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Vinson Massif: The Antarctic Season Begins!

This is Seth checking in from Punta Arenas.  The team has all arrived safe and sound.  We have also managed to arrive with all of our luggage!  Thank goodness.

We spent the day getting to know each other and prepping for the journey onto the ice.  We will be getting our final briefing with ALE in the morning and hopefully flying to Antarctica within the next few days.  As for now we are enjoying the wonderful restaurants in Punta.  We will update everyone tomorrow with the plan.

RMI Guide Seth Waterfall

  Looking forward to following your adventure.  Be safe and enjoy yourself.  Colleman is bringing Barney down on the next plane.  Take care, Leff

Posted by: Steve Leff on 12/8/2012 at 12:03 pm

We so enjoy following your adventure and photos every day. best of luck, have a great climb and stay safe.  love

Posted by: Dad and Fran on 12/8/2012 at 10:34 am

Vinson Massif: Team Ready to Fly onto the Ice

Hello Everyone,

A last day of packing and prepping in Punta. We got our gear weighed and carted off to go in the hold of the Ilyushin 76 transport plane that will soon take us to Antarctica.  David Rootes, one of the directors of ALE -our logistics company- gave a great slideshow and briefing to get our team excited and informed for a trip to the Ice.  We reviewed environmental concerns and procedures for minimizing our impact on the continent.  And we heard that Vinson, the mountain we are bound for, is presently giving the first climbers of the season a very hard time with persistent and powerful winds.  Far from being discouraged, we came away energized and determined.  Determined to have one more great dinner out on the town.

Tomorrow we fly (if we are lucky)

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Daniel-san,  Thinking about you.  Make me proud!

Posted by: Mr. Miyagi on 12/6/2012 at 12:17 pm

James and crew:
Thanks for the update Dave ... it is very exciting following your progress! It is so good to hear that things are progressing smoothly. 
Fred K

Posted by: Fred Klingbeil on 12/6/2012 at 10:22 am

Vinson Massif: Team Lands with Ease on the Union Glacier

Greetings from Antarctica.  Today went about ten times smoother and easier than any previous attempt at getting onto the “last” continent.  Our logistics company (ALE) gave a call at the civilized hour of 6:30 AM and advised us to put on our boots and check out of our rooms.  We ate breakfast, got on a bus, cruised to the airport, breezed through security and boarded our transport plane.  The Ilyushin 76 went “wheels up” at 9:30 AM and we were on our way.  Just ahead of the 2:15 PM landing we got busy putting on warm clothes and glacier glasses.  The Russian crew brought the big plane in for the smoothest landing on an ice runway that the world has ever known.  A few minutes later we were standing out on the Union Glacier in brilliant sunshine and a brisk breeze, marveling at the new world and at the amazing machine we’d just flown in.

We were chauffeured back to camp in deluxe 4 wheel drive vans with giant tires.  A series of informative and essential briefings and feedings were attended over the following few hours.  The ALE staff took excellent care of us and Seth Waterfall and I felt we were attending a great reunion as we met all of the friends we’ve come to expect to see in the odd corners of the globe.  Weather was perfect around camp as we set up our tents.  There was the faintest of breezes and a big bright sun.  The plan is for our team to get on a Twin Otter sometime tomorrow morning for a flight to Vinson.  The sun isn’t setting tonight but the team will get tired anyway at some point, despite all the excitement at this new place and quiet conversations going on in a dozen different languages around camp.  We do need rest.  Tomorrow is another huge day.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

It’s wonderful to hear that things are going so smoothly!  Hopefuly this trend will continue. Oz’s Holiday Play was a huge success—he was excited and did an awesome job.  Your mom and I taped parts of it on our phones… Staying in Raleigh this weekend—he has choir commitments and I think we’ll do a Tacky Christmas light tour this weekend too!  Miss you!

Posted by: Stephanie on 12/7/2012 at 10:55 am

Christopher: Remember, Amundsen not Scott.  I’ll see you when you get back. julia.

Posted by: Julia Havlovic on 12/6/2012 at 7:19 pm

Vinson Massif: Team arrives at Vinson Base Camp

Another important milestone, easily achieved.  We woke at Union Glacier in perfect weather, ate our breakfast and boarded two ski equipped Twin Otter airplanes bound for Vinson Basecamp.  Our flight through the Ellsworth Mountains was memorable as we passed hundreds of sharp and dramatic glaciated peaks.  A big right turn brought us into the valley of the Branscomb Glacier at the foot of Mount Vinson.  We landed while flying up a hill at a little over 7000 ft elevation.  The entire team set to work dragging duffels and building Basecamp.  We spent this perfect weather day reviewing roped climbing techniques and getting settled in.  An afternoon hike served to stretch legs and jog memories of mountaineering difficulties and pleasures.  We ate dinner in our newly built dining tent under the blazing evening sun, forgetting that the air temperature was likely hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit.  We enjoyed seeing the climbers from the previous round on Vinson come into camp pleased with their summit of the mountain just yesterday and relieved to find airplanes waiting to take them away today. 
Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Sterling..Another try..go bro..we know you can do it!
XO..Nadine and Dan

Posted by: Nadine Douke on 12/13/2012 at 2:02 pm

Go Dr. James and Team!

Posted by: The Texadas on 12/7/2012 at 7:11 pm

Vinson Massif: Adjusting to Antarctica

Hello from Vinson Base camp where the winds are calm and the midnight sun is in full force.  Today was our first full day of climbing!  We carried food and fuel mostly and cached it at camp one.

The sun doesn’t really go down here but when it goes behind the mountain it gets very cold.  Due to that we have had to alter our days slightly to take advantage of the warmer times.  It’s a little bit of an adjustment but it seems to have suited the group just fine.  Everyone did an awesome job today and if all goes well we’ll be moving our camp up the mountain tomorrow.

RMI Guide Seth Waterfall

On The Map

Hi, Jules!
Good luck on Summit #7!  You rock and I can’t wait to see your pics when you return to the wet and dark Pacific NW :)

Posted by: Lily on 12/12/2012 at 8:14 pm

Gina, saludos de todos los que te queremos, animo campeona, sabemos que no es fácil pero tu puedes, es tu sueño, mucha fortaleza, estamos contigo, suerte en tu cima #6, te esperamos.

Posted by: Graciela Carmona Soto on 12/10/2012 at 3:28 pm

Vinson Massif: Smooth Sailing into Camp One

Moving up the mountain, bit by bit.  We seemed to make pretty quick work of the move from Vinson Base to Camp One today.  It didn’t hurt that we had another day of perfect, sunny and calm weather.  The team seems to be getting into the swing of things now and the climbing seems easy and familiar… marching along low angled glacier carrying heavy packs and hauling sleds full of gear and supplies.  But now, having established camp at 9,300 ft on the Branscomb Glacier, the approach is over and tomorrow the climb begins.  If all goes well we’ll tackle the steep fixed rope section and try to make a carry to high camp.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

I clicked on the link for the page here and they had a link for Mt. Kili.  More my speed.  Best of luck on the climb up tomorrow.  If you see penguins on the way back remember to stuff one into your pack for me.  I don’t expect you to lug one all the way to the top.  Everyone at GFH3 says hi.

Posted by: Reid on 12/9/2012 at 6:13 pm

Sterling. I’m back in OC. Guess this is a rest day? Incredible pictures!! Hoping for continued good weather.  Sue

Posted by: Sue on 12/9/2012 at 2:36 pm

Vinson Massif: Team Carries to High Camp

Morning at Low Camp is a tough, tough thing.  The sun doesn’t hit camp until about 11:15 AM and until then, things are mighty cold in the shadow of Vinson.  It isn’t dark at night, since the sun doesn’t go below the horizon, but when it goes behind the mountain we burrow pretty deeply into our down sleeping bags. 

We rolled out this morning to find a lot more cloud than we expected.  But there didn’t seem to be any wind blowing on the high peaks and so we geared up to do our carry to high camp.  We set out bright and early at 1:45 PM.  It started snowing lightly as we approached the fixed ropes, but it wasn’t particularly cold.  The rope sections were a workout, for sure.  We climbed continuously steep snow slopes that averaged about 35 degrees for hour after hour.  Leaving the ropes we still had a final hour and a half of glacier climbing to reach high camp.  All in all it took us about 6 and a half hours to get there.  Views weren’t unlimited since the cloud and intermittent snows stayed with us, but we got glimpses of the giant mountains around us.  We cached supplies at high camp (12,300 ft) and then skedaddled on down reaching our tents and some good strong sunshine at 10:30 PM.  Dinner and hot drinks finished the day.  A fine and hard day of climbing, we all agreed. Now we look forward to a rest day at low camp. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

James,  What an endeavor!  Hope the mountain stays friendly for your expedition.  Be safe and healthy, and good luck!  This your cousin from San Francisco.

Posted by: Linda (Shin) Sager on 12/11/2012 at 8:29 am

Julie-Prayers your way as you attempt the summit. You can do it!  Kara & Cindy

Posted by: Kara on 12/10/2012 at 10:00 pm

Vinson Massif: Rest and Recharge at Low Camp

A break in the action.  As planned, this became our rest and recharge day at Low Camp on Mount Vinson.  The mountain itself seemed in a mood as no views whatsoever were granted all day long.  Clouds sat just above us and blocked out the sun.  Sitting in tents wasn’t so uncomfortable, but hanging around outside wasn’t terribly rewarding.  So we ate a big breakfast and told each other a bunch of stories in the dining tent at midday and then did much the same thing in the evening.  In between we napped, read, listened to music, snacked and drank water.  The day was meant to prepare us for our move to high camp and assault on the summit.  We wanted to let our bodies catch up to the altitude and give tired backs and feet a break.  The team is healthy and in good spirits all around.  Our forecasts (transmitted via radio from Vinson Basecamp) don’t call for major changes in the next few days and we see that as a good thing since high camp and the summit were above the clouds and not too windy today.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

  Sending warm wishes your way.  I will tell Collman there are no polar bears or trees where you are.  Hahahah Take care,

Posted by: Steve Leff on 12/13/2012 at 1:47 pm

Sterling: I met Dan at the Z Cafe in Bonsall this morning (Thur) We both ordered new items that we had never tried before.Dan had the Breakfast Burrito with chile verde sauce and I tried the Eggs Benedict with cottage fries… Live is an adventure huh Sterling… See you soon Phil

Posted by: Phil/Dan on 12/13/2012 at 12:36 pm

Vinson Massif: Team Reaches High Camp

The clouds fled Low Camp around 1:30 this morning and we woke to sparkling skies about ten hours later.  Moving day!  Breakfast got us set for a flurry of gearing up, knocking tents down, and roping up for the big climb to high camp.  We are old hands at climbing the steep fixed rope sections now, but most were startled at the scenery (which eluded us on our cloudy climb the other day).  We had unimpaired views of hundreds of square miles of the Antarctic interior today, including the big jagged, crazy peaks just north of Vinson (Shinn and Epperly).  As we worked our way higher, our “Low” Camp began to seem low indeed, reduced to a collection of specks on the big Branscomb Glacier.  We pulled into high camp six hours after setting out, at a quarter to Eight PM.  As usual, it was a fair amount of work getting tents up and stoves burning and snow melting for dinner, but the entire team is well practiced now at such chores and it went quickly.  One by one our climbers wandered over to the edge of camp to peer out over the edge of the world.  At least the big drop-off back down to the Branscomb seems that way now.  Precipitous to the tune of more than three thousand vertical feet.  A physical cliff, as it were.  Tell congress we’ve found it.
Tomorrow, relatively bright and early, we’ll get up and see if the weather will work for a summit day.  It is forecast to be -28 degrees Celsius on top tomorrow.  Which is normal.  By the way, that converts to minus brrrrrrrr degrees Fahrenheit.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Bruce, been enjoying reading the blogs. Good luck, be safe and stay warm!

Posted by: Tara Zier on 12/12/2012 at 7:24 pm

Wow…the photos are incredible and reading the blog brings chills.  You guys are amazing!  Sending good wishes for an awesome day tomorrow.

Paula Selland

Posted by: Paula Selland on 12/12/2012 at 5:54 pm

Vinson Massif: Team Almost Summits But There’s Still Time

Hard day of mountain climbing.  We got up at five minutes to six this morning, excited that the sun was shining and the wind wasn’t blowing.  As we ate breakfast, we could see cloud moving in from the Northeast, but our hope was that we could climb before anything serious moved in.  We set out from high camp at 8:15 and made good and steady progress.  It was a tough day to dress for as everyone continually cycled from too hot to too cold and rarely spent any time being just right.  We watched cloud caps forming and dissipating on the peaks as we gained altitude, but eventually the clouds just kept building on Vinson.  We’d reached 15,340’  with 700’ to go… roughly two more hours to the top.  But we couldn’t do it.  The winds had picked up and snow was flying and people were tired, so it was a lousy combination for tackling the exposed summit ridge in cold conditions.  Down we went and into a cold headwind.  As expected, life was a lot easier when we got out from under the cloud cap, and by the time we’d reached high camp we were back in blue skies and sunshine.  Hard to come so close and come away without the summit… But we’ll keep trying.  We have more food, more fuel, more muscles and more ambition.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Sterling, Tough Luck! But then that’s what all that training was about. You could probably do this a few more times. Hopefully the second try will be successful.
Good Luck!

Posted by: Dave & Shirley on 12/13/2012 at 3:21 pm

Hi, Jules!
Good luck on summit bid #2 and Seven Summits #7! You rock!

Posted by: Lily Lo on 12/13/2012 at 3:00 pm

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