chance the very next day, and the next, and the next...
The McMurdo Station Site
- Official NSF Antarctic Program
All the information you'd ever need to write a proposal for research in Antarctica
- Virtual Tour
Some interesting resources and pictures.
The Antarctic SunNewspaper
The 'local' newspaper