Observation Hill (Ob Hill)

Observation Hill (Ob Hill)

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 77.85°S / 166.67000°E
Additional Information Elevation: 754 ft / 230 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Observation Hill on a sun...View from town.

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.

Getting There

C-130 Hercules - the method...Primary transport
Grantees and employees...On the ice...

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.
View out the portside window...In route...

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.

Red Tape

Castle Rock and Mt Erebus...A classic view.

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 Climb

I 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 Conditions

Current conditions can be checked out regarding McMurdo Station.

Miscellaneous Info

It 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...

External Links

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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leesmith3 - Jan 10, 2020 2:48 pm - Voted 10/10


Just a few things: Raytheon doesn't do the polar program anymore. The USAP support contracts are with Leidos. Google "working in Antarctica". Another: To utilize any outdoor trails in McMurdo you must attend the Outdoor Safety Lecture. One more: The trail starts behind the Berg Field Center.

Viewing: 1-1 of 1



Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.