Mt. Erebus. This was one of the first times in Antarctica that I've felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. And not just in the middle of nowhere...I felt like I was on another planet. Fang Glacier Camp is set up for folks to acclimatize before they head up to Lower Erebus Hut (LEH). Fang is at about 9000ft (2740m), while LEH is at 10950ft (3340 m). There is less oxygen in the air at higher altitudes, and you need to give your body time to adjust. This usually takes a week or two, but the stop at Fang helps.
The accommodations at Fang are pretty bare-bones: 4 Scott tents. Three are for sleeping in; it's 2 people to a tent. The fourth tent is for...pooping and peeing! It's about as glamorous as you can imagine: a bucket (outfitted with a styrofoam seat) for pooping, and a barrel with a funnel for peeing. Everyone gets issued "pee bottles" (1 L Nalgene bottles), and they are for exactly what you think they are for: peeing in! Then you can dump your pee into the pee barrel. This isn't just for Fang Glacier Camp; you take a pee bottle with you anytime you're going out in the field, even just a day trip! I'll talk more about pee bottles later, but let's just say I've gotten pretty good at peeing in a bottle.
Acclimatization does not always feel great; it's not uncommon to have a headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, even the HAFEs (high altitude flatus expulsion a.k.a high altitude farts). So, at Fang, your orders are simple: rest, eat, drink lots of water and take it easy. Little hikes around the area are okay too. I've never really be ordered to relax, so it was awesome! I felt pretty good, but I basically slept for a whole day. I tried to read as much as I could, but my hands were too cold. The outside air temp was around -4ºF (-20ºC) in the sun, and in the tent, it was between 5º - 15ºF (-15º - -10ºC). Since it stays below freezing in the tent, you have to put anything you don't want to freeze in your sleeping bag...so I slept with my camera, a 1 lb. block of cheese, a radio battery, and some bars of chocolate.
After two days, some of the folks from LEH came down to get us on snowmobiles, and take us up to the hut. I thought Fang looked otherworldly, but the LEH camp really looked like another planet.
The hut itself is very cozy, with a Kuma stove and a camp kitchen (complete with a gas stove)! Mountain tents, a Scott tent, and a temporary rack tent. There's a garage, along with fuel, solar and wind power stations. More about Lower Erebus Hut soon!