Posts for Vinson Massif

Vinson Massif: Carry High, Sleep Low

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 22, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,100'

We made pretty good use out of today.  The weather wasn’t perfect, it still seems like the long, slow storm is lingering, but it wasn’t all that bad either.  There was still a ton of cloud hanging around when we got out of the tents at Low Camp this morning.  We’d done the traditional sleep in until 11 AM so as to avoid the cold cold Vinson shadow that haunts Low Camp, but the surprise turned out to be that it really wasn’t all that cold.  The clouds had kept some heat in for us.  Everybody was feeling good and well-rested, so we grabbed some supplies, shoved them in our packs and headed for high camp.  The goal was to do a carry, to bring food up for our eventual move to high camp.  But moving that food up wasn’t nearly as important as getting everyone familiar with the climbing route and getting in some good exercise at altitude.  We did all of that.  The “meat” of the day was toiling for about three hours on the steep and continuous “fixed rope” section of the hill.  By the top of the ropes, the weather had taken a slight turn for the worse, with a slight, but persistent breeze blowing new falling snow,  We carried on the extra hour and a half to high camp anyway, since it seemed we were getting such good experience in and everyone was climbing strong.  We were up to high camp by about 7:25 PM, meaning we were spot on the expected six hours.  We just took a few minutes to cache the gear and food and then we were off down the hill.  We got warmer as we descended and made pretty good time with light packs.  It was 9 PM when we reached the base of the ropes and just another fifteen minutes or so brought us into camp.  The sun came out while we were eating dinner and getting ready for bed, making all of that just a little bit easier. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Team camped at Low Camp on Mt. Vinson. An RMI Team ascending the fixed ropes toward High Camp on Vinson Massif.

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Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Make Move to Low Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 21, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,100'

The longest day of the year is a little redundant in a place where the sun doesn’t set… we’ll take it anyway.  Summer has come to Antarctica.  But that doesn’t mean the living is easy.  We still have the tail end of that storm to contend with.  At least we hope it is the tail end.  There is still a lot of cloud stuck on Mount Vinson, but it did seem a bit better than yesterday, on the whole.  So we packed up the camp and moved up the mountain.  We left Vinson Basecamp at 2:10 PM, which is not too late to be starting out (in case you are wondering).  Our plan revolved around using the late evening sunshine that Low Camp is famous for.  It only took us until 6:40 PM to pull in to the camp at 9,000 ft.  Conditions on the route were calm, cloudy, and not exactly cold.  We each did a bit of sweating, which can get problematic in a place that is perhaps -10 F but everyone took good care and we sailed through without difficulty.  On the way, we picked up our cache of supplies where the Branscomb makes the big ninety degree turn from South to West, and that pretty much completed the sled hauling “approach” portion of this climb.  Camp went up fast as we ran stoves for dinner and melted snow for drinking water.  It is just after midnight now, and all are in bed.  There is a thin layer of cloud still blocking our sun… but it isn’t like it is the end of the world or anything.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

RMI Climbers on the glacier near Vinson Base Camp. Peter Whittaker Collection An RMI Team hauling sleds on the Branscomb Glacier. Peter Whittaker Collection

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2

Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Wait for the Storm to Pass

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 20, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

Same storm, different day.  We are still at Basecamp and this big system of clouds and wind is still hitting the Ellsworth Mountains.  It came on a bit more today, with thicker clouds and hours of light snow falling, but so far we have been spared the big winds.  The teams we flew in with journeyed on up to Low Camp despite the weather today, so we are alone at base, but none of us is particularly worried that we are missing some golden opportunity.

We ate, read, listened to music, ate, slept and ate again… getting set for the end of the world, or a good day for climbing… whichever comes first.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

A team near Vinson Basecamp. Peter Whittaker Collection Union Glacier on Vinson Massif.

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2

Vinson Massif: Stormy at Basecamp

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 19, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

We had higher hopes for today.  But no, we didn’t go anywhere.  It was stormy with a forecast for more, so we sat at Basecamp.  The mountain was partially visible from time to time, but mostly it was socked in with a thick layer of cloud covering all but the bottom of the western face.  As the afternoon wore on there was even a little wind right here in Basecamp (which is rare) but mostly it was just calm cool and cloudy.  The team rode it out in the tents; reading, writing, talking, eating and sleeping.  By evening the sun had broken free of the clouds that were piled up against the mountain and things got downright pleasant for a while.  Fingers crossed for more pleasantries tomorrow. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Views of the mountains near Vinson Base Camp.

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Vinson Massif: Team Refreshes on the Basics and Caches Supplies Uphill

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 18, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

Clouds and murk rule the Ellsworth Mountains for the moment.  But even so, the weather isn’t all that bad down here on the Branscomb Glacier.  We did a normal mid-morning wake-up at Vinson Base (earlier than that one risks discomfort from cold shadows and down glacier breezes).  A leisurely breakfast was followed by a brief review of the basic mountaineering techniques we’ll employ for travel on the lower mountain.  In mid-afternoon we set out to carry loads up the long gentle hills between base and the big ninety degree turn of the glacier at the foot of Vinson’s massive Western escarpment.  This carry wasn’t performed so much out of a great need to get supplies up the hill, but more out of a desire to test systems and our legs and lungs.  All good.  We cached the load at around 8,700 ft and walked easily back to our 7,000 ft Basecamp.  We even got a few grand views of the endless ice to the west.  These had to suffice for scenery since the clouds closed in while we were eating dinner and put us in a world of gauze and grey.  The sun will come out tomorrow.  Possibly. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

The mountains near Vinson Basecamp.

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Vinson Massif:  Team #2 Arrives in Antarctica

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 17, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

Union Glacier camp was a busy place this morning.  There were snowcat sledge trains and big-wheeled vans and tracked vehicles and snow machines of every sort and size zipping from A to B, plowing things flat, and simply hauling freight and people.  Fuel drums were being fed to the Twin Otters and names were being written on luggage tags.  The ALE staff were in overdrive and sixty outbound climbers and Antarctic enthusiasts were pleased, mellow and smiling.  It was “Ilyushin Day”.... Out with the old and in with the new on a grand scale. 
My successful climbing team packed their bags and knocked their tents down in about five minutes… Ready to go home but also a little sad to be leaving this cold paradise.  Around 1:30 PM, the big four engine Russian jet touched down with a great roar of reversed thrust out on the ice runway.  My old gang got in one big offroad van with Seth Waterfall and headed for the plane and Punta.  I’d shaken their hands and advised them to have a heck of a victory feast in town.  They’d earned it.  I stood for a while watching all the action and before long another big offroad van pulled up with my new climbing team. 
Nicole, Brian, Joe and Bart were snapping pictures in all directions and smiling broadly.  We got acquainted and oriented, waited a bit and then hurried up for a flight to Mount Vinson.  By then it was dinner time and the Union folk felt bad about kicking us out of camp without a big feed, but clouds were closing in and we needed to get to the mountain.  Mission accomplished (with a big pan full of hot pigs-in-a-blanket for inflight food) despite the encroaching storm, there were still a few thousand peaks to be seen out the windows of our ski plane.  We landed at Vinson Basecamp around 8 PM and built our tents in our new home.  My climbers haven’t yet seen their mountain as it is cloaked in mist and light falling snow, but they will see plenty of the big hill, soon enough. 
Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Arriving to Vinson Base Camp via Twin Otter. An RMI Team establishing Vinson Base Camp 7,200'.  Photo: Jake Norton

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Vinson Massif: Team Winds Down at Union Glacier Basecamp

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Seth Waterfall | December 16, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

An easy and slightly surreal day for the team, after so much walking and dealing with discomfort… to be thoroughly inactive, waited upon and flat out comfortable in the luxurious dining tent at Union Glacier

The team wasn’t visibly anxious to be missing out on exercise, nor did anyone seem worried over whether the Ilyushin airplane would fly on time.  We sat, we ate, we concurred.  Life is good.  There was a persistent and slight breeze blowing all day long at the Union Glacier camp, but the air temperature is so warm (compared to anywhere on Vinson) that we routinely walked from tent to tent without gloves or jackets, crunching along on well-packed snow. 

If all goes well, the plane will fly from Punta Arenas tomorrow and the RMI Vinson team will head back to South America and a victory feast with Seth Waterfall.  I’ll stay in to greet the next RMI Vinson team and get started on a new adventure.  Many thanks to those who have followed our trip for the past two weeks.  Your comments were passed on to us (we don’t surf the web, but we exchange email with RMI headquarters) and produced many smiles on twelve sunburned faces.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

The Ilyushin parked at Union Glacier. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection RMI Guide Seth Waterfall on the ice. Photo: Jake Norton Road signs at Union Glacier. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection

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Vinson Massif: Team Ready, Bags Loaded, Hoping for Flight Tomorrow

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 16, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif

Hi RMI,

We gathered with about 30 other climbers this morning for our pre-trip briefing with ALE. Mike Sharp, one of the owners, gave a very detailed presentation about what is going to happen over the next few days. As you might imagine, logistics for getting to the “bottom of the world” are complex. Even though we have already traveled thousands of miles to get to Punta Arenas, we have about 2,000 more miles to fly and two different airplane types to go before we get to Vinson Basecamp. Covering everything from flight plans to arial maps of Union Glacier and the climbing route to ways for dealing with the extreme cold, it is critical information to know before we fly out of here and land in the middle of Antarctica.

After the meeting, we weighed our bags and sent them off to the airplane so they can be loaded and ready for our flight.

Weather permitting, we are planning for an early flight tomorrow, with the airport transfer scheduled for 7:00 am. Next dispatch will hopefully be from Union Glacier.

All the best,
RMI Guide Jeff Martin

Enjoying the sights in Punta Arenas, Chile.

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Vinson Massif:  A Quick Descent

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Seth Waterfall | December 15, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

There was a wind blowing in the night at high camp.  It was just a few miles per hour, but it was steady and we’d been exceedingly lucky in not having any wind for four days up high, so it was a worry.  But a needless worry, since by morning it was gone.  We ate, we packed and by ten in the morning we were walking downhill with great big packs.  Everybody was thinking about getting those big packs down the steep fixed ropes… the last real obstacle to our safety, but we caught those ropes and slopes in perfect condition.  They were still in shadow and the tracks of teams that had descended several days earlier were still in perfect condition and useful as stairs.  We made it to our old digs at low camp in just a few hours, packed and repacked there and then plodded down the Branscomb Glacier toward Basecamp.  Cresting the final hill, we saw two Twin Otter airplanes sitting patiently and waiting to take us away.  This was a pleasant surprise as we hadn’t really discussed an exit strategy yet with ALE, our logistics company.  At Basecamp by four in the afternoon, we shuffled duffels and boarded the planes.  Some of us were treated to a magnificent scenic flight as the pilot performed a mountain reconnaissance for future climbs on our way back to Union Glacier.  The Twin spiraled around one Matterhorn after another and dove through tight v-shaped passes.  A smooth landing at Union got us in just in time for dinner.  A wonderful dinner, whilst sitting in chairs, with backs.  True luxury.  We caught up with fellow climbers from the mountain (who we hadn’t seen for days) and with the wonderful staff at ALE.  Life is considerably warmer and easier at Union Glacier, and the team is excited about being a step closer to home, but we’re all still buzzing over the mountain that we lived on for the last nine days.  And climbed.
Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

A beautiful site - Twin Otters landing at Vinson Base Camp.

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Vinson:  Team #2 Readies in Punta Arenas, Chile

Posted by: Dave Hahn | December 15, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif

Our second Vinson trip of the season has officially started. After some fairly long flights and a few delays, we all arrived in Punta Arenas yesterday. Fortunately all our gear has also arrived.
With all the excitement of a new adventure starting and the fact that it does not get dark here until almost 11:00 pm, it was well after midnight before we decided to call it a day.
Since there was not a whole lot on the agenda today, we took full advantage of this by sleeping in and having a late breakfast.
We finished up the last of our equipment needs by checking out a few of the local gear shops and a stop at the grocery store to buy some additional snack food. At the same time we able to explore a little bit of this neat little town.
With our bags more or less packed up, we headed out for a nice dinner at La Marmita. The food is incredible here and it is no wonder why it sits at the top of the restaurant list for Punta Arenas.
Tomorrow we will have our briefing with ALE (Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions), to go over the details of our flight to Vinson and the rules of climbing in such a remote and pristine environment.
Will check-in tomorrow.
All the best,
RMI Guide Jeff Martin

RMI Team #2 in Punta Arenas.  Photo: Jeff Martin

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Recent Images From Vinson Massif

  • Vinson Massif, 16,067' - Top of the Bottom of the World. Photo: Gordon Wiltsie
  • Ilyushin 76 just landed on Union Glacier. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection
  • Iluyshin 76 back in Punta Arenas, Child. Photo: RMI Collection
  • Road signs at Union Glacier. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection
  • Dave Hahn on the Vinson Massif summit. Photo: TA Loeffler
  • An RMI Climber making the final steps to the summit of the Vinson Massif. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • RMI Climbers approaching High Camp on the Vinson Massif. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • RMI Climbers on the fixed lines below Vinson High Camp. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection
  • A climbers on the Branscomb Glacier.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • Low Camp on Mt. Vinson.  Photo:  RMI Collection
  • Union Glacier map
  • 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
  • An RMI Climber at the top of the fixed lines on the Vinson Massif. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection
  • An RMI Team on the Branscomb Glacier.  Photo: Jake Norton
  • An RMI Team camped at Low Camp on Mt. Vinson.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • RMI climbers ascending the Branscomb Glacier.  Photo: Seth Waterfall
  • Vinson Team 2 sightseeing in Punta Arenas. Photo: Jeff Martin
  • The RMI Team gathers in Punta Arenas.  Photo: Jeff Martin
  • Arriving Vinson Massif.  Photo: Jake Norton/ First Ascent
  • Unloading gear at Vinson Basecamp.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica
  • Now at Union Glacier, Antarctica.  Photo: Jake Norton
  • The plane parked at Union Glacier. Photo: Peter Whittaker
  • De-boarding the plane at Union Glacier. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • The Team Visits the Lord Lonsdale wreckage. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • The Vinson Team in Punta Arenas. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • The RMI Team hiking the streets of Punta Arenas.  Photo: Dave Hahn
  • Wind walking on the hills above Punta Arenas.  Photo: Dave Hahn
  • The RMI Vinson team on the summit of the Punta Arenas Ski Area.  Photo: Dave Hahn
  • Puerto Natales, Chile. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • Scenic views going back to Punta Arenas. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • The mountains await. Photo: Dave Hahn