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Vinson Massif: Team Winds Down at Union Glacier Basecamp

An easy and slightly surreal day for the team, after so much walking and dealing with discomfort… to be thoroughly inactive, waited upon and flat out comfortable in the luxurious dining tent at Union Glacier

The team wasn’t visibly anxious to be missing out on exercise, nor did anyone seem worried over whether the Ilyushin airplane would fly on time.  We sat, we ate, we concurred.  Life is good.  There was a persistent and slight breeze blowing all day long at the Union Glacier camp, but the air temperature is so warm (compared to anywhere on Vinson) that we routinely walked from tent to tent without gloves or jackets, crunching along on well-packed snow. 

If all goes well, the plane will fly from Punta Arenas tomorrow and the RMI Vinson team will head back to South America and a victory feast with Seth Waterfall.  I’ll stay in to greet the next RMI Vinson team and get started on a new adventure.  Many thanks to those who have followed our trip for the past two weeks.  Your comments were passed on to us (we don’t surf the web, but we exchange email with RMI headquarters) and produced many smiles on twelve sunburned faces.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Thanks to you Dave & Seth and the whole RMI team. Sterling had a wonderful experience.

Posted by: Sue Foreman on 12/17/2012 at 9:39 pm

Dear Dave & Seth: Thank you very much for taking the time to write all those informative blogs every day after a hard day of climbing in extreme cold. They were the first things I checked for in the morning and last things I read at night. They made me feel like part of the expedition (albeit in the comfort of our home), living the ups and downs of our loved ones through your postings. Thanks for guiding another successful climb! Happy Holidays! -Fan

Posted by: Fan on 12/17/2012 at 7:46 pm

Vinson Massif:  A Quick Descent

There was a wind blowing in the night at high camp.  It was just a few miles per hour, but it was steady and we’d been exceedingly lucky in not having any wind for four days up high, so it was a worry.  But a needless worry, since by morning it was gone.  We ate, we packed and by ten in the morning we were walking downhill with great big packs.  Everybody was thinking about getting those big packs down the steep fixed ropes… the last real obstacle to our safety, but we caught those ropes and slopes in perfect condition.  They were still in shadow and the tracks of teams that had descended several days earlier were still in perfect condition and useful as stairs.  We made it to our old digs at low camp in just a few hours, packed and repacked there and then plodded down the Branscomb Glacier toward Basecamp.  Cresting the final hill, we saw two Twin Otter airplanes sitting patiently and waiting to take us away.  This was a pleasant surprise as we hadn’t really discussed an exit strategy yet with ALE, our logistics company.  At Basecamp by four in the afternoon, we shuffled duffels and boarded the planes.  Some of us were treated to a magnificent scenic flight as the pilot performed a mountain reconnaissance for future climbs on our way back to Union Glacier.  The Twin spiraled around one Matterhorn after another and dove through tight v-shaped passes.  A smooth landing at Union got us in just in time for dinner.  A wonderful dinner, whilst sitting in chairs, with backs.  True luxury.  We caught up with fellow climbers from the mountain (who we hadn’t seen for days) and with the wonderful staff at ALE.  Life is considerably warmer and easier at Union Glacier, and the team is excited about being a step closer to home, but we’re all still buzzing over the mountain that we lived on for the last nine days.  And climbed.
Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

HW: Great to know you are be step closer to home. Hope you will be ale to fly to Punta Arenas soon. We had a lot of fun at the birthday party. Love, -Fan

Posted by: Fan on 12/16/2012 at 6:22 pm

Sterling, The plane ride sounded like it might have been another highlight of this trip. We hope to see you New Years Day. Have a great trip home.

Posted by: Dave & Shirley on 12/16/2012 at 10:43 am

Vinson Massif:  100% of Team Reaches Summit!

Back to perfect weather.  We made the summit of Mt. Vinson one more time today.  Just a small rope team to get the final climber -who rested yesterday- up to see the sights.  And there were unlimited sights to be seen.  The entire Ellsworth chain was visible from end to end and beyond, at least two hundred miles of jagged peaks and endless ice.  There wasn’t any wind at all on the summit today, so it was the most comfortable -30 C one is ever likely to see.  We made the top in 6 hours and 45 minutes, spent a half hour up there saying “wow” over and over, and descended to high camp in two hours.  Seth Waterfall and the rest of the team took things easy at high camp throughout a nice long sunny day, snacking and catching up on hydration.  Tomorrow we’ll all drop back down the mountain and begin the journey home.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map


Posted by: Fred Klingbeil on 12/15/2012 at 3:21 pm

HW: Very happy for the whole team to reach 100% success rate. I hope you have taken many pictures at high camp today. Wish for good weather so you can come down and fly out soon. Kudos to Dave for going up the summit two days in a row to make sure everyone could summit! Over here, we had a fun birthday party for M today with 10 kids coming. Please stay safe. Love, -Fan

Posted by: Fan on 12/15/2012 at 12:14 pm

Vinson Massif: Hahn, Waterfall & Team Summit!

If at first you don’t succeed…  The forecast really wasn’t all that good for today, but when Seth Waterfall and I looked out of the tent at 7:30 AM, we couldn’t find too much wrong with the day.  We started stoves, woke the team and geared up once again for a summit bid.  We got out of camp at around 10 AM and made steady progress in bright sunshine.  Eventually the sky clouded up (as we’d been told it might) but we kept a careful watch out for wind on the heights… and didn’t see any.  The team moved well, with many commenting that they actually felt stronger today than they had in yesterday’s bid.  We reached the old high point and then seemed to be getting above the clouds as we worked our way onto Vinson’s summit ridge.  We all thought it was going to be cold and windy on the final ridge but instead it was delightfully calm, sunny and even warm (it certainly didn’t feel like the forecasted -28 C…although it might have with any wind whatsoever).  The team loved the big blocky rocks and delicate traverses of the summit ridge.  We got on top at 5:00 PM and stayed there for thirty minutes, shooting pictures and shaking hands.  The clouds took a way a good chunk of the view possibilities, but we had glimpses enough through the mist to know we were way up in the air over Antarctica.  The descent took a mere 2.5 hours and we were back in camp by 8:00 PM.  Tired and happy.  Our plan is for the majority of the team to rest at high camp tomorrow while I make one more try at the top with a climber who sat out today’s bid. 
Weather permitting. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

[Transcribed audio]  Hey this is Seth checking from the summit of Vinson Massif, highest point in Antarctica. Had a great day of climbing. Started out in sun, ended up in the clouds, but we were on top in almost zero wind and light snow flurries.  We are up pretty high.  We are going to take a couple of photos and head on back to high camp and we’ll check in then.

RMI Guide Seth Waterfall

RMI Guide Seth Waterfall from the Vinson Massif summit

On The Map

THREE CHEERS!!! So excited for everyone!!!! Can’t wait to hear all about it. Continued Blessings.
Steph and Jane

Posted by: Steph and Jane on 12/14/2012 at 9:26 pm

FELICIDADES CAMPEONA, gracias por este hermoso regalo, si se pudo, tu espíritu inquebrantable, fortaleza, y Dios lo hicieron posible, FELICIDADES PRIMERA TICA EN ANTÁRTICA,  te esperamos sana y salva ,, si se pudo la num. 6, Bravoooo, mami te manda felicitaciones de corazón, pensando que siempre sales adelante eres una pequeña gran mujer.

Posted by: Graciela Carmona Soto on 12/14/2012 at 3:37 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

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: 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 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: 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: 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

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