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Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team - High Camp to South America in 24 Hours

Wow.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a trip down and out from the Vinson Massif go so smoothly.  A day ago our stoves were getting the breakfast ice melted at 12,300 ft in Vinson high camp.  It was colder than it had been the day before, when we’d gone for the summit.  We packed up our tents and roped up to go down the steep lines toward low camp and Basecamp.  The day got warmer -naturally- as we got lower, but there was still a lot of cloud, just as there had been all week.  Six hours after beginning the descent, we hauled heavy packs and sleds into 7,000 ft Vinson Base.  The place was humming with activity.  We were told to be ready for a Twin Otter on skis in a half hour.  That meant 30 minutes of feverish packing and repacking and last awesome views of Vinson for the year.  At 5:30 PM the Twin put down and we got in.  Not only was the flight through the sunny Ellsworth Mountains magically beautiful, it was taking us to an on-time dinner at Union Glacier.  One that none of us had to open, boil, or rehydrate.  We reached camp there at a time when it was mostly ALE staff and not so many needy “customers” such as ourselves.  Over dinner, we were told that our next flight was already on its way in.  The Ilyushin 76 landed with a distant roar on the ice runway at 12:30 AM.  We got on after a bunch of freight had been unloaded.  There was plenty of room to stretch out as in addition to the five of us climbers there were perhaps three or four staff and assorted personnel going for the ride to South America.  I saw the distant Vinson summit sliding by the port side windows after we’d reached cruising altitude.  At 7:30 AM the plane touched down gently in Punta Arenas, where summer is currently coming on strong.

The team piled into a car and then hotel rooms for a big snooze.  We’ll feast tonight and fly homeward tomorrow.  Small world… but full of great climbs.

Best Regards,
Dave Hahn


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