Entries By dave hahn

Vinson Massif Expedition:  Team Moves to Low Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 12, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,300'

We busted out of Base Camp today.  Just over five hours of walking up the Branscomb Glacier put us at “low” camp, which isn’t all that low at 9300 ft above sea level. Half way along the route we picked up our cached supplies and equipment from yesterday’s carry.  We were alone for our day of climbing, since the other teams in our rotation have about four days head-start on us.  One of those, a German team, made the top today in a speedy ascent.  They were early enough in the day that they came all the way back down to low camp.  So we have neighbors.  The other two teams are still at high camp hoping to get a shot at the summit tomorrow.  We had great conditions for coming along directly under Vinson’s giant western face, and we had perfect and unobstructed views of Mounts Gardner, Epperly and Shinn.  Camp was built quickly and easily and after a filling dinner, the team retired to bask in the strong, late night sun.  We’ll get that sun until at least three AM, but then, while it is behind the mountain, our teeth will be chattering until 11 AM. 
Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

A climbers on the Branscomb Glacier.  Photo: RMI Collection Low Camp on Mt. Vinson.  Photo:  RMI Collection

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Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Carry Halfway

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 11, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

We are back to great weather on Vinson.  There was still a little wind apparent up high during the morning, and a few fog banks forming and dissipating down below, but by mid-day one could only describe it as “splitter”.  Perfect blue sky, big bright sun and no wind… splitter.  Team 2 had a fine breakfast at Vinson Base and then we settled into a light training and review session.  Bill, Sara, Fatima and Larry each have fine climbing resumes, so it was only necessary to run through some quick examples of crevasse rescue and anchoring systems to refresh memories.  In the afternoon we went for our shakedown cruise: a carry of food and gear to half camp.  It was great to stretch legs and get some views of the surrounding humongous peaks.  We were back to Base by around 7 PM, in time for dinner in the strong evening sun.  We turned in for bed confident that the sunshine would keep tents warm well into the night.  Sometime after one or two AM the sun will go behind the mountain and life will get cool, but by then we’ll be sleeping… Dreaming of the move to low camp tomorrow.

Word is that the Ilyushin is flying to Union tonight, so Team 1 (Kara, Juan, Piotr, and Spencer) should have breakfast in South America.  Bon Voyage.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Vinson Massif Expedition:  Switcheroo at Vinson Base Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 10, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,000'

The RMI Vinson teams traded places this evening.  It was a day of wait-and-see as far as flying was concerned.  High winds at Union Glacier, high winds in the intended flight path through the Ellsworth Mountains, and big winds that we could see on the upper slopes of Vinson.  But things began to calm as the day went on and there was continued hope that the flight would happen before the day was out.  I’d just sat down to dinner with group one at Vinson Base when news came that group two was in the air headed our way.  Kara, Juan, Piotr, and Spencer packed fast and watched the ski equipped twin otter make a perfect uphill landing on the Branscomb.  It was great to see Bill, Sarah, Fatima, and Larry emerge from the plane.  The two teams mingled and compared notes as the plane was unloaded and reloaded.  We were all happy to hear that team 2 was treated to such a fine time during their several days stay at Union.  And I believe team 2 was relieved to see that team 1 had managed to come through a Vinson climb appearing happy and no worse for the wear. 
Then it was load up time and I said goodbye to team 1.  We shared some wonderful times together. Rumor has it that there are Ilyushin flights scheduled as early as tomorrow, so perhaps they’ll be luckier on their Antarctic exit than they were on their entrance.  Team 2 bedded down for the night at VBC… Ready to climb.
Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Vinson Massif: No Fly Zone

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 09, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,000'

The storm finally hit.  Crazy clouds were forming over the upper mountain as we went to bed last night.  The morning at Vinson Base was devoid of sunshine and chock full of newly falling snow.  It is actually a rare thing to get five inches of powder snow in this place, like rain in the desert, but that is what we got.  Flying -either to get the successful summiteers out or to bring in our next team of climbers from Union Glacier- was not happening.  It was a hunker down day.  The word was that the teams up the mountain were doing the same.  Rest and relaxation wasn’t exactly an unwelcome plan for the day for my team.  Most had sore feet and tired knees after the last few big days of up and down walking.  Each climber is ready to be moving on when conditions permit, of course.  Juan wanted to be sure that Eva Maria knew he was wishing her a very happy 21st birthday from Antarctica

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Union Glacier map

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Vinson Massif Expedition:Team #1 Returns to Base Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 08, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,000'

The day went pretty well on schedule.  We were up at around 8 AM at high camp, thankful that the winds had not yet found our tents.  It was obviously kicking a bit higher, with streamers of snow blowing off ridges and frozen dust devils dancing across our ascent route of the day before.  But we were granted calm and sunny conditions in which to eat breakfast and pack for the descent.  We bailed out of high camp at 11:20 and carefully picked our way down the fixed lines.  Coming into Low Camp was a bit of a shock as there were dozens of climbers there and we’d gotten so used to having the mountain to ourselves.  Folks were hanging there rather than ascending since forecasts say that the winds will build and dominate the upper mountain for several days.  We shuffled our loads, repacked and headed down to Vinson Base, arriving by 5:30 PM.  No flights back to Union today as the winds have the pilots hunkering down, so we set tents and enjoyed a victory dinner together at 7000 ft on the Branscomb Glacier. 
Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Vinson Massif: Dave Hahn & Team Summit!

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 07, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 16,067'

Safe and sound at high camp, once again.  It was such a nice day that we spent an hour on the Vinson summit.  The trip back down took three hours and so we arrived back at high camp around 8:30 PM, making for 11 hours round trip on the day.  Almost as soon as we reached camp, the weather began to change, with glacier fog down below and patches of cumulus forming around the upper slopes of the big peaks.  Light winds have begun to stir the tents.  We’ll now hope they don’t turn into heavy winds until after we’ve gotten down the fixed ropes in the morning.  We are all feeling pretty fortunate to have had the day we had on the Roof of Antarctica.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

RMI Climbers above Vinson High Camp on Summit Day.  Photo: Dave Hahn RMI Climbers making their final steps to the summit of the Vinson Massif. Photo: Dave Hahn


RMI Guide Dave Hahn from the Vinson summit!

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Vinson Massif: High Time We Got To High Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 06, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 12,300'

Our string of good days continues.  We made good use of this one as well, climbing in good style to our 12,300 ft high camp.  We were up at the crack of 11:15 AM as usual for low camp… waiting for the sun.  But then it was a big flurry of activity for us as we ate brunch, knocked down the tents and packed up our packs.  Spikes were on and we hit the trail at 1:30 PM.  We made great progress today, with everybody feeling strong and enjoying the limitless scenery.  Likely we are getting the benefit of having already climbed most of the way on our carry two days back, and certainly yesterday’s rest didn’t hurt.  As we got higher on the fixed lines, it did seem like we were able to see for hundreds of miles… the horizon couldn’t actually have been that far, but when it is ice as far as the eye can see, it does start to feel global in scale.

We were lucky to have calm conditions as we exited the ropes and made our way up the last 500 vertical feet to camp.  We managed it all in a respectable six hours, pulling in at 7:30 PM.  Everybody was in a pretty good and optimistic mood, as they should be.  If the good weather continues we could be on the summit tomorrow afternoon. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Climber at the top of the fixed lines on the Vinson Massif. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection

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Vinson Massif: Rest Day

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 05, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,100'

Again it was bitterly cold in the hours before the sun hit low camp, but then the rest of the day was calm sunny and perfect.  We took full advantage by resting the day away.  We ate, we drank, we napped and we repeated ourselves.  The teams that went for the top (some with success, some without) came by on their descent and we traded notes and wished each other well.  It is certainly our hope that tomorrow we will go for high camp feeling stronger and more ready as a result of today’s rest.  But as usual, we need continued good luck in the weather department.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Team on the Branscomb Glacier.  Photo: Jake Norton

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Vinson Massif Expedition: Top of the Ropes Carry

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 04, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,100'

Another perfect weather-less day, a bunch more Antarctic climbing.  The sun didn’t show until 11:15 AM -as expected, but even knowing it would be cold in the hours before the sun didn’t keep us from being a little shocked at the big chill.  We put our crampons on and took our ice axes in hand for today’s climb, happy that the sled-pulling approach is done and that the real climbing has begun.  We took about five hours to carry a load of food and gear from camp to the top of the fixed ropes.  The terrain was up continuously steep and firm snow.  It was a pretty good workout and perfect from an acclimatization standpoint as we reached 11,800 feet.  We descended carefully, working out the kinks in our fixed line technique, and were back in camp by 8:30 PM. 
We seem to have the mountain all to ourselves now as the other teams turned out to be on schedules that put them well ahead of us.  We’ll likely take a rest day tomorrow to firm up the aforementioned acclimatization before our final assault on the heights. 
Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Team camped at Low Camp on Mt. Vinson.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Vinson Massif Expedition: Team #2 Readies for Flight

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Jeff Martin | December 04, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif

Hello,
We had our pre-flight briefing this morning at 10:30 am. There were about 20 climbers from all over the world who met up at the ALE office in Punta Arenas for this very informative presentation about what will be happening over the next day or so. One of ALE’s owners,  Mike Sharp, covered all the details regarding our 4 1/2 hour flight down to Union Glacier. We learned that due to construction on the runway here at Punta Arenas, there is not enough distance on the runway for our plane to take off fully loaded. The solution: take off with only half the fuel needed for the trip and fly a short distance to Ushuaia, Argentina and top off the tanks. And by topping off the tanks, we are talking 40 tons of fuel. It will add a little time to our flight, but there’s no refueling options on the 3800 mile round trip flight to Antarctica.
The plan now stands as us getting picked up at our hotel tomorrow morning at 4:45 am and heading out to the airport. They have already picked up our luggage and it will be loaded on the plane tonight and ready for our early departure.
Remember, it’s only a plan at this point, as there are still a few big unknowns, mainly the weather at Union Glacier. Winds with blowing snow and poor visibility will mean that we will stay put for another day or two. But the forecast is looking favorable and we are ready to fly out whenever we get the green light.
Tonight we ventured off the usual circuit of restaurants and found a local’s hangout. The food was great and we have Bill to thank for picking up the tab this time. Now it’s early to bed because it will be early when we rise.
Hopefully the next dispatch will be from Antarctica!
RMI Guide Jeff Martin

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