Waiting on Stand By

December 4th 

Weather: Cloud layer has lifted at Patriot Hills, however wind is up to 25 knots
Dale: Spirits holding

We are on standby to fly. The call came in at 9:30 am that the clouds have lifted but the wind is up – as soon as the wind drops we fly so everyone is on pins and needles waiting.

I went to the Chilean Antarctic Institute and met Dr. Ricardo Jana who is a PhD Glaciologist monitoring the recession/movement of the glaciers on Antarctic. He is also doing core samples to look at global warming. I spent one hour in their library looking at serial maps of the maps/surveys. He is also very interested in telemedicine on the Antarctic continent and monitoring vital signs of researcher/surveyor/climbers.


Weather: windy, cloudy in Patriot Hills – as such we did not fly out today as scheduled
No rooms in the hotel so a double whammy today – we didnĀ“t fly out and we were kicked out
Moved hotels without incident
Next call is tomorrow at 630 am – we shall see
Went to the local ski hill to hike
Now we wait


Weather: Beautiful day in PA. Sunny and 12 degrees
Shippam Shape: Outstanding

Today we had our briefing with ALES. The current update in Patriot Hills is: 

windspeed 18 knots
gusting to 24 knots
Visibility 12 km
temperature –15

We did our final gear packing and came in just under the team limit – we are allowed 52 kg per person all in, and we had 352 kg (team limit 354). Dale won the pool guessing the weights everyone backpacks came in between 17-19 kg with the exception of Dave ( the guide) who of course being mega-experienced had a pack at 13 kg. The sled bags weighed in mostly in the 32-39 kg range – mine was the heaviest – however that means I have most of the food so all in all I think I chose correctly!
We will wait to hear around 9:30am tomorrow re: leaving tomorrow, however things are not likely given the low cloud ceiling around the landing strip. The strip is blue ice and maintained as required by snowblowers. The wind comes in from the south pole and loses altitude – it sublimates the snow/ice on the surface, hence you have this undulating pockmarked blue ice that the plane lands on. For landings there are 2 guys on the runway with signal mirrors to guide the plane in. There is instrumentation of the wind on the runway which gets relayed from Patriot Hills to the ALES office in PA and this then dictates when we fly. The Ilyushin plane IL76 is a Russian built plane, intended for Siberia and ideally suited to the cold weather. There is a cockpit and a separate navigatorĀ“s bubble. It is a cargo plane that holds 17 tonnes. There are very few windows. The cargo sits in the middle of the plane and the passengers around the outside. The plane lands and then they stall the engine and use the  differential flaps to keep it straight on the runway – there are no brakes as we are basically on a giant ice rink. No flight attendants but bread, cheese and pop is served.
As a team this is one of the difficult times as we have to wait – they say there are no forecasts just nowcasts – hence we will know we are going when we are going…….




Weather: 8 degrees, cloudy, very windy
Shippam Shape: as usual, excellent

Update: Made some last minute purchases including some cheese and meat jerkey bought today. Packs completed, and duffel for the sleds organized with group gear and food.

The major outing of the day was to go visit the penguins – there is a colony about 45 minute boat ride out. There are 150,000 penguins on the island – remarkable to see and walk amongst them. They have burrowed their homes into the dirt and made nests with dried grass. Nothing really on the island except a lighthouse and the 150,000 penguins!

Yanick, the last team member, arrives tonight at airport. Tomorrow we have our briefing (formal) for the trip. We must have all of our gear good to go in the morning – then we don’t get to see it again until the plane lands at Patriot Hills – regardless of how many days we may be delayed. This requires very careful planned packing. What we wear on the plane is what we get off the plane and start the adventure in – no Four Seasons to hole up for a night prior to starting out. Everyone is sorting through those logistics tonight.


Punta Arenas

Thursday in Punta Arenas 

: 8 degrees intermittent clouds and moderate wind.
Shippam Shape: excellent, in high spirits.

Lazy day for the team.  We had a briefing in the morning to review gear and weight allowances for the flight to Antarctica. 20kg of personal gear, 52 kg per person overall – hence the difference, 32 kg will be fuel, food, shovels, tent etc.

We did a walkabout and saw Magellan’s statue and kissed the foot that brings travelers good luck! (see photo)

Dave, Barry and I then went to the ALE briefing. There will be about 30 other climbers on Vinson at the same time as us. Dave and Barry know a bunch of the other guides – it felt like homecoming at school. The ALE staff reviewed waste procedures on Vinson – they are very professional – see it as it is and leave it as it was – and hence there are very strict guidelines on the mountain.

They have had 5 flights over so far – weather has been reasonable and in fact a bit warmer than usual at Patriot Hills; -5 to -10 range. There was one brief snowstorm on the mountain but all groups checked in and are doing well. Already there has been a bunch to the summit!

All of us are getting excited as it becomes more real every day. Lots of sorting through our personal stuff to see what we must have, what would be nice to have, and what isn’t necessary in order to keep us down to weight.







Arrived safely in Santiago.
There were long lines to get through immigration – see photo – we of course were at the end of it so when we were done the rooms were empty! Almost all of the fruit was confiscated from our food – but then given back – a moment of panic!
We found the Starbucks in Santiago international airport and had the usual three hours to burn till we leave for PA.

We’re Off!

Well we are off – we arrived at the airport – 6 of us and 21 bags packed full to the brim everyone putting the most critical gear – boots, sleeping bags – in their carry-on to make sure it arrives!

Peg Shippam gave us the big send off and now we wait for the flight – delayed due to fog – but eventually we will get on our way.

Thanks to everyone at UHN for all the amazing support leading up to the journey.

8 days and counting down

Hey Hey
8 days and counting down
final gear checks being done
last minute items being ordered
food being dehydrated/dessicated – sounds so appealing!

The mission to Antarctica

To top off our fundraising campaign, Dr. Heather Ross and a team of half a dozen or so enthusiastic individuals will be heading down to Antarctica for the biggest challenge of their lives – climbing Mt. Vinson Massif, Antarctica. This peak extends 4897 metres into the sky – over 16,000 feet – and is the tallest in Antarctica! For more information on Antarctica, please click on “Quick Facts – Antarctica”.

The excursion will extend from December 3, 2006 – December 17, 2006, and participants can expect to be away from November 30, 2006 – December 22, 2006 with additional travel factored in.

Training for the trek is underway. The ‘basics’ include eating healthy; working out; adding weights; core strength and breathing; and upper body strength. The ‘specifics’ involve the technique of belaying; learning and practicing mountaineering skills – using crampons, ice axes, etc.; and experiencing winter camping in a cold alpine environment. A practice climb of Mt. Athabasca in the Columbia Ice Fields in Alberta will also take place.