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Entries from Vinson Massif

Vinson Massif: Mallory and Team Descend to Base Camp

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

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Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Glad that everyone is down and enjoying a burger on the ice beach. We have sauce waiting for you.  Howie

Posted by: howie mallory on 12/4/2014 at 7:13 am

Love it. Burgers and beer. I know Penn’s happy!

Posted by: Kir on 12/3/2014 at 6:02 am

Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Are Catching Up

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

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Way to go team Glasenapp! I’m enjoying seeing your progress on this blog. Looks chilly!

Posted by: Twila Bing on 12/3/2014 at 2:45 pm

Hi Tom! Hi Haldis!
Best of luck to you and your team for a successful and safe summit!
Will give mom and dad an update on mom’s birthday over Chinese food!
(Oh, and Dave/JJ, if Tom doesn’t answer to Tom, he answers to “Hey Bob!” too!)
Stay safe and good luck!

Posted by: Monica Glasenapp on 12/3/2014 at 10:49 am

Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Carry to High Camp

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. 

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Way to go!  I’m glad the climb is going so well.

Posted by: Peggy Halstead on 12/2/2014 at 9:09 pm

Proud of you guys - Tom, Haldis, and Chris!!!  Have fun tomorrow reaching your goal and enjoying the views.  Look forward to hearing all about it when you get back.

Posted by: Keith on 12/2/2014 at 3:52 pm

Vinson Massif: Mallory & Team Summit!

“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

RMI Guide Linden Mallory calls from the Vinson Massif summit!

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Great updates and great coverage - feel like I am there without ever leaving the confines of 70 degrees in Birmingham :))
Send more photos and video - the video from the summit was Incredible !!
Safe Travels and Congratulations!

Posted by: Lee Styslinger III on 12/4/2014 at 9:35 am

Way to go, Team! Congratulations!!!
( and Linden: SO nice to see you on top of yet another “massif”!!!)
Safe journey home, everyone!
- Dana Marie Buchanan

Posted by: Dana Marie Buchanan on 12/3/2014 at 8:50 am

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

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

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Incredible stuff!! As Mal Moore used to say, “Leave somet’n ya’ momma gave ya’ out there…!”  Good luck on the summit!

Posted by: Tom on 12/1/2014 at 5:50 pm

It is now your new day, your Dec. 2nd, though we here in the USA are still in Dec. 1st. Hope all went super yesterday and thinking of you all. Big hug, Carol

Posted by: Carol Colleran on 12/1/2014 at 3:27 pm

Vinson Massif: RMI Guide JJ Justman Reunites with the Team

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

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Peter and J.J. —To my Elbrus teammates…. I am thinking of you and I know you can do it…. Blessings to the entire team

Posted by: john baker on 12/2/2014 at 1:21 pm

Can’t believe you are already primed for the summit.  Seems like you just got there.  Hope the climb is all you dreamed it would be.  Good luck to the team and to my love.

Posted by: Bonny Rogers on 12/1/2014 at 3:30 pm

Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Walk with Lakpa

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

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Hi Greg, How are you and the team doing? As well as expected without the Tochers right? Bruce is recovering well and even went to the Texans game today and guess what??? They won, hallelujah!! We are still in shorts and t-shirts here in Houston makes you sick doesn’t it?? But I am missing the snow and cold December weather. Anyway take care y’all and stay safe!! Love from me and Bruce xxx

Posted by: Joyce Tocher on 11/30/2014 at 3:42 pm

Hi Greg hope you were one of the lucky ones that got to go on the first climb as we know you can’t sit still for long. bet you enjoyed meeting up with friends from previous climbs again.  It’s -10; clear blue skies here.  Good that JJ is with you and all you need now is for the weather to cooperate then you can start to climb.  Stay safe. Mom & Dad

Posted by: Dawn Gerry on 11/30/2014 at 12:11 pm

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

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!

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Great work, guys. So amazing to get a phone call from Camp 1 last night! Tell us more about the temps (highs and lows) and keep it up. Love to all from Aspen

Posted by: Kir on 11/30/2014 at 5:49 am

Vinson Massif: Mallory & Team Move to Low Camp

We unanimously agreed that the temperatures were a bit warmer than the night prior and we all slept much more warmly, although we did find out in the morning that the temps were hovering around -18F when we crawled out of the tents around 9am this morning. Despite the cold bite to the air, the skies had cleared overnight and we set about breaking down camp and preparing to move to Camp 1 (known as “Low Camp” on Vinson). We hit the trail midday and climbed back up the Branscomb Glacier, navigating the first crevasse field again with ease, crossing the long basin above, and reaching our cached gear by late afternoon. The landscape, under clear skies this time, were completely different and we were able to soak in the surroundings: the bulging seracs and icecliffs of the Branscomb to our left and the towering rock and ice faces of Vinson’s main Massif directly in front of us.

After reaching our cached gear we transferred the loads from yesterday into the sleds we were dragging behind us and set off toward Low Camp. We made a long arcing turn from east to north facing around a second crevasse field and then set off across the upper stretches of the Branscomb, walking along the base of Vinson’s towering walls stretching 3,000-4,000’ above us. The glacier was an undulating plateau that felt like a false flat - the perspective lent itself to thinking we were traveling along flat ground but in reality we climbed another 800’ over several miles. The constant backward tug of our sleds was a good reminder of why we were working so hard hauling our heavy loads.

By early evening, with the sun still high in the sky, we reached Low Camp and set about establishing camp. Whatever chills we felt from the occasional breeze was quickly chased away by the hard work of shoveling out a tent platform and a place to cook in the thick wind packed snow. We needed saws to hack through the dense snow and had to wield our avalanche shovels with care for fear of bending or snapping the blades. Despite the firm snow, within a few hours we were settled comfortably into camp and enjoying a warm meal. It’s now half past midnight and the sun is still high above the horizon, traveling from west to east now. We are crawling into the tent eager for a good night’s rest after the long climb with all of our gear but very happy to be up here and staring up at the more exciting climbing above us.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory and team

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Se tenir au chaud… d’accord?

Posted by: M. Homme on 11/29/2014 at 6:04 pm

Cool Stuff! (literally and figuratively)Jon, 65 F in Tuscaloosa today…
Roll Tide!

Posted by: Tom on 11/29/2014 at 9:57 am

Vinson Massif: Hahn & Team Waiting for Justman

Another no-fly day at Vinson Base.  We were at the edge of a thick sea of clouds for much of the day and from what we heard, weather wasn’t very nice at Union Glacier either.  Temperatures were low again today, reportedly -23 C but most of the team felt more comfortable with the conditions today, perhaps we are acclimating.  It was a little tough to be anchored down in VBC today as a couple of our neighbors and friends pulled out and moved up to “Low Camp” but we’d very much like JJ Justman to be along for that journey.  So we did a bit more training and preparing.  Tomorrow, perhaps, we’ll have the whole team in one place… the way we like it.  And we’ll go climbing. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Climbing…always testing the patience.  Training, preparing and having the whole team in one place sounds like a good idea.  Soon.  Hang in there GB and team!  Hopefully, you have some good reading material : )

Posted by: kerry on 11/28/2014 at 9:55 pm

Well, sit tight, wait for JJ and better weather! That’s my advice from my seat in front of my computer in my house warmed by a wood fire!
Hi Haldis! *waves*. Saw you in the picture where you were weighing in your gear! :)
Hi to Tom too!
Your loving sister/in-law.

Posted by: Monica Glasenapp on 11/28/2014 at 8:04 pm

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