Posts for Vinson Massif

Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Ready To Go

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman | December 03, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 12,150'

Our luck with the weather continues.  It was another perfectly calm, blue-sky, sunny day on Mount Vinson.  We took full advantage, moving up from Low Camp to High Camp.  It is plenty of work to break camp and hit the trail in this cold environment.  This “morning” it took us about 2.5 hours.  We were walking by 1:45 PM.  We had the advantage today that we were all familiar with the route and the fixed ropes -thanks to our carry on the same terrain two days ago.  This time we shaved about forty five minutes off, reaching 12,150 ft High Camp in five hours and fifteen minutes.  We set to building camp and digging in, which took a few more hours of hard work, but eventually we were all sitting face to face in a freshly excavated dining room.  We talked over exactly how summit day might work out for tomorrow.  After dinner, the team pitched in to build some snow-block walls, just in case the wind comes up.  Then folks wandered about a hundred feet west to look over the edge.  It is a stunning view, peering over this dramatic and abrupt escarpment to see almost every footstep we’ve made to date.  In the distance, the Nimitz Glacier is prominent and beyond that it seems that we can see forever on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.  The team went to bed ready to go for the top, we’ll see if our weather luck holds.

Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Ascending to High Camp on Mount Vinson.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Vinson Massif: Mallory and Team Return to Union Glacier

Posted by: Linden Mallory | December 03, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif

We had a mellow morning at Base Camp today, enjoying the extra time we had to brew up fresh coffee and watch the sun creep across the glacier and bring with it warming temperatures. Not content to hang around for too long, we pulled on our ski boots and headed out for some touring above Vinson Base Camp. The rolling ridge-lines descending from the Massif offer phenomenal skiing and we took full advantage to get out and play. We climbed a couple thousand feet above Base Camp to a small summit and found spectacular views of the surrounding terrain before setting our sights back downhill and skiing some great light Antarctic snow back to camp.

As we were relaxing in the evening we received the call we’d been waiting for: the plane from Union Glacier was on its way to get us. We packed up camp and as we closed the last bag the Twin Otter came in with a soft and smooth landing on the glacier. We said goodbye to Vinson and were soon airborne on our way back to Union Glacier camp, our eyes glued to the windows as we watched the massive landscape of snow, ice, and rock flow by beneath us.

We’re now back at Union Glacier, enjoying the warmth of their large mess tent and keeping our fingers crossed that an Ilyushin flight can come into tomorrow evening to give us a lift back to South America. We’re hoping to spend a few hours checking out the mountains around camp in the morning before getting a weather check about the flight tomorrow midday.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team

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Vinson Massif: Mallory and Team Descend to Base Camp

Posted by: Linden Mallory | December 02, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

After yesterday’s summit push we were content to lie in the tent a bit longer this morning at High Camp before finally stirring. We brewed up some coffee, that while no match for a good espresso, was a very pleasant touch to the cold but otherwise clear morning, and then set about breaking camp. With all of our gear loaded into our packs, we began descending from High Camp. We reached the top of the fixed lines and spent the next hour working our way down the massive face, carefully transitioning past anchor points until the Branscomb Glacier, once a small ribbon of white below lay underfoot. The descent was uneventful and smooth - just as one would hope when descending an exposed face like that - and another half hour of crossing brought us into Low Camp where Dave Hahn and the other RMI Team were enjoying a rest day.

Dave and JJ were kind enough to brew us up a hot drink and we traded was stories from our trips while we repacked our backpacks and sleds with the gear we had left at Low Camp. With our mugs empty and our packs and sleds full, we wished Dave’s team good luck and warm temperatures on their summit bid and set off down the glacier toward Base Camp. The gradual downhill pitch of the Branscomb and cold hard snow made for a fast descent on skis and we caught ourselves hooting and hollering at times as we cruised down the glacier (which, for anyone familiar with the pain of hauling a fully laden pack and sled down a glacier at the end of an expedition, is highly unusual). By early evening we had navigated the final crevasse field of the Branscomb and were pulling into Base Camp, relieve to be dropping our packs for the last time. After almost a week of moving up and down the mountain we have gotten quite good at setting up camp and within a few minutes we had our tents pitched and our camp shoes on. Tonight we treated ourselves to a special post summit dinner: cheeseburgers which we flew in with us from South America and have kept frozen for this very evening. To top it off, the rangers at Base Camp shared a few beers with us for our meal. Burgers and beer at foot of the Vinson Massif - we truly couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Tomorrow we will look at the flight schedule and weather forecasts to see what our options are for beginning the trek home. We are still a long ways from anywhere and the challenges of getting ourselves out of the middle of Antarctica are not inconsequential. Nevertheless, we’re happy to be down here and hoping for more good luck on the next leg of our journey.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team

A blue sky day at Vinson Base Camp.  Photo: Jake Norton

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Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Are Catching Up

Posted by: | December 02, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,000'

It was just as cold in the final hour before the sun hit this morning, but somehow that didn’t matter as much since we didn’t have to get up.  It was a rest day at 9,000 ft on Mount Vinson.  We eventually assembled the team in the POSH tent for an early afternoon, four course breakfast.  After three good and long days moving food and fuel and gear around, it was very nice to just kick back and take it easy.  It fits well with our acclimatization plan as well, to have worked up high yesterday and now to be resting at “low” altitude.  RMI Guide Linden Mallory and his climbers came through in mid-afternoon on their way to Basecamp and it was good to hear of their summit day.  The weather was perfect again today and so the sun and lack of wind had us forgetting what the actual temperature was.  We napped, drank water, read, chatted, and snacked the day away.  Finally it was time for dinner and tall tales in the strong evening sunshine.  All are feeling healthy and ready to move up the mountain.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Team camped at Low Camp on Vinson Massif.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Carry to High Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman | December 01, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,100'

We knew it was going to be a cold morning here at Low Camp, the sun doesn’t make it around the mountain until 11:15 AM, but it was still somewhat shockingly cold.  True, we are in 24-hour daylight, but any shadow reminds you very quickly what the actual air temperature is.  We ate breakfast and put our crampons on for a day of carrying loads as we warmed up in the sun.  Before too long, we’d begun the fixed rope section of climbing on the way to high camp.  This section of steep and continuously firm snow meant that the day would be about vertical gain and not a great deal about distance covered.  It took six hours to make it the 3,500 ft to high camp, which sits at 12,500 ft.  Since it was perfect, cloudless weather, we could see forever as we got higher.  But what we could see was ice, ice and more ice.  Our timing was perfect, pulling into high camp just as Linden Mallory and his small team were getting there after their summit.  Todd Passey, ALE’s guide, was in camp with his team as well and very generously shared cups of hot water with the gang.  We cached food and fuel there and then got moving back toward Low Camp, which we reached at 11 PM.  It was a big day, finished off with a midnight supper in the POSH tent.  Our climbers were excited for the new vistas, but also for the great sense of accomplishment in getting such a tough day under our belts. We’ll rest tomorrow, and hope to move up the following day. 

Best,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

RMI Climbers approaching High Camp on the Vinson Massif. Photo: Dave Hahn

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Vinson Massif: Mallory & Team Summit!

Posted by: Linden Mallory | December 01, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 16,067'

“Clear, calm, and reeeeaallly cold!” That was the summary of today’s climb. We woke up to a perfectly calm morning, almost even warm (at least for Antarctica). It was shaping up to be a perfect summit day, so we packed our bags and left for the top. We climbed a low-angled glacier, weaving our way through the surface of wind blown ice and sculpted snow, eventually reaching a large amphitheater with Vinson’s summit standing at the head. We crossed the basin, navigating a few small crevasses until we reached the slope that leads up to Vinson’s summit ridge. Despite the forecast for “extremely cold” we were warm on the climb, climbing comfortably without needing to wear our thickest down layers. The views around us were truly breathtaking (well, nearing 16,000’ was also a factor). The higher we climbed the more of the Ellsworth Range came into view - a jagged line of ice capped peaks piercing through Ice Cap spread out below our feet. The size and scale and rawness of the landscape is hard to comprehend, even when standing in the middle of it.

By mid-afternoon we reached the final summit ridge, a thin ridge of snow and rocks with a few small rock outcroppings that require delicate balance to navigate around. Just as we reached the ridge, a steady and frigid wind blowing straight from the direction of the South Pole picked up. Despite bundling up our body temperatures instantly began to slip. We navigated the ridge without much trouble, despite having to stop every few minutes to keep the circulation going in our hands. Onward we climbed, trying desperately to hide from the breeze in layers of hoods, until suddenly there was no more ridge to climb. We had reached the top of the bottom of the world - the summit of the Vinson Massif, Antarctica’s highest point. It was amazing, beautiful, and really cold. Despite the effort in getting there, we weren’t inclined to stay long, we snapped a few pictures, shared a few high fives, and then set our sights on getting back down the ridge and out of the wind. The sub sub sub zero temps made every move that much more challenging but Penn and Jon climbed beautifully, moving through the exposed terrain without difficulty and soon we were dropping back off the ridge into the amphitheater and out of the cold southern wind. We stopped in the sun, our faces covered in rime ice, and started laughing - we were through the thick of it and it was nice to be heading downhill. We retraced our steps back across the glacier and reached High Camp in the early evening. Tired but happy, we and another team of two climbing rangers a few hours ahead of us, were the first climbers to reach the summit of Vinson this season and despite the chilly summit ridge, it was a very spectacular climb.

Tomorrow we set our sites for Base Camp and hope to move back downhill in search of some slightly warmer temperatures, thicker air, and hopefully some good ski touring around Base Camp.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team

An RMI Climber making the final steps to the summit of the Vinson Massif. Photo: Dave Hahn


RMI Guide Linden Mallory calls from the Vinson Massif summit!

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Vinson Massif: Mallory & Team at High Camp in Position for Summit Bid

Posted by: Linden Mallory | November 30, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 12,400'

Another brisk night broke clear and calm at Low Camp and when we poked our heads out of the tent this morning, we caught site of a new scene for us down here: not a cloud in the sky and not a puff of wind blowing over the mountain tops above. It was a good sign that it was time to move to High Camp. We packed up our gear, rationing down the extra wait and second sets of miscellaneous gear to keep our pack weights manageable and set off for High Camp. Crossing the upper portions of the Branscomb Glacier to the fixed lines was warm - hot even - as the sun baked down on us and the white faces all around us reflected the rays. We were down to climbing in just a few light fleece layers and our mood matched the high temps.

Mid afternoon found us beginning to climb the large 3,000’ face off of the glacier to the upper plateau of the Vinson Massif. We put our heads down and made solid, steady progress up the lines that run up the face. We paused at series of ledges partway up for a quick bite to eat and a drink and then continued upwards, reaching the top by early evening. Another hour of climbing a gentle glacial slope brought us into high camp and we quickly set about hacking a flat tent platform into the ice and frozen snow. Once the ground was level and the tent was up we built a long snow wall out of blocks of snow to buffer us in the event of winds later tonight.

After we were finally settled, we took a moment to venture over to the edge of camp where a sheer face drops away to the Branscomb far below. The view was nothing short of spectacular. The Antarctic Ice Sheet stretched out as far as we could see, shimmering on the horizon in the evening light. Below us, the Branscomb Glacier flowed around the foot of the face and down past Base Camp where it melted into the sea of ice. Above us, the summits of Shinn and Epperly stood watch over the landscape with Vinson’s true summit hiding just behind the ridge line above High Camp.

It was a solid day of effort to climb up here and set up a warm and comfortable camp but we’re all feeling well and happy to be up here. If the weather holds we hope to make a summit bid tomorrow or the following day - depending on conditions.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team d’accord

The views from Vinson High Camp. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection

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Vinson Massif: RMI Guide JJ Justman Reunites with the Team

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman | November 30, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,100'

Hello RMI!! I have to tell ya…it is so nice to be reunited with the team! No one at Union Glacier camp would let me put my head on their shoulders and cry. However, when my team saw me at Vinson Base Camp they all gave me big bear hugs!

Today we packed up camp and started our climb to Low Camp, close to 10,000 feet. Everyone had a fun day and we worked well getting camp set up. The usual happened with hots and dinner and more hots. Dave is currently buttoning up the kitchen as I write.

Tomorrow the team plans on carrying gear towards high camp. We get to travel some fixed line as the terrain steepens. Stay tuned! AND GO PACKERS!!!

RMI Guide JJ Justman

RMI climbers ascending the Branscomb Glacier. Photo: RMI Collection

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Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Walk with Lakpa

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman | November 29, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 7,200'

It was an eventful day, by our standards.  Conditions still were not flyable when we crawled out of the tents at 9:15 (not too much use getting up before that time in this camp as it is pretty cold).  But ALE, our logistical partner, offered one of their guides for the day so that we could accomplish a carry of food and gear to “Low Camp”.  We were excited for the chance to get on the move and for the opportunity to work with Lakpa Gelu.  Lakpa has climbed Mount Everest 15 times and holds the speed record there.  We were honored to rope up on Vinson with him.  We left camp at 2:30 PM hauling a few sleds and carrying full packs.  Snow conditions were perfect, we weren’t sinking in much and the sleds dragged without much resistance.  Despite the persistent cloud parked on the landing strip, a few hundred feet higher up we were walking in bright sunshine with blue skies and big views.  We made great time, gaining two thousand feet of vertical and covering 5.6 miles (one way) in 4.5 hours.  It felt great to pull into Low Camp, cache the load, and turn for base with light packs.  The scenery for the day was spectacular, with views of the third and fourth highest mountains in Antarctica as well as a very close up view of a very big wall on Antarctica’s highest mountain.  The day was made perfect when, just as we crested the final hill and could see basecamp again, a Twin Otter aircraft, found a way through the clouds.  JJ Justman made it into Vinson.  We enjoyed our first dinner together on the mountain.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

A plane landing at Vinson Base Camp. Photo: RMI Collection

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Vinson Massif: Mallory & Team - Just Another Saturday on the Branscomb

Posted by: Linden Mallory | November 29, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Vinson Massif
Elevation: 9,100'

It was a cold night here at Low Camp last night. Frost formed on the edges of our sleeping bags from our breaths and we woke up to rings of frost crystals around us. Once the sun poked over the ridge line things began to warm up and before long we were moving about camp without too much chill. The plan was to carry a small load of food and fuel to high camp to prepare for our summit bids. Since our loads were manageable and we are nursing what rest we can at lower altitudes, we worked in tandem with a group from ANI and Penn and I made the carry to high camp while Jon traversed the glacier to a col on the far side of the valley.

We set off in the early afternoon with (relatively) warm temps and no wind. We skinned up the base of the fixed lines that ascend a broad face to a ridge line that leads to the upper portions of the Vinson Massif. Transitioning at the base of the fixed lines, we put our skis on our backs and strapped crampons on and began climbing. We spent the next several hours climbing the ~3,000’ face, watching the glacier shrink away below us and the mountain tops above loom larger as they drew nearer. As we neared the top of the fixed lines a low but sharp wind kicked up and the temperatures instantly plummeted. We bundled up and climbed the final hour or so into high camp doing our best to conceal any bit of skin from the biting winds. The winds died as we reached high camp and we were able to warm up a bit as we stowed our gear in preparation for our move up there. It was a spectacular evening, the glaciers below us flowed out into the low hanging clouds below while to both sides of us the rugged ridge lines of the Massif reared up from below. Above us a half full moon hung above the summit of Mt. Shinn, Vinson’s neighbor, and looked so close that is seemed like only a quick detour would get us to it and back again.

With our packs emptied we strapped on our skis and started back down. The skiing was slow and conservative right out of high camp as we picked our way through the wind affected snow, finding a line through the tall curls of snow carved out by the Antarctic gusts. The snow was firm and smooth along the top ridge line of the fixed lines and we chose to belay ourselves down that to keep ourselves safe. Once onto the face the sun had softened the surface and we were able to link up great turns for several thousand feet all the way down to the Branscomb Glacier below.

We returned to camp by late evening and quickly set about cooking dinner and sharing our observations and insights about the route above with Jon. With our gear in place, we’re hoping for a decent forecast tomorrow morning to make our move to high camp and shoot for the summit in the following days. We’re back in the tent at Low Camp enjoying the warm midnight sun (as ironic as that sounds) and burrowing into our sleeping bags in preparation for another chilly night down here.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory & team

PS: Roll tide!

An RMI Climber at the top of the fixed lines on the Vinson Massif. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection

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Recent Images From Vinson Massif

  • 2014 RMI Team on the Summit of Vinson Massif. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • Road signs at Union Glacier. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection
  • An RMI Team leaving Vinson High Camp on Summit Day. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • RMI Climbers above Vinson High Camp on Summit Day. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • Dave Hahn on the Vinson Massif summit. Photo: TA Loeffler
  • The views from High Camp on Mt. Vinson, Antarctica.  Photo: Jake Norton/ First Ascent
  • An RMI Vinson Team camped at Low Camp, Antarctica.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • The mountains surrounding Vinson Low Camp. Photo: RMI Collection
  • Flying into Vinson Base Camp, Antarctica.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • A Twin Otter arrives at Vinson Base Camp, Antarctica.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • Union Glacier map
  • The Ilyushin 76 having just landed at Union Glacier, Antarctica.  Photo: Peter Whittaker
  • Teams fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to Union Glacier on the Ilushin 76.  Then take smaller ski equipped planes to Vinson Base Camp.
  • Preparing to fly to Union Glacier. Photo: RMI Collection
  • Passing over Union Glacier. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection
  • The mountains await. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • An RMI Team looking up at the mountain from Low Camp. Photo: Dave Hahn
  • The plane preparing for the flight to Union Glacier. Photo: RMI Collection
  • Vast views across the ocean from Punta Arenas, Chile.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • The winds begin to pick up as an RMI Team heads toward the summit of Mt. Vinson  Photo: Jake Norton/First Ascent
  • Climbers on the summit ridge of Mt. Vinson. Photo: RMI Collection
  • An RMI Team on summit day on Mt. Vinson.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • RMI Climbers ascending the fixed lines on Vinson. Photo: Peter Whittaker Collection
  • Ascending to High Camp on Mount Vinson.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • A blue sky day at Vinson Base Camp.  Photo: Jake Norton