Vinson Basecamp 7000 ft, Branscomb Glacier
Just a brief note for now. It is almost midnight and these last couple of days have been quite busy… But we are finally right where we want to be, after a lot of flying and a lot of packing and preparing.
It didn’t look so likely yesterday as we hung out in Punta Arenas. I took the gang up to the office of our logistics company ALE and Peter MacDowell was nice enough to give a tour and to explain just what lengths the company goes to in order to figure out flying weather in Antarctica. Winds at that time were still blowing too hard for a flight in. But as the afternoon progressed, things started to seem a bit more positive. At 7:30 we got the call to get ready in a hurry… Things were happening. We hustled out to the airport in our polar clothes… Waddled through security and onto our plane. The kazak crew politely directed us and we blasted out of Punta at 10 pm sharp. Four hours later the big jet roared to a stop on the blue ice runway at patriot hills and the tail lifted to offload tons of gear, food, fuel and machinery. And us. We got out snapping pictures of the 2 am sunshine and ice stretching as far as the eye could see. It was cold, but not unpleasantly so, since the wind had quit entirely. We walked the kilometer to Patriot Hills camp, enjoyed a fine bowl of beef stew (the traditional welcome in these parts) and then went out into the cold again to get our own tents built. At 5 am in the bright sunshine we went to bed. My head was spinning from seeing so many old friends among the camp staff and the climbers that were outbound on our jet. My old kiwi pal Sean Norman woke us at 9:30 to get us ripping down our tents. Time to fly again… This time in a Canadian twin otter on skis, to vinson. The flight through the Ellsworths took about an hour, the weather was fine and we landed at full power going uphill on the Branscomb. The day was then spent building another camp, getting a climbing kitchen going and sorting gear for a day of climbing tomorrow. Michael Horst and Vern Tejas are next door with their team, Willie Benegas is a few feet the other way with his. Scott Woolums is guiding a few folks as well. My team got to meet Namgya Sherpa who will be working with me. He came down in mid afternoon today from summitting Mount Shinn yesterday (Shinn is third highest in Antarctica).
It is calm and still at VBC as is often the case, but in the last hour or so it has gotten murky and misty and light dry snow is coming down while the temperature hovers around -10 F. Everybody is in bed now, deep in warm down sleeping bags.
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