Day 5: Union Glacier

The busiest airport in Antarctica


The TYL smile for a photo after arriving at Union Glacier.

It’s only -7 and we’re 864 m above sea level.

Well, the plane took off and 5 hours later we landed at Union Glacier! We are here. Its 6:45 and dinner is at 7. Our luggage (so fun to call it that!) our gear will be offloaded shortly. It’s 8 kilometres from the blue ice runway to camp. We still need to set up tents etc….. will be a late night. Dinner at 7, briefing at 9 then we go out to set camp.

The plane is one helluva beast. Its kind of hard to describe what it feels like. But imagine BIG with no amenities. They did serve lunch to us!

When you deplane, it feels like you have landed on a lunar landscape – nothing but snow, glaciers and mountains. Distance is impossible to determine – you look at a mountain and it is 20 kilometres away and the glacier is 4 kilometres wide. You can see for miles.

The camp is pristine and its location makes it ideal for camping as the wind is minimal. We are putting up camp beside the main area. Then there are two large tents for eating – one for the ALE clients and one for clients guided by others: us and Polar Explorers.

Tomorrow we are supposed to break camp, ski out 4 kilometres and set camp, do some exercises (stove etc.), then we ski back and either set camp here or fly out to the last degree… We don’t know yet.

Dr. Delgado does his best airplane pose in front of the Ilyushin

Day 5: Punta Arenas – The Call Came!

Dale, Diego and Heather waiting to board the Ilyushin in Punta Arenas.

12:30 p.m.


The bus will be here in 45 minutes. Fingers crossed that there will be no last minute changes!

Hopefully the next blog will be from Union Glacier!

Day 5: Punta Arenas – Awaiting The Call

8 a.m

Up since 6 waiting for word. We’re taking turns to be sure someone is always available in a room to be the messenger for the team – that’s me at the moment.

In today’s day and age, you’d think we could manage by cell but way too dodgy given the spotty cell coverage and the short time window between the call and the flight.


8:40 a.m.

Meteorologist at Union Glacier is monitoring clouds and plans to wait another 60 minutes before making a decision. We are in limbo.


10:30 a.m.

WE GOT THE GREEN LIGHT! We will hopefully be heading to airport in 30 minutes.

If all goes well then the next blog will be from Union Glacier!

Day 3: Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas fort


Weather: mostly cloudy with intermittent heavy rain

Today, we went out to an original Spanish Fort about an hour outside of Punta. With Dr. Diego Delgado as  our translator, we were able to get a lot of the history of the region. We passed Hudson Island, famous in Pinochet’s time for housing prisoners and the disappeared. We were able to follow the outline of Tierra del Fuego as it arched along the coastal road following the Strait of Magellan.

The Fort itself was built in the 1800s for the Spanish who colonized and protected the strait. The major route for East West shipping was along the Strait of Magellan as passage across Tierra del Fuego was far too dangerous. Punta prospered during this time and fell into some decline after the Panama Canal was opened and trade routes shifted.

We got back to the hotel around 2 and headed into town for some last minute supplies. The team then congregated at the Shackleton Bar. We met all three guides and two of our group – Ian and anotherindividual. There were lots of introductions –  a really good group. Two members of the team were delayed, one individual has lost a piece of luggage; and three more are to arrive late tonight. We ate a late dinner with the group.

Tomorrow, we have our briefing with ALE. We need to be packed and ready to go – gear goes to the storage area tomorrow so once its sent its sent. We then start on call for the flight as of the 4th.


Day 2: Punta

Very, very early wake-up call (2am EST equivalent) and over to airport. Needless to say we were over our baggage limit!

Flight was uneventful for some, but Dr. Delgado did the doctor thing for a sick passenger.

All the luggage arrived and Michel said ‘I guess we have to do the trip’ to which the response was F___!

After a 4-hour direct southern flight, we arrived in Punta Arenas, which, is farther south than James Bay is north. This is the height of summer. Given the challenging and unforgiving climate, summer is brief, but wow is it colourful. Trees are stunted in height and windswept in appearance. Small hills line the coast with homes built in the scrub.

The team’s gear!


Grabbed a cab into town with a couple of guys doing a bike trip!

Hotel has a casino attached – a brand new place. Wasn’t here the last time we were here six yrs ago. Overall, the town hasn’t changed much.

We did a wander about the ghost town (!!!) – just us and a bunch of packs of wild dogs……. and of course kissed Magellan’s foot for travellers luck. New years day so everything is closed. Lunch at the hotel cafe.

Afternoon spent laying out gear for Commander Keith – he will decide what you do and do not get to bring. Some my fluffy slipper, blow dryer, hair gel and sweatpants i.e. comfort clothes – will be staying in Punta. And wow does he cut a swath through the gear – no to this, yes

that’s a must, ‘what were you thinking’, ‘what IS that?’

All in good humor and now gear thinned to fighting weight. It is starting to feel very real!

Dr. Diego Delgado enjoying some local cuisine.


The Coats Have Arrived!

On Thursday, December 13, members of the Outdoor Survival Canada team came by Toronto General Hospital bearing gifts: the MISSION coats for the Test Your Limits team. Dr. Heather Ross and Dr. Diego Delgado were there to try on their coats and take a few photos with the team’s official clothing supplier.

Outdoor Survival Canada has generously provided the coats for the South Pole expedition to keep the team safe and warm. Thank you so much for your continued support of the Test Your Limits team and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre!

Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more photos.

[VIDEO] Outfitting ‘Test Your Limits’: A South Pole Expedition

Outdoor Survival Canada had the great opportunity to outfit a group of medical doctors who will be setting out on an expedition to the South Pole in order to raise awareness to heart failure and organ donation in Canada. We had a chance to talk to Dr. Heather Ross, one of the lead members of the ‘Test Your Limits Team’ about the expedition and why they chose Outdoor Survival Canada. Continue reading “[VIDEO] Outfitting ‘Test Your Limits’: A South Pole Expedition”