Entries By mike king
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
In the midst of a great trip with a wonderful group, one of the hardest parts of a guides job is to make the decision to turn a group around and head back to the hut, knowing some climbers will continue up and likely summit.
Last night we woke to a thin cloud and light snow at 15,874’. The group got ready and was optimistic due to the warm air and fresh snow that would make walking the first 1.5 hours on rocky trail easier. However, we had a similar experience on Cayambe that resulted in an electrical storm.
With over 70 people setting out from the hut to climb we got out mid pack and made our way to the toe of the glacier to put crampons on. During this first stretch the moon was bright, reflecting moonlight off the white snow so headlamps didn’t have to be turned on.
As we ascended the glacier, the new snow accumulation had increased from 3” at the hut to 1 foot + at 17,800’. As we pulled into our second break the guides had begun chatting about snow stability and while at the break dug 2 snow pits to better assess what we were traveling on top of. The results were a foot of new snow overnight on top of a 2 inch consolidated snow layer that moved with enough energy early on in the test to reconsider climbing higher. There had been a meter of new snow in the last week without much sun or heat to help consolidate the snowpack.
The terrain above us consisted of larger crevasses and steeper slopes, when combined with new snow avalanche conditions this made for hazards that we could not safely manage. We showed the group a second test and explained our concerns. The guides and climbers are naturally disappointed to have missed another summit and safety has to take precedent. In talking with the Ecuadorean guides, this month has been wetter with more unstable weather patterns then historically seen in December.
We are currently heading back to Quito for showers, packing and flights later tonight. We’ll wrap up a fun trip in that new friends were made, we saw lots of beautiful scenery and spent time in the mountains. We’ll also look forward to the unfinished summits of Cayambe and Cotopaxi on another trip. Thanks for following along.
December 11, 2019
Everyone was sad to say goodbye to the Chilcabamba Eco Lodge this morning as we had really enjoyed our stay and were getting used to the comforts of hacienda life, not to mention the friendly, cute puppy that accompanied us nearly everywhere we went. However, Cotopaxi was on display again for us this morning against a clear blue sky to the south, so we packed our things and drove through Cotopaxi National Park to the trailhead as clouds began to build and encircle the mountain. It was a quick 45 minutes of hiking with full packs through thick clouds, but we stayed dry! The hut is luxurious for accommodations at almost 16,000’. It’s decorated with climbing memorabilia, photos of Cotopaxi and other peaks around the world, and they even recently installed a small bouldering wall. After a light lunch, we’re now tucked into our sleeping bags for an afternoon siesta before dinner and listening to waves of hail and sleet outside. It won’t be long before we get up later tonight to make our summit attempt of Cotopaxi. Our hope is to wake to clear skies above, as has been the trend in recent mornings, and work our way to 19,347’ on this beautiful volcano. Everyone is feeling good and fired up to get to some thinner air! We’ll check in tomorrow with an update. Thanks for following along!
On The Map
Best wishes for a fabulous experience! Love from David’s wife, at sea level in Dallas.
Posted by: Cindy Spence on 12/11/2019 at 6:21 pm
December 10, 2019
We had a restful night here at the Chilcabamba Lodge last night. The Team woke to clear and sunny skies and a spectacular view of Cotopaxi. The Chilcabama Lodge is a rustic hacienda with thatch roofs, that has been given just enough of a facelift to maintain its charm and more then enough creature comforts to enjoy our time here. We set out for what ended up being a long walk to a waterfall that we could not access. However, along the way we enjoyed the beautiful rolling farms, lush vegetation and fun conversation for about four hours. We are all back enjoying some down time and anticipating afternoon rain showers. This group has really bonded well and the trip has flown by. We will refresh a few items for our climb and pack our bags for Cotopaxi this evening before dinner.
December 9, 2019
We went to bed with rain and clouds and were hopeful when the stars and upper mountain were out at 11pm when we woke up. After a quick bite to eat and coffee we finished packing our gear and headed up the rocky trail to access the glacier. Our first hour was warm and there was some lighting in the distance. With clear skies above we continued towards the Hermosa glacier and slowly were overtaken by clouds, the lighting was now flashing in all directions. The electrical storm was not the violent ground strikes accompanied by thunder that most people would associate with but rather lighting that was spread throughout the clouds. The visibility decreased and we made the decision to descend back to the hut rather then see if the system would move out. After we returned to the hut wet snow began falling and the upper mountain didn’t not give us another window to climb higher.
We are currently down safe and headed for Chilcabamba for the next 2 nights. While we all would have liked to climb Cayambe, the weather window didn’t cooperate. We are all eager for a different outcome on Cotopaxi in 3 nights.
RMI Guide Mike King & Team
Greetings from Chicago!
Sorry you couldn’t summit today but super glad you’re all safe
Posted by: Kim Taylor on 12/9/2019 at 3:13 pm