Entries from Vinson Massif
January 4, 2022
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning we woke at Vinson high camp and finished the “day” around a campfire in Miami, Florida.
We packed camp on another cold but beautiful Antarctic morning and started climbing downhill at 11:30 AM. Getting down the steep “fixed rope” section was the tricky part, but we managed it without great difficulty and pulled into low camp at 1 PM. We switched gears, pulling off crampons and rigging sleds for the lower angled glacier walk to Vinson Basecamp. There were some low clouds about and a forecast for more to come, so it wasn’t certain that we’d be able to fly out. But we didn’t think too much about that as we walked the amazing walk down the Branscomb Glacier to VBC. We pulled in at 4 PM… minutes after Russ landed his ski equipped Twin Otter. We were greeted at VBC with fist bumps, champagne and COVID tests. We did the duffel shuffle into the plane and shared a last cocktail with the top notch ALE staff. Bidding Scott and Hannah goodbye, we loaded up and flew to Union Glacier. Our timing being perfect, as always, we showed up at 6:30, just in time for an excellent dinner -sitting in chairs at a table in the comfortable dining tent. By then we knew our Bombardier jet was inbound and so we simply extended dinner for a few hours to sit and talk and mingle with the other adventurers. Nimsdai, the great Nepali climber and expedition leader, walked in fresh off a plane from the South Pole, and regaled our team with accounts of skiing the “Last Degree”
The “Global” landed at 11PM on the blue ice runway as we watched and cheered. We took our last steps on the glacier and up the ramp to the luxury of the plane. Within minutes, Sniggy transformed from Vinson climber to Pilot and lifted us off the Ice. In less than four hours we were back to Punta Arenas, but only to refuel and say goodbye to Ed Viesturs -who stayed behind for a planned second Vinson climb. The team toasted Ed as we flew through the South American night. By early afternoon we were in Miami, Florida and welcomed “home” by Sean “Stroker” Gustafson. Stroker -the famous F16 pilot and former Vinson climber- had us out to his place for a memorable evening of jet skiing, fishing, and fabulous dining. Stroker’s family made us quite comfortable and welcome around a campfire to finish the “day”. The team told stories of mountain climbing and space travel. We laughed and plotted future adventures long into the night. It is rare to end an Antarctic journey with a campfire in the sand, but I highly recommend that you try it.
January 1, 2022
We went for it today! Another absolutely beautiful, sunny, calm and clear day. It was something of a long shot for our entire team to be fully acclimated and ready for this serious push to 16,000 ft but we decided it was worth the try. That summit or not, we wanted to give it a go. And so we set off at 9 AM. It was cold at first, but rapidly becoming evident that -without even a hint of breeze- we wouldn’t suffer so much from the low temps. In fact, many of our team were pealing off down pants and bibs in the first uphill hours. We made steady progress, but the altitude took a toll and ultimately we formed turn around ropes. Those of us coming down early put our hopes and best wishes into those continuing to the top. Those pushing on got determined and efficient and topped out at 4:45 PM with inspired help from Scott, from Conrad Anker and from Hannah. Our entire team was reunited at high camp by 7:30 PM and enjoyed several easy, comfortable New Years Day hours recounting the adventure and looking out over the precipice of Vinson’s great western wall. We blew out candles on cookies for Sarah’s perfectly timed birthday and called it a day. An incredible day in a wondrous place.
Congrats team glad you all made your dream come true. Glad everyone is safe. Special shout out to our son Michael Altenhofen way to go . Hope all have a safe return to your homes and family’s. God Bless. Boyd Donna
Posted by: Boyd Donna Altenhofen on 1/3/2022 at 8:57 am
Thank you for a great story of your journey. Congrats!
Posted by: Terri L. Jennings on 1/3/2022 at 7:32 am
December 31, 2021
Friday, December 31, 2021 - 4:39 pm PT
Rest day at Vinson High Camp was restful. And welcome. Many of the team felt the altitude of our new home after a night of tossing and turning. But breakfast and another fine day, weather-wise got folks feeling a little better as the day went on. We drank lots of water and snacked throughout the day in order to recoup from yesterday and prepare for tomorrow. The forecast is certainly in our favor. We could see clouds forming far down below us and a few wispy formations on nearby peaks but there wasn’t much evidence of wind anywhere in the range. We’ll see how the gang fares with this second High Camp night -nobody had explicit plans for partying hard on this New Year’s Eve- but all things being good we’ll set out for the top tomorrow.
Excited to follow your journey. Happy New Year
Posted by: Lesia A Hatlestad on 1/1/2022 at 4:46 pm
Happy new year from Madhavi, Bodhi, and Adler. We sat under the stars of Joshua Tree and spoke of your climb, wondering how everything is going. So happy for you all!!
Posted by: Madhavi Menon on 1/1/2022 at 1:29 pm
December 30, 2021
Thursday, December 30, 2021 - 8:38 pm PT
Our run of perfect weather continues on Vinson Massif! We got out of the big sleeping bags at 10:15 this morning when the shadow loosened its cold grip. We weren’t interested in a quick and hectic start or jumping out on the climbing route immediately. Scott and Hannah -our superb ALE guides- cooked up a sumptuous breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon. We ate, we looked each other in the eye, we polled the gang as to how the night had gone and how each climber felt about pushing higher. And then we pushed higher. We put on our crampons and got ice axes in hand and headed for the fixed ropes. This section would be the “meat” of the day, roughly 2,000 vertical feet on steep and firm snow slopes, protected by a continuous line of rope, anchored every 200 feet or so. We spent a good three or four hours on the wall and a few more on the lesser angled glacier above it. The lead ropes pulled in a little after 8 PM and got busy building camp for those who would follow. We climbed in fine weather, but things are on the cold side, with our estimates centering on about -30 F. It was quite challenging to climb safely in such conditions with the odd 3 mph breeze coming through. The team rocked it. We ate a long dinner and drank hot beverage after hot beverage to rehydrate and regain energy. It is 1:30 AM now, the sun is still beaming on the tents and everybody has turned in, excited to be here -close to 12,500 ft- and excited for a rest day on the final day of 2021.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
December 29, 2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021 - 7:19 pm PT
We seem to be into a stretch of very fine weather. Today was nothing but sunny, calm and beautiful. Our first morning on Vinson was pleasant, but quite full with getting everybody up to speed on glacier travel and packing and prepping for moving up. Even so, we took a midday break for a sit-down hot lunch of vegetable soup. We got walking at 1:40 PM. Four rope teams traveling in formation up the Branscomb Glacier. Recent snows made the footing a little more insecure for the first few hours out of camp, but conditions improved as we got a little higher. There was less new snow and easier to walk on packed trail by the time we hit the big turn in the glacier below Vinson’s west face. We came into 9,200 ft “Low Camp” just after seven in the evening. A fine time to arrive as the sun hits from a great angle and intensity at low camp during the evening hours. We built tents and moved in to giant walls of snow bricks constructed against big winds by previous inhabitants. Our evening was windless. We ate dinner and talked over possibilities for tomorrow. Perhaps we’ll move higher in the morning, perhaps we’ll spend the day training around low camp. It all depends on how folks feel in the morning. It is wonderful to be up in this wild setting, looking straight up at Vinson and at the jagged peaks just to the North.
Although it is after midnight now, the sun is still strong on the tents, making them almost warm and comfortable. The sun won’t go behind the mountain until about 3 AM, at which point things will feel a bit colder until it reappears around 10:15 AM.
December 29, 2021
Tuesday, December 28, 2021 7:47 pm PT
When we met for breakfast at seven this morning, we were optimistic…about COVID test results, about weather in Antarctica and about a thousand moving parts and plans meshing perfectly. Turns out our optimism was warranted; this was a great day. We fired up the Gulfstream 7 at 12:30 PM and flew out of Patagonia headed South. We watched out the windows as sea ice began to appear and then mountains and massive glaciers. Our pilot slash climber extraordinaire, call sign -Sniggy- landed the plane ever so gently on the ice runway at Union Glacier just after 4 PM. We got out, marveling at our new world, unloaded our gear and then watched pilots Kurt and Rob lift the G7 off the ice and back into the sky bound for Punta Arenas.
We boarded two ski equipped Twin Otters and took off just after 5 PM for Vinson Base Camp. It was a clear and sunny day, so we could see thousands of the jagged and angular peaks comprising the 200-mile-long Ellsworth Mountains. We landed uphill at 7000 ft on the Branscomb Glacier a little before 6 PM. We met Hannah, Scott and Forrest, the excellent ALE guides we’ll be partnering with for this trip. With Superstars like Conrad Anker and Ed Viesturs on the team, there were plenty of outgoing climbers anxious for handshakes and pictures. Then it was an easy and pleasant evening of getting settled in camp and sorted for moving up the mountain tomorrow. We ate a fine dinner in the comfortable basecamp dining tent and attended to chores, some jogged in the snow around the 1/4-mile perimeter of basecamp for a little exercise. All of us spent a fair bit of time with our mouths hanging open, just staring at gigantic and precipitous Mt. Vinson a few miles East of basecamp. And then we called it a day. But a great and memorable day.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn & Team
This is the best, informative, dispatch I’ve read in a while. Please keep them coming; I am a fan. As you keep moving forward it is a true inspiration to me. Keep reaching for sky!
Posted by: Terri L. Jennings on 12/30/2021 at 6:36 am
December 28, 2021
Monday, December 27, 2021 - 5:32 pm PT
The news was mostly about canceled flights and snarled travel as our Vinson climbing team headed to a dozen different US airports to kick off the expedition. Incredibly, we were able to gather in Miami yesterday evening -With all our climbing gear- and board the Gulfstream 7 for the easy and pleasant part of our journey -a ten hour ride to Punta Arenas in the far South of Chile. We’ve been COVID testing several times a day now to satisfy immigration requirements and to be extremely careful with regard to going to The Ice healthy. Even quarantine for the afternoon in our hotel on the shores of Magellan’s Strait was relaxing and beautiful as we looked out at the summer light on the water. We organized gear and clothing with the high hopes of flying tomorrow morning once glacier conditions and negative test results allow. Our all star team of 12 includes astronauts, entrepreneurs and some of the world’s most accomplished and acclaimed climbers and guides. It is a happy reunion in a familiar place for a number of us and a brand new set of continents and experiences for others.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Posted by: Terri L. Jennings on 12/30/2021 at 7:34 am
Positive vibes for everyone!! Wishing you all a safe journey!
Posted by: Monica Isaacman on 12/29/2021 at 8:16 pm
Excellent weather at Union Glacier this morning. Our return flight to South America was never in question. We ate huge breakfasts and then went back for seconds. There was a little easy packing and a little easy waiting, sprinkled through with meetings and reunions with climbers and guides and staff from other trips in other places. The 757 landed in early afternoon with another load of Vinson hopeful climbers. We got on board shortly afterwards. There were excellent views of the Ellsworth Mountains east side, with Craddock, Vinson and Tyree standing out. Then it was seatback movies and the drink and snack carts for the four hour flight. We touched down in Punta Arenas around eight. My team was checked in to hotels and showered and ready for a celebration dinner by ten. This is the easy part.
RMI Guides Dave Hahn
December 6, 2021
Posted by: Dave Hahn
Up at high camp this morning, things were blessedly calm. So much easier, after a long summit day, to have breakfast and pack up in windless and sunny conditions. We set out at noon and took on the hardest part first, getting big packs and tired legs down the fixed lines. It felt good to get that all behind us as we rolled into low camp and repacked for sled hauling down the lower glacier. We pulled in to basecamp at around 7 PM with a Twin Otter waiting. Some hurried packing, sorting and organizing followed and the Twin got off deck at 8 PM. They held dinner for us tired but excited Vinson folk. We stuffed ourselves and caught up with all the expedition folk we’d been sharing the mountain with. Our tents went up for a final night in Antarctica. It looks good for flying tomorrow so we may make it all the way to Punta Arenas on this whirlwind finish to the trip.
RMI Guie Dave Hahn
December 6, 2021
Posted by: Dave Hahn
Sunday, December 5, 2021 - 8:26 pm PT
We were back to high camp at 10:45 PM for a round trip time of just under 13 hours. Pretty normal for Vinson. Great views, fine weather. We had dinner back in camp and ran stoves forever to melt snow for water. Now 1:30 AM, the end of another long but magnificent day.
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 12/7/2021 at 3:28 am