Summer has helicopters, winter has quad bikes.
A really fun way to get around the Vestfold hills. For this three day trip we based ourselves at Watts hut, each day exploring something different. It was primarily a recreational (or “jolly”) trip, although we did spend a surprising amount of time tidying up the hut, installing a new heater and an oven bench top, changing the gas, checking fuel and supplies.
The first day was rather cloudy. After dropping the heater off at Watts hut we jumped over the designated land bridge onto Lake Druzhby, navigated this to Crooked lake, and continued to the lake edge near Grimmia gorge. From here we continued by foot, following meandering hills and glacial moraines around the edge of the ice plateau, trying to avoid the icy wind. Unfortunately the clearing weather forecast didn’t look like eventuating. In fact it started to snow lightly. We got a good view down towards Cataract canyon and imagined what it would be like on a clear day without the stinging blowing snow through the pass.
While the sky was a dull grey the diverse range of ice formations beneath us gave us plenty to look at on the ride back to Watts. Away from the plateau there was no wind to speak of and light snow flurries were beginning to settle on the silky smooth ice, making it even more slippery than normal. Quite fun in fact.
The next morning we permitted ourselves a little sleep in as it was still overcast outside. In the late morning we set out toward Paulk lake, in the direction of Trajer ridge. This unlikely route linking multiple frozen lakes is just magic. You could not help think that some benevolent quad loving deity had designed the route just for us. At the last moment an artistically aesthetic snow bridge would present itself to us and we’d jump onto the next lake. One of them even had a blizz trail with a flat top just the right width for quad wheels.
As it was still overcast when we reached Paulk lake, it was quite cold and we went for a short walk to warm up.
Returning to the bikes we found both of them would not start! These quads have proved themselves very reliable so we became suspicious when both had the exact same problem. After checking several times that we hadn’t done something silly, I walked a few steps up the nearest hill and consulted with one of the dieso’s over radio. They reached the same conclusion that we had – bad fuel!
Never mind that it had PETROL written on the side of it – this stuff had evidently been sitting there for years and those squeaky clean dieso’s wouldn’t take any of the blame, of course – the callout fee would be a carton for the station! Not to worry, the clouds were clearing and we could not think of a better place to have broken down. We explored the terrain around Paulk lake and Trajer ridge hut while Aaron, Rich, and Jason came out to our rescue.
By the time we’d gotten back to our quad bikes Rich and Aaron had already drained the tanks and had set about burning the bad fuel through the engines. With no wind to speak of and nice warm sun it was very pleasant, especially considering how much worse it would have been just the day before. Soon enough all bikes were running and Rich and Aaron escorted Keith and I back to Watts for the night.
After soaking up the rays of the evening sunset (no tanning photos for you this time!) we enjoyed an aurora before retiring for the night.
The next day it clouded back up again. Our plans were to check out the Sorsdal glacier. The previous two days we’d done some walks here and there but todays exercise came in the form of pushing quad bikes through the snow. Rafted ice and icy chunks known as growlers or mini icebergs accumulate in a pinch point between a rocky peninsula and the Sorsdal glacier. It made things interesting and we spent lots of time investigating options and we even built a small snow ramp at one stage. It was time consuming though and in the end we decided that penetrating into Adamson bay was a project best left for another day.
To finish up our trip we rode alongside the Sorsdal glacier. Even in winter the glacier is active and must be treated with respect. In front of the glacier the sea ice is not hemmed in and will be blown away completely in a strong blizzard. Nearing this suspect area we drilled the ice (which in most places is 1.5 metres thick by now) and measured only 600mm. 400mm is the minimum thickness for quads so with caution (and no wind!) it was satisfactory.
In summary this trip delivered a variety of great experiences all made possible with quad bikes, but not necessarily shunning the extra scenery options available if you’re not afraid of a walk. What a great playground we have in our backyard behind Davis.