Entries from Vinson Massif
January 1, 2020
We had sunshine and calm conditions at 7 AM in highcamp today... which was better than the forecast called for. There was still plenty of cloud about, but we decided to go for the summit. It took until 9:50 to get fully fueled up and geared up for climbing, and by then a few more clouds had rolled in though we still had a good feeling about the day. Vinson put up a fight, of course, and a few of the team were feeling effects of the altitude and so not everybody topped out. Those that did, made it up in about 8 hours, spent nearly an hour on the summit and came down in just a couple more for a respectable round trip under 11 hrs. The conditions swung between sunny and calm, breezy and cloudy and everything in between... all at temps of about -20 to -25 Fahrenheit, so our rest breaks were short and business like so as to keep fingers and toes flexible. We enjoyed views of the tall and jagged peaks to Vinson’s north, and when the mountains were obscured, the sculpted cloud formations covering them were spectacular. On top of Antarctica’s highest mountain, the team lucked out with calm and sunny “gloves off” conditions for photos, fist bumps and flag waving. By 8:30 PM the gang was all back together at high camp. We spent a few hours brewing up, eating, drinking and laughing. A most memorable New Years Day was had by all.
RMI Guides Dave Hahn
On The Map
Way to go! Be safe and see you soon!
Posted by: Chris McKinley on 1/2/2020 at 12:10 pm
Amazing accomplishment guys! Godspeed and safe travels!
Posted by: Steve Minichiello on 1/2/2020 at 12:10 pm
December 31, 2019
We woke to the same thick blanket of cloud concealing the mountaintops and the sun and the blue sky. The good thing was that blanket held in a little more heat than normal, so getting started wasn’t particularly mean and cold. We ate breakfast, caught the forecast passed on from the meteorological folks at Union Glacier, and debated what to do about it. Our decision, since we had no sign or signal that the wind was blowing, was to push up into the cloud and make our move to high camp. It took until 1:00 PM to bust camp and be packed, but that worked just fine. There were occasional snowflakes falling, and we were certainly on the lookout for deteriorating weather, but all-in-all, conditions were stable and we pressed on. We took a short break at yesterday’s high point and then moved higher up the steep snow slope without much at all for views. It was a little like climbing inside a milk bottle. Our boldness was rewarded when we topped out the ropes to find calm and easy conditions (although still cloudy) on the plateau. We pulled into high camp at 6:30, for a respectable five and a half hour push to 12,500 ft. The gang found it tough going... it worked us in about 12 different and mean ways, but everybody set to building camp with good energy and enthusiasm. By that point we’d put on all the big and puffy clothing -down coats and down pants- which seemed just right for our cold new home. We filed into ALE’s good, strong cooking and dining tent and had a deluxe session of hot drinks, dinner, and strategizing for tomorrow. We hope the calm holds and that we can take a good shot at the top to start 2020 off right.
All of us want to wish our friends and loved ones the very warmest and best wishes for their own celebrations. Happy New Year!
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
On The Map
Vinson Massif on New Years Day! Wow.
Good luck everyone!!!
Posted by: Ernie Mennes on 1/2/2020 at 1:00 am
Very excited for you guys. Good luck tomorrow, we are rooting for you. Happy summit!
Posted by: Suzanne Davis on 1/1/2020 at 6:28 pm
December 30, 2019
The sun came around the mountain at 10 AM today, which was also about the time we got out of our sleeping bags and unzipped the tents. There was a faint breeze keeping things cool, but we clambered into the dining tent for a leisurely breakfast/brunch/lunch. By the time we waddled out and suited up for climbing it was 2 PM. Yesterday, although we were roped to one another for glacier travel, it was just walking with ski poles. Today, we had on crampons and carried ice axes. It only took a few minutes to get to the base of the fixed ropes where we paused briefly to rig up and review techniques for climbing steep snow. The goal was “lunch ledge” about an hour up the lines. We were starting to get some pretty good views of our surroundings -including a cloud bank pushing in from the northwest. By the time we’d descended, the clouds were covering the summits and blocking out the sun. Luckily there wasn’t any wind to go with this change in our weather. We were back in camp by 5 PM and set in for an evening of snacking and rehydration. Dinner was fashionably late at 8:45 PM and we were back in the tents by 10 PM. The plan is to move to highcamp tomorrow if the weather holds and everybody has stayed healthy.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Happy New Year guys! Enjoy the view! Be safe. Shoutout from Dayton Ohio fan club.
Posted by: Michael on 12/31/2019 at 8:27 pm
December 29, 2019
Yesterday’s perfect weather became today’s perfect weather. Strong sunshine, not a cloud in the sky and no sign of wind. We got good rest last night to make up for all of the travel nights and didn’t roll into breakfast until 9 AM. Murph took excellent care of us with eggs, bacon, pancakes, fresh fruit and coffee. Then we dug into our many packing and organizing chores. It is no small thing to shift from jet-setting in a sleek Gulfstream IV to old fashioned walking on a glacier with a week of supplies on our backs and in our sleds... but we managed just fine. Five rope teams of three set out at 1:50 PM. An hour later, at the first rest break, we all agreed that it was too darn hot in Antarctica. This was partly an illusion. The air temps were still well below freezing, but without a breeze and with plenty of hard work, we were sweating. Conditions were perfect for travel though. We had a well-packed and generally smooth trail in the snow without any open crevasses to negotiate. We took a second break at the start of a 90 degree turn in the glacier and a third under the 2,000 meter great western escarpment of Vinson. By then we were getting good looks at the sharp and dramatic summits north of Vinson. We had great views of Epperly, Gardner and Shinn -the fifth, fourth, and third highest peaks of Antarctica. We pulled into 9,200 ft Low Camp in 4.5 hours time and set to building tents and moving in. Lakpa, Pachi, and Namgya hosted a great dinner of chicken curry with rice in their spacious dining tent. We sat to sip hot drinks and chat for a bit but as we each began to feel the cold, we retired to warm sleeping bags. The tents are good and comfortable with sun projected to be on them until 3 AM -it then goes behind the mountain and we expect the big chill to take over. We’ll rest and do a little training and acclimatizing tomorrow.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
On The Map
Best to the entire team…it looks amazing. Lots of people pulling for the team back home - be safe!
Posted by: Chris Gustafson on 12/30/2019 at 5:36 pm
Good luck guys. keep your faces upward and climb gradually and calmly. take care
Posted by: Murad Shah on 12/29/2019 at 10:25 pm
December 28, 2019
Our night in Punta Arenas was short and loud... to be honest. It was Friday night and the town square was chock full of partiers and demonstrators beating drums and waving flags. We were out of the hotel by 5 AM and bound for the airport -sleep or no sleep. The team filed through security in an empty airport and then we walked out to our trusty Gulfstream IV to load up. At 6:40 we launched and left South America. We had fine conditions for flying, and the Gulfstream has plenty of windows, but for the most part, clouds blocked our view of Tierra del Fuego. Many of the team dozed or read over the Drake Passage, but all began to come alive when we first spotted icebergs... and then ice flows, ice shelves, and finally the glaciers of mainland Antarctica. During our final half hour in the air, we had ridiculously clear views of the Ellsworth Mountains and Mount Vinson’s less traveled Eastern flank. Then our all star pilots, Fred and Curt, had the G4 on final approach at Union Glacier. We were all paying pretty close attention as the wheels touched down on hard ice and the plane rolled along at high speed. Reverse Thrust did the trick nicely and the roll turned into taxiing into position for disembarking and unloading. Our first steps in Antarctica were a thrill. We were each a little surprised at how pleasant the weather was. No wind and relatively mild temperatures meant we were comfy in light down coats. Handshakes, fist bumps and highfives all around seemed the appropriate first order of business. But then we got the plane unloaded and said goodbye to Fred and Curt who rocketed down the ice and into the air again on their return to Chile. Our “ground team” of ALE staffers scooped us up in a bus with enormous wheels and brought us via ice highways to Union Glacier Camp. Our flight had taken 3.5 hours (by comparison, the “normal” Ilyushin 76 ride is about 4.5 to 5 hours).
We toured the camp around noon and then basically had some time to kill. Our Twin Otter flight to Vinson was planned for about 5:30 PM. We ate, played soccer, rode fat tire bikes and messed with electronics. Finally, we loaded onto two ski equipped airplanes and enjoyed a spectacular cruise through progressively bigger ice covered mountains. The Canadian pilots, Monica and Russ, flew alongside one another for much of the hundred miles. We landed going uphill at 7,000 ft on the Branscomb Glacier and hopped out at Vinson Basecamp. Things were quite busy for a few minutes as the planes were emptied of our gear and then filled by a team leaving the mountain. Once the Otters were in the air again, Vinson Base got extremely quiet and calm. We met our ALE staff and fellow guides, Pachi Ibarra, Namgya Sherpa and Lakpa Rita Sherpa (who, between them, have 32 Everest summits). We had an amazing dinner by Chef Murph who crushed it with Lamb Shanks and Broccoli. Then we settled into our tents and sorted a little gear. The travel is complete, the climb starts tomorrow.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Twenty four hours of flying high and fast brought our team of 12 to the end of the conventional planet. We’re now assembled in Punta Arenas, Chile... ready to go the final leg of our journey to the unconventional planet. Things look good for firing up the Gulfstream tomorrow morning to jump on down to Union Glacier in Antarctica. With luck, we’ll then make the hop out to Vinson Basecamp in ski-equipped Twin Otters.
We landed in Punta near mid-day today and got settled at the venerable old Cabo De Hornos hotel on the town’s central plaza. We walked the streets for a bit, finding lunch and making our way to the headquarters of Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions for a briefing. ALE is our partner and outfitter for the expedition and they got us up to speed on environmental safeguarding procedures and current weather predictions. We then went back to exploring town. There was the obligatory stop for pisco sours in the Shackleton Bar of one of the old, stately hotels on the plaza. Then we found the perfect grill -a Parrilla-for a hearty patagonian dinner. Finally, we watched the sunset light up clouds over Magellan’s Strait as we walked home. Early start tomorrow. Perhaps we’ll finish the day on Mount Vinson.
Keep it safe up down there! Wings level and blue sky-up…...so look up at that view. Slick, we will have a few Old Fashions wait’in for ya at the Valley. Capture those memories! MORE PIC’s
Posted by: Michael on 12/30/2019 at 6:06 pm
Slay the beast! Looking forward to all the stories and pics. Best of luck, guys!
Posted by: Kram on 12/30/2019 at 11:30 am
Merry Christmas to you all! It wasn’t the same without you but things happen for a reason. Maybe, for example, it was to form bonds that will never be broken. In any case, the welcome home will have that much more joy. Here’s to getting off the ground tomorrow.
Posted by: Kathy on 12/25/2018 at 3:03 pm
Please come home to us. We realize you won’t make it for Christmas but you will be in our thoughts. Sending much love.
Posted by: Kathy on 12/24/2018 at 12:14 pm
Hang in there Matt! Hope the weather clears soon. Best wishes, Chuck and Leslie
Posted by: Chuck Immel on 12/24/2018 at 10:02 am
Dear Dave, hang in there! We wish you a flight home soon, when it is safe. Your team is lucky to have you as their leader. Maybe you can get started on your book? Very fondly, Ingrid & Lou
Posted by: ingrid Whittaker on 12/23/2018 at 10:01 am