Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Descend from High Camp, Return to US
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning we woke at Vinson high camp and finished the “day” around a campfire in Miami, Florida.
We packed camp on another cold but beautiful Antarctic morning and started climbing downhill at 11:30 AM. Getting down the steep “fixed rope” section was the tricky part, but we managed it without great difficulty and pulled into low camp at 1 PM. We switched gears, pulling off crampons and rigging sleds for the lower angled glacier walk to Vinson Basecamp. There were some low clouds about and a forecast for more to come, so it wasn’t certain that we’d be able to fly out. But we didn’t think too much about that as we walked the amazing walk down the Branscomb Glacier to VBC. We pulled in at 4 PM… minutes after Russ landed his ski equipped Twin Otter. We were greeted at VBC with fist bumps, champagne and COVID tests. We did the duffel shuffle into the plane and shared a last cocktail with the top notch ALE staff. Bidding Scott and Hannah goodbye, we loaded up and flew to Union Glacier. Our timing being perfect, as always, we showed up at 6:30, just in time for an excellent dinner -sitting in chairs at a table in the comfortable dining tent. By then we knew our Bombardier jet was inbound and so we simply extended dinner for a few hours to sit and talk and mingle with the other adventurers. Nimsdai, the great Nepali climber and expedition leader, walked in fresh off a plane from the South Pole, and regaled our team with accounts of skiing the “Last Degree”
The “Global” landed at 11PM on the blue ice runway as we watched and cheered. We took our last steps on the glacier and up the ramp to the luxury of the plane. Within minutes, Sniggy transformed from Vinson climber to Pilot and lifted us off the Ice. In less than four hours we were back to Punta Arenas, but only to refuel and say goodbye to Ed Viesturs -who stayed behind for a planned second Vinson climb. The team toasted Ed as we flew through the South American night. By early afternoon we were in Miami, Florida and welcomed “home” by Sean “Stroker” Gustafson. Stroker -the famous F16 pilot and former Vinson climber- had us out to his place for a memorable evening of jet skiing, fishing, and fabulous dining. Stroker’s family made us quite comfortable and welcome around a campfire to finish the “day”. The team told stories of mountain climbing and space travel. We laughed and plotted future adventures long into the night. It is rare to end an Antarctic journey with a campfire in the sand, but I highly recommend that you try it.
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