Vinson Low Camp, Branscomb Glacier
We accomplished our move up from basecamp in fine style today. Within the first thirty minutes on the track, we burst out of a low cloud layer into brilliant sunshine and the bluest of skies. All seemed to be feeling strong and as our loads were lighter than on yesterday’s carry, we cranked up the pace a notch. We cruised in to camp in just over 4 hrs. Namgya Sherpa led a rope with Tim Amos and Leif Whittaker. I tied in with John Kelly, Brent Huntsman and Sashko Kedev. I enjoyed chatting with Namgya at our rest breaks. He has climbed Everest 9 times along with ascents of Cho Oyu, Dhalagiri and Shishipangma. When I thought about those numbers a bit, I realized something peculiar about the approximately 25 climbers that make up Vinson’s current population. I’ve got eleven, Willie Benegas and Vern Tejas have about nine Everest summits each, together with a healthy handful by guides Scott Wollums, Michael Horst and David Hamilton… Throw in a few more for the clients on our teams who have been up (like Sashko on our team) and the grand total must be up near sixty. But none of that will be very comforting if we can’t manage to climb Vinson in the coming days. Luckily for us, Namgya has already been up Vinson three times this season and knows the way. He is from the eastern part of Nepal, near Kangchenjunga, but these days lives part of each year in Kathmandu, part in Cambridge, England and part in Antarctica.
The other teams on the mountain have spread out a bit, with some now at high camp, some having carried high and with ourselves bringing up the rear. Fine with us, that way. Today was a classic antarctic climbing day. The air temperature probably didn’t pass 5 degrees F, but with intense sun reflected off extremely clean white snows, the apparent temperature was downright Carribean. We were treated to splendid views of the big and steep mountains to the north which are seldom climbed. Shinn, Epperly and Gardiner are massive and formidable and don’t exactly beckon to those of moderate skill (we couldn’t see Tyree today, but it is even more massive and more formidable and does even less beckoning).
We enjoyed a fine dinner in our new home and turned in, tying everything down in case of storm… such a thing is difficult to imagine just now as there isn’t a hint of wind and the midnight sun continues to blaze away in the summer sky. It will get intensely cold in a few hours when the sun ducks behind Vinson… But as I say, who wants to think about that now?
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