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Vinson Massif: Team 2 Arrives in Punta Arenas

Greetings from Punta Arenas,

Our second Vinson trip of the season is officially underway. Our small but adventurous group arrived yesterday in the beautiful port city of Punta Arenas. This small southern Chilean town sits right on the Straight of Magellan and is the jumping off point for our flight to Antarctica.

Today, we had our pre-trip briefing with our outfitter ALE to go over all the details about our flight and to review some of the protocols for visiting Antarctica. “Vast, large, and remote” is how Peter McDowell, one of the owners of ALE and the person giving today’s orientation, described it. He then showed a slide with the US (the lower 48) overlaid on top of Antarctica. Even with the US, there was still a whole lot of land mass showing.

After the team meeting we began to unpack and then re-pack everything for the flight to Union Glacier. With the final equipment check complete, the bags were weighed and transported to the airport to be loaded on the plane. It is now a waiting game. The forecast is showing an improving trend and with any luck, the team will be able to fly out tomorrow as planned and meet RMI Guide Dave Hahn who is waiting for them at Union Glacier.

Today is beautiful here and we are now off to do a little exploring and then on to dinner. We’ll check in tomorrow to let you know about the flight status.

RMI Guide Jeff Martin

Vinson Massif: Departure for Antarctica

Hello from Punta Arenas,

We had the call this morning that we were on standby for our flight. Union Glacier was cloudy, but the report was that the weather was starting to improve and they would re-evaluate at 12:30 pm. We all crossed our fingers that the team could get going towards Vinson.

The second call came in right at 12:30 and we were told that the bus is coming to pick us up at the hotel at 1:25 pm. The flight is a go!
There were several other groups to pick up on the way to the airport, but the plane was loaded and ready for passengers. After an abbreviated security check, the bus pulled up right next to the plane and 15 minutes later everybody was on board and ready to go. It’s about 4 1/4 hour flight down to Union Glacier . They carry enough fuel so that if they get down there and are unable to land, they can turn around and head back to Punta Arenas. Hopefully not the case for this flight. Once they land on the glacier, they will meet up with Dave Hahn, and if the weather is decent, the plan is for a quick turn around at Union Glacier, switching planes, and heading directly to Vinson Basecamp.

The next dispatch will be from Dave and the crew on the ice.

RMI Guide Jeff Martin

Vinson Massif: Team Arrives at Base Camp

Dave Hahn called from Vinson Base Camp early this morning after the team arrived on the mountain. Below is the transcript from his call:

Hey, this is Dave Hahn on calling from Vinson Base Camp again. The Illyusion came in today at Union Glacier, it was a spectacular day - actually started a little bit cloudy, still a little bit ice crystals in the air, chance of fog, but the afternoon was just sparkling and beautiful and the airplane came in in the evening and brought in my next group of climbers. So the four of us then clambered…out of the Illyusion and into Twin Otters. But first we had Illyusion Stew there at Union Glacier - the traditional meal there on the ice in the ALE Dining Tent. Then kind of a midnight ride through the Ellsworth mountains, really beautiful, the shadows long. And the Twin Otters on skis, brought us out to Branscomb Glacier. A perfect landing going uphill on the glacier at 7000’  and Vinson splendid out in front of us. And now it’s 2:30 and we’ve gathered our tent’s up. We’re in shadow. So, I’m not gonna stay up too much longer… [Call lost].

Rooting for you, Mom! I know you can do it! -Tianna

Posted by: Tianna on 12/4/2011 at 12:54 pm

Great luck guys! Li, you’re living your dream! Much love and support from Toronto Canada! d

Posted by: Dean V. on 12/4/2011 at 11:41 am

Vinson Massif: Reviewing and Sorting While Waiting for Weather

It turned out to be a lucky thing we flew into Vinson basecamp last night.  It would not have worked today as the weather has gone down.  Looking at things philosophically, this is not a bad time to get a storm.  Considering that it has been nearly two weeks now of generally good (and at times -perfect) weather, we were due for a change and we definitely did not want that change to come as we got higher -and more vulnerable- on the mountain.  Our plan for this first day of the expedition involved sorting gear and reviewing climbing techniques.  We thought we’d make a carry of supplies partway up the Branscomb Glacier, but with a whiteout and new snow falling, it was easy to scrap the carry in favor of napping.  Travel to this point on the Antarctic continent from North America has taken days and nights and lots of “hurry up and wait” and so a rest before the climb begins in earnest isn’t wasted time by any means.  Especially when we can hear winds ripping the ridges above.  The team doesn’t seem stressed by the change in plan and do seem to be quickly adapting to expedition life on ice.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Vinson Massif: Dave & Team Carry Supplies Amidst the Storm

The storm rages on.  When we could catch a glimpse of the Vinson Massif today, it was continually capped in thick wind-sculpted cloud.  But it really wasn’t bad down here on the Branscomb Glacier.  Our basecamp is nicely sheltered… so far.  It is rare for big winds to find their way into our valley, but it does happen.  This storm isn’t finished yet either.  Our forecast from ALE suggests it will be with us at least another day.  Today we did manage to get a carry of food and gear in to “half camp” about 2.5 hours above Vinson Base Camp.  It was great to stretch legs and it will certainly ease our eventual move up to low camp.  We took about an hour to scoot back down to base in cold and shadowy conditions.  A hot dinner in our dining tent got all feeling good again.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Vinson Massif: Team Moves Uphill

Another day of storm, as predicted and expected.  But it seemed as though things were improving gradually and so we thought we might sneak up into position at Low Camp so as to be ready for the good weather.  This plan worked well, at first.  We packed up and got rolling from basecamp at 1:30 PM.  At the big right-angle turn of the Branscomb Glacier we picked up our cache from yesterday and marched on.  Travel was actually easier than it had been for the first Vinson team since much of the soft snow blew away.  With a good path and calm and even occasionally sunny conditions, the miles flew by.  We hit low camp at 9,300 ft right on five hours, at 6:30.  That also happened to be the moment that the first big cold and random wave of wind played through.  Sure enough, the storm had a sting in its tail.  We got hammered by gusts as we carefully built our tents and lit stoves.  It all certainly lent drama to our situation, but the team remained in good humor and coped well.  Meals were served up in the sleeping tents instead of in the POSH, but that worked out just fine.  By 10 PM the wind was behaving much better and it pretty much quit by midnight (although it can still be heard howling through high camp, 3,500 ft directly above us).  Obviously we want our share of good and stable weather to begin tomorrow, but if necessary, we can wait right here for whenever the fine stuff shows up.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Vinson Massif: Rest Day for the Team

Winds stayed mercifully calm throughout last night, but just as we got hoping for the morning sunshine (it takes until 11:30 AM for the sun to get around the mountain and into our camp) the storm came in again good and strong for several hours.  There was not any question of going ahead with our carry to high camp.  Instead, we rested, which turned out to be quite pleasant when the cloud caps blew off the peaks and the winds quit.  Just a lazy day in the sun, trying to drink plenty of water and get organized for going higher.  This evening’s dinner was relaxed and leisurely, the total opposite of our battle with the elements 24 hours before.  Things don’t seem totally stable yet, but there isn’t much doubt now that we are headed for better days.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Hi Mindy we are thinking of you.  Stay warm!

Posted by: Chris on 12/8/2011 at 8:19 am

Vinson Massif: Dave & Team Carry to High Camp

It is a quarter after one in the morning in the Ellsworth Mountains of Antarctica.  We made our carry of summit supplies to Vinson high camp today.  It all went quite well.  We made it up there in under six hours, arriving just before 8 PM.  Two-and-a-half hours later we were back down the fixed ropes and thirty-five hundred feet lower in camp one.  These are late days, but we are simply trying to use the best sun of the day.  In such cold temperatures it doesn’t make sense to do otherwise.  Our storm is gone, but there is still a lot of high cloud in the area.  We were warm enough going up the fixed ropes but met with a nagging four mile per hour breeze on the less steep slopes before high camp and that allowed us to fully appreciate the ambient temperature (forecast to be -24 C today with about -35 C at the summit)  It was all good training for the bigger and harder days which will follow.  Climbing out of the Branscomb valley, the team got to look out upon the endless world of ice to our west today.  It is a stunning and magnificent view, and virtually impossible to tell where ice ends and sky begins.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Fantastic Li! You’re getting closer & closer! Love Dean

Posted by: Dean on 12/9/2011 at 6:11 am

Vinson Massif: Move to High Camp

Half past one in the morning and the sun is blazing away at high camp on Mt. Vinson.  We made the move up today.  It was a murky day from the start, with lazy clouds and light snowfall keeping the views pretty limited as we cranked on up the steep fixed rope section.  We made the trip in about 6.5 hours, coming in to camp just after 9 PM.  By midnight we’d gotten a good hot dinner and the team was turning in while the clouds began to drop away.  We’ll likely take a rest day tomorrow and go for the top on December 11th if weather permits.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

You guys are amazing!! While we are sitting in our warm places you are weathering the incredible cold hights..Wishing you great weather all the way to the summit!! Go, Vlado go!
Lumir, Maria and Patrick

Posted by: maria popek on 12/9/2011 at 10:38 pm

Vinson Massif: Teams Rests at High Camp and Readies for Summit Bid

A long and easy day at high camp, preparing for the summit.  There wasn’t a breath of wind, which we are hoping will be the situation tomorrow as well.  Still plenty of cloud about, although we seem to be near the top of it all.  I spoke on the radio with Vinson basecamp and they seem to be down in the soup.  Clouds shouldn’t present any great problem for us though, as long as the predictions hold true and the calm continues.  The forecast calls for -38 C tomorrow on top.  It was far more comfortable than that in our tents today though.  We napped, we drank water, we napped, we ate food, and we napped.  Tomorrow we climb.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

thinking of with every step, Vlado. enjoy the vistas at the top!

Posted by: Maria on 12/11/2011 at 10:13 am

Good luck on making it up to the summit tomorrow!

Posted by: TRACY OWENS on 12/10/2011 at 10:36 pm

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