- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Gabriel Barral
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katie Bono
- Anne Gilbert Chase
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Cody Doolan
- Paul Edgren
- Mark Falender
- Leah Fisher
- Eric Frank
- Steve Gately
- Josh Gautreau
- Thomas Greene
- Casey Grom
- Dave Hahn
- Walter Hailes
- Tim Hardin
- Mike Haugen
- Andy Hildebrand
- Mike Hinckley
- Joe Horiskey
- Nick Hunt
- Tyler Jones
- J.J. Justman
- Levi Kepsel
- Mike King
- Adam Knoff
- Katy Laveck
- Ben Liken
- Josh Maggard
- Paul Maier
- Linden Mallory
- Lindsay Mann
- Andres Marin
- Jeff Martin
- Erik Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Logan Randolph
- Tyler Reid
- Dave Reynolds
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Shaun Sears
- Garrett Stevens
- Jason Thompson
- Mike Tomlinson
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Maile Wade
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Bryson Williams
- Dan Windham
- Robby Young
Posts from 01/2011
Hi this is Seth Waterfall checking in from the Union Glacier camp in Antarctica!
All is well with the team. We had a great day of activity outside of camp. After breakfast this morning we headed out in a ‘track van’. This is a 4x4 Ford Econoline van that is fitted with snow tracks instead of regular wheels. It is basically a 4 wheel drive snow mobile that keeps you protected from the elements. We took the van for a five mile ride from our camp to a spot called the Wave. The Wave is a huge wind deposit of ice that has formed a wave-like feature around a mountain called Mt. Charles. It is one of the most interesting and bizarre glacier formations that I have ever seen. There is no glacial erosion from solar effects or air temperatures here so the glacier has formed a curl around Mt. Charles that looks exactly like a barreling ocean wave. The only thing different is that this one is over 200 feet tall and stationary.
At the Wave the group split up. Some of us were busy taking photos and video for the First Ascent clothing company while the others in the group got to climb Mt. Charles. The weather was fairly poor today with a cold wind and a bit of snow so we didn’t stay out for much more than a couple of hours. The climbing party met up with the filming party just after lunch time, piled back into the track van and headed back to camp. However, Jake Norton and myself decided to stick out the bad weather and go climbing in the area. We were inspired by the free ride out to the other side of the Union Glacier, but the problem for us was that we would have to ski the five miles back to camp after our climb.
That said, we were really psyched up to climb some of the local peaks as most of them have never been climbed. The Union Glacier camp is in it’s first year of operation and this part of the range has seen little visitation prior to this climbing season. Due to the poor weather we decided on a fairly small but steep peak
that had caught our eye from camp. Jake and I unloaded our gear from the van and were soon left alone in the cold and blowing snow.
We set off to the base of the mountain and after an hour of skiing we reached the base of the mountain. There was a steep snow ramp on our right that lead directly to the summit and a rock ridge on the left. We decided to split the difference and headed straight up towards a plateau near the summit. The snow was nice and firm, perfect for cramponing, as we started but soon deteriorated to any icy crust over unconsolidated sugar-snow. This made the climbing more difficult so we switched over to the rock ridge. The rock quality was good and we enjoyed excellent climbing to a flat notch just below the summit. From there we had excellent snow conditions to the top. Amazingly we had a lull in the weather for most of our climb and our time on the summit. So we were able to enjoy a few moments of ‘top-time’ before descending back to our skis.
We then had a quick snack and headed off back towards the marked trail leading to camp. After an hour of skiing we reached the trail, this meant that we only had 5 miles to go to camp! Checking our watches we realized that we would have to hustle to make it back for the 7 p.m. dinner call. With over 100 people in camp the food does not last long and neither of us had eaten much since breakfast. The wind had picked up again but it was blowing at our backs and after and hour and a half of flat skiing across the glacier we arrived at camp… with 20 minutes to spare before dinner! The food was excellent. The A.L.E. staff really goes out of their way to treat us well here on the ice.
We are all settling into various games or books for the evening’s entertainment. We’ll check back in tomorrow with the latest from our adventure here in Antarctica!
Peter Whittaker describes the days adventures
Despite weather forecasts calling for high winds, we woke to clear skies, cool temps, and dissipating winds. By mid-morning, the weather looked good enough to do our carry. Our loads where light today as we only had to move three days worth of food, as well as a small amount of personal gear up hill to camp 3. The group climbed in style, arriving at our 19,600 ft camp in about 3.5 hours. The descent went quickly, and the group is back in camp resting, re-hydrating, and preparing for our last rest day before the summit push.
The stoke meter boosted to 8 today with our beautiful weather and successful carry.
We’ll check in tomorrow with tales of rest day shenanigans.
RMI Guide Gabriel Barral and the Aconcagua Team
This time of year in Antarctica, the sun never sets. The warmest part of the day is actually during the evening when the sun gets a little lower in the sky, hitting you straight on. After two days living in a horizontal position in my tent, waiting for clear skies to allow the Twin Otter to pick us up from Vinson Base Camp, I was more than ready for some adventure. We immortalized Mount Vinson by flying over it from all sides, reliving our time on it by flying over the climbing route and dreaming of new lines on all the untouched surrounding peaks. An hour later, we were back at Union Glacier camp where we’d started 12 days earlier.
I instantly connected with my long time friend Victor Saunders, a British mountain guide who lives in Chamonix and who is always thirsty for First Ascents. And there are plenty to be had around Union Glacier since this is the first year ALE (Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions) is operating from here. He’d just put up 5 new routes with clients and invited me to join him for a sixth one. We left camp after lunch and skied the 5kms to the base of the beautiful ridgeline defining the horizon before climbing up to the ridge proper. The wind died and we were now basking in the late afternoon sun, making our way up a knife edge rock and snow ridge. Grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this first ascent, I untied from the rope and soloed ahead, breaking trail the whole way for Victor and his two clients, Dominic and Nick. The climbing reminded me of the ridges I guide all summer long in the Swiss Alps: loose on easy terrain and solid on the steeper steps, but without any scratch from previous climbers’ crampons. When I reached the summit, I was elated. Being the first to tread on any ground is so unique, so special: it’s so rare to know that no one before you has stood on a summit, or has climbed the line you are looking at; you have to figure out as you go, with no beta, relying solely on your technical and route finding skills.To me, First Ascents are the most rewarding style of climbing, all the more in a remote setting like Antarctica.
We were back at our skis by midnight, the sun still looming high above us in the sky as we looked back to our ridge, the Midnight Ridge.
- Caroline George
Peter Whittaker checks in to lay out the plan for the days ahead.
The team woke early today to make our move to Camp 2. Just over three hours after leaving Camp 1, the group rolled into our new home under bright sunny skies and a chilly breeze. Everyone was relieved to shed the weight of packs at 18,000 feet. Tents are up and everyone is resting and beginning the process of acclimating anew. Tonight and tomorrow are supposed to be very windy, so we will see in the morning if we are going to do our scheduled carry to Camp 3, or whether we will sit tight. We’ll let everyone know tomorrow! Today’s stoke meter is resting between 6 and 7. We worked hard, but everyone is excited to be that much closer to our objective.
The RMI Aconcagua expedition
Hello there, this is Peter. It is January 17th and it is 8:45 [p.m.] here down in Antarctica. [We’re] on the ice, back here at Union Glacier. We woke up this morning to beautiful blue skies and sun which is really nice after two days of weather. We were told that we had an hour to pack and break the tents and that the plane would be picking us up right after that. So we scrambled and broke everything down [and] the plane showed up. We were pretty excited to work our way to a couple of objectives that we had identified as skiable and climbable on the way to Union Glacier. When the pilot showed she had a forecast that was not good and we decided that we would fly back, watch the weather, and see how things went. The weather rolled in and shut things down; we were able to get back in to Union Glacier where we landed in that’s where we are now. So we were not able to get to our ski objectives were a little saddened by that. But we’re here and the forecast is not too good for the next several days. But we’re already getting maps out and finding some different objectives. The cool thing is that the runway is in an area here at Union Glacier that is basically unexplored, so there’s lots of potential for first ascents and first descents, accessible by Twin Otter if the weather permits, and also by snow mobile and they have these wonderful vans with big snow tracks on them as well. So, the game is always changing with a few twists and turns but the whole team is here. We did reunite with Ed, Cindy and David and so the whole team is back together, all nine of us. We’re eating dinner and digging in here. [Brief Static] That’s the update from the First Ascent RMI Team down here on the ice and we’ll talk to you soon.
Peter Whittaker checking in from the ice.
Sometime around 560 B.C., a guy named Siddhartha Gautama - otherwise known as the Buddha - established as one of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism that to exist is to suffer. Not a very inspiring precept at first glance. But, what the Buddha was really getting at is the idea that everything in life is in a constant state of flux and change, that even joy must one day come to an end; thus, everything is transient, security is simply not a reality.
Our time here in Antarctica - especially these last few days - has proven the 2500 year old thoughts of the Buddha quite right.
With a bright sun and bright hopes, we packed eagerly this morning at Vinson Basecamp. Only a few wispy clouds were visible, and we were all excited to be dropped by Twin Otter in a new place to make the first tracks on an unknown peak. As we zipped our duffels, the whining of the Otter’s engines rattled through camp, and the pilot, Monica, soon touched down on the snowy runway.
But, she brought bad news: another weather system was moving in, and the forecast called for the storms to close in - shutting down all flights in this vicinity - by tomorrow night. Time to change plans; it would be imprudent to be dropped on a remote glacier with a major weather system bearing down. So, we decided to fly by some predetermined spots and, if things looked good, get dropped, climb through the night, and zip out before the weather stranded us.
Soon, we were aloft, saying goodbye to our friends at Vinson Basecamp, and zipping around Vinson, Shinn, Epperly, and the other giants of the Sentinel Range. Then, on we went toward Union Glacier…and more change. With every passing minute, clouds on the horizon built up. Thirty-five minutes into the trip, it was obvious that this storm system was a big one, bearing down fast. If we got dropped down, there was a good chance Monica would not be able to get back in tomorrow to pick us up. And, the latest news was this storm could be 5-6 days. A biggie.
Sadly, our hand was forced, and we made the prudent decision: land back at Union Glacier camp, and hope to be able to zip out in some reasonable weather in the next couple of days to do some climbing, skiing, and filming.
To exist is to suffer. Life is transient. I’ve always thought, had he lived a bit longer, the Buddha would have agreed with the comedian Dennis Leary, who once said: “Life is tough…get a helmet.”
Today is a much deserved rest day, after yesterday’s trip to Guanacos Camp (Camp 2) at 18,000’. The team slept well despite last night’s wind, which wasn’t quite as strong as the night before but was still strong enough to keep the tents flapping and creaking throughout the night. We woke this morning to more beautiful azure skies and golden sun, which quickly warmed the tents and our spirits. We had an impromptu team meeting during our breakfast of oatmeal and cocoa to discuss the upcoming legs of the climb, and everyone is ready to keep moving towards the top! We’re spending the remainder of today indulging in delicious lunch foods and conserving energy for tomorrow’s move to Camp 2.
Today’s stoke meter remains high, with an average of 8. Stay tuned for more details as we move higher on the mountain. Cheers!
RMI Guide Gabriel Barral and the Aconcagua Team
We really shouldn’t complain, as it could be much worse. Some people have been waiting 11 days already at Union Glacier to fly back to Punta. We’ve only been stuck for two days. But, for an active group of people, two days lying in the tent in a fog as thick as pea soup…well, that can be like an eternity.
We’re hanging in there, though. We got a brief respite this morning when the clouds lifted enough to expose the checkerboard of icefall immediately outside of camp, and a brief glimpse down to the Nimmitz Glacier. But, then it all socked in again, encasing us in a deep, thick fog and taking visibility down to about 50 meters.
So, we read. We sleep. We listen to music. We eat. We repeat. Not much else can be done. Patience, and a good sense of humor - two essential elements for a good team in the mountains.
Hey there, Pete Whittaker and the First Ascent team checking in from the ice still at Vinson Basecamp. We woke up this morning to clouds and very cold, icy fog. And this ended up being our second day of being unable to move. We’re pretty much tent bound all day today. We were talking about comparing it to being inside a freezer with the door just slightly cracked so that the light is on all the time, 24 hours of day light down here. So very, very cold and just a lot of tent time today. And that’s the story. We have adjusted our plans a little bit because of the weather. Forecast is still for possibly more clouds tomorrow. We were looking for an unclimbed peak closer to the Vinson Massif and I think now we’re changing our plans. We’ve identified a couple objectives that are closer to the Union Glacier camp and the runway, dealing the weather and all the backups due to this strike in Punta Arenas. And the people that need to be moved around with the planes. Also because it is the end of the trip we’re just adjusting our objective here a little bit. So we hope to get out tomorrow and have a twin otter drop us on a peak closer to Union Glacier, and we’ll see how that goes. We’re two weeks tomorrow on the ice, you know, everybody’s trying to keep the spirits up. Getting towards the end of the trip, we’re all getting a little bit weary of the cold and the ice but hanging in there and hopeful we can fly and finish off the end of the trip. Everyone is healthy, everyone’s doing well and getting a lot of horizontal time in the tent. That is the report for today and we hope to talk to you from a different location tomorrow. And we’ll talk then.
Peter's update from Vinson Basecamp
Weather forecast was right. Winds picked up last night and didn’t slow down until 8 am this morning. We estimate that the wind speed was a steady 30 mph and gusts of 50 mph. The good news is that besides a few cut guidelines, our tents stayed in place with no damage. Nobody slept that much so this morning our stoke score descended a few points. Once the wind slowed down we had a late breakfast and packed for the carry to Camp 2. The first hour and a half we walked uphill on a steep trail up the col Aconcagua-Ameghino (17,500’). Once we got to the west side of the col we were exposed to the cold wind that was still blowing on that side of the mountain. It took us 2 more hours to reach Camp 2. The descent to Camp 1 was very quick, just 1:10hrs.
As I write this Garrett is cooking dinner, which smells great, so our stoke score will get to 8 points! Hot drinks are ready so we will be sending a new dispatch tomorrow during our well deserved rest day at Camp 1.
Gabi and the RMI Aconcagua expedition
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