Thursday evening, Mt. Vinson.
We got the call this morning that we were off to Vinson. We packed up and took the Twin Otter for a 55 minute ride to Vinson base camp – it is overwhelmingly beautiful. We split the gear and loaded the sleds, then 5 hours 600m elevation gain to ‘corner camp’. We have set up here for the night to sleep at the feet of the giant! The view is spectacular – location location location.
What can I say? Everyone is well and strong – carrying on average 30-35 lbs and pulling 50-70 lbs on the sled. Dale is cooking tonight – soup, and then no doubt Pat will cook up the main course; after all, she is the trip chef. I wish everyone had the opportunity to see what we are seeing. It is so surreal. Somehow all of the waiting, excrutiating though it was, was worth it!
Well we are up and at it first thing this morning and Mike, who gives us the news re: the weather on the day, has let us know that the skies have cleared over Vinson and we will be flying today! The plan is to leave sometime around 12:00ish. We are organizing packs/food and packing up this mroning; we anticipate -20 or so getting off the plane at base camp (2100m). We hope to attempt the mountain over a period of 7 days, but as everyone knows it is often the mountain that dictates the schedule and not the climbers.
Next blog will be from Mt VINSON!!!!!!
The excitement of the day was the start of the “Antarctic Marathon” — there are 8 fully registered participants and 3 add ons from various Vinson summit teams. Tim Harris from GB is trying to complete his 7th marathon in 7 weeks on 7 continents – go figure!
We are still imprisoned by the weather. Although it is -10 at Patriot Hills, windchill to -20, winds 10 knots and gusting – it is still closed in on Mt. Vinson.
The Twin Otters are flying to the South Pole. There are two groups of clients on that flight those going to see the South Pole, and those that are skiing the last degree (of latitude). The Vinson group is holed up in Patriot Hills. One of the climbers from the Mountain Madness group has opted to go back to Puntas Arenas (the Russian beast flew in at 3 am last night with another load of adventurer’s) in order to guarantee he is home for Christmas. The Mountain Trip group is doing well and sends their hello’s to their loved ones.
There has been lots of discussion amongst the different Mt. Vinson groups as it is entirely clear that even if we fly to Vinson tonight there is no way we will be able to make the flight out on the 16th. There is a flexible (not hard to imagine – weather being what it is) flight from PH to PA – which they will hold for the Mt. Vinson climbers. As a result the team has opted to hope for a flight to Mt. Vinson in the next few days and return on the flexi-flight, which will be about 7 days later. Hence it is highly unlikely that any of us will be home for Christmas given the delays we have already experienced based on weather.
Though this is not the ideal arrangement we do want to give ourselves every chance to see/summit Mount Vinson Massif. However ultimately it may not be in the cards unless the weather starts to finally answer our prayers.
The weather is dense clouds again and we were in Patriot Hills for another day; -10, 8/8 cloud, mild wind.
We went for an 18.4 km walk over 4 hours and 23 minutes averaging 4.2 km/hr with packs, to see the remnants of a plane crash, a DC 6 with just the tail sticking out (see photo). It was a wonderful walk. You can’t tell where the land ends and the sky begins, flat light, completely impossible to tell distances. As I listened to the crunch of the snow beneath my boots I started to think about the epic voyages of Scott and Amundsen. What they must have been made of to travel hundreds of miles in this incredibly hostile and unforgiving climate. They didn’t benefit from Ian’s high tech GPS, but still managed.
As we returned to camp the sky opened and the sun came out – perhaps what they call a sucker hole, i.e. a brief break that sucks you in thinking the weather is going to clear, however it doesn’t. Our next briefing is tonight. We are not sure what the ultimate plans will be as who knows when planes will fly!!!! However we are here and it is a wonderful adventure.
In response to Peg and all of his admirers, here is Yanick. Or as we are calling him, FDH!!!!
Starbucks to anyone who can figure it out…….
We had our first night on the Antarctic. It took some getting used to with all the light streaming in from everywhere. Ian’s air mattress blew a leak but was easily repaired and managed to stay inflated for the duration of the night .
This morning we heard there was a big system in at Mt. Vinson and we would not be flying out today – next check tonight at 8 pm. We strapped on our crampons, crossed the airstrip of blue ice and headed out to Patriot Hills. Dale is the first heart transplant patient to summit Patriot Hills to our knowledge!!!!!!
What a great day – 6 hours later and we are enjoying soup – Dale and Pat’s efforts were very tasty.
We await the word tonight about whether we will get to Mt. Vinson Base Camp.
Well, we are here.
We flew at 33,000 feet in the belly of the great Russian beast. We visited all parts of the plane — wow, is it neat! It was a wild flight. It took 90 seconds for the plane to come to a halt on the ice, bumpy but amazing to be here.
We couldn’t get out to Mt. Vinson tonight. Weather is socked in there, even though it’s only 200 km away and here we have unlimited visibility. We have made camp and are drinking hot drinks in the guides tent at Patriot Hills. The people are lovely, can’t quite get over Yanick and his camera mic which has a decidedly rude shape and has occasioned some interesting nick names. Visited the medical tent and had a good discussion with Dr. John Apps and Ben who is an ER nurse. All in all feels great to be here. Not too cold; about -10. The team is doing really well.
Still waiting in Puntas Arenas, but I guess it is better than waiting at -40.
I can´t thank everyone enough for their daily words of encouragement and thoughts that we carry with us. All of us are itching to get going on this trip and starting to worry about the remaining time available to do what we came to do. Barry and Dave are thinking about the route and the days left and sorting out the schedule for climbing; nonetheless, the greater the number of days we sit here, the less likely there will be enough days to approach the mountain.