Long equipment list and even longer grocery list.
Don Lewis and Jamie
01/06/2006, Punta Arenas
I'm going to hand over the words of the last couple of days to Don. It's 21:30 at the moment and the sun is still high. Long days equal loads of production. It's been good, and were all right on schedule. These entries are from yesterday and todays activites.
JANUARY 5, 2006
Just by chance, our flights into Punta Arenas, Chile, matched up with our expedition leader in Dallas. Fortunately I am a member of the American Airlines Admiral's club and we were able to meet in a relaxed setting. It might be appropriate to explain the difference between a "backpack," a "trek," and an "expedition." Having "backpacked many tens of times for some 'hundreds' of days, it is a mode of traveling in the backcountry while carrying one's gear, including tent, sleeping bag, food, and carefully selected gear. It is truly a wonderful way to move through the various parks and wilderness regions in the US and some brave individuals do this in foreign countries as well. My personal backpacking has been limited to the US and Canada. "Trekking" is another form of travel throughout regions of the world (but apparently, not the US) that may go through area that range from populated to 'remote wilderness.' Generally, there is a staff of porters (or pack animals), and a staff to cook, guide, and take care of accommodations, whether tents or tea-houses. These are more like "guided" tours on established tourist routes than real adventure. Participants of treks generally carry light day-packs with cameras, water, and perhaps a coat. "Expeditions," are more raw and are as close to real adventure as one can get on this planet. These may or may be without assistance to carry the heavy loads along the trails and up the steep pitches. In the most adventuresome of expeditions, participants carry their own gear including multiple trips up and down the route to get all of the necessary gear to the various camps.
In our brief meeting so far, our expedition leader, Jamie Pierce, seems to not only be quite competent, but I am sure that we will enjoy his company. The first part is essential and the second part is a pleasure. Considering the amount of time we will have together, this is a good thing.
When one takes an extended trip of this type with nearly 20 hours on an airplane, some of is bound to occur on "red-eye" flights and this trip is no exception. Our 10.5 hour trip trim Dallas to Santiago, Chile started at 9:00 PM. It is never easy consuming the food and going through the excitement of a flight and then trying to get eight-hours of sleep. Surprisingly, all three of us managed to get a significant amount of shut-eye.
We had what seemed to be a generous three hours of layover time in Santiago, but we did have endless details of entering Chile, collecting our luggage, and making our connecting flight. But in fact, we ended up being a bit rushed due to the endless lines. There was a long line to get our luggage x-rayed and inspected. It had that ugly look where many travelers were wandering up to the front of it leaving those at the end in what seemed like a line that didn't move. We suffered at the end with the rest of those who chose to be good travelers. Even so everyone was friendly and pleasant. We did have a welcome of sorts from the government of Chile. We were ushered into a line for first-time visitors and had to pay a world's record high country entry fee of $100 US per person. But the fee is good for the life of our passport.
We finally made the connecting flight and headed off for Punta Arenas, Chile. We landed and even caught a glimpse of the cargo plane that will take us to Antarctica. Apparently it will either be Russian Illushyin or a Hercules C130. It had better be a cargo plane since our total load limit for the four of us will be 500 pounds. Can you even fathom starting a backpacking trip for four with 500 pounds? Fortunately we will be leaving a lot at our camp that we setup at basecamp.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
It was a dark and stormy night . really, except for the "dark part." We suspected that since we were on the southerly part of South America we would be close to the Straights of Magellan, I didn't know that we would be at the Straights of Magellan. The sea was a bit frothy and it was raining. I can only imagine the sailing ships passing this way a century ago. To add to the effect it was raining quite a bit. As we drove through town Carolyne noticed that no one was carrying an umbrella. And I mean no one. Out of the hundreds of people we saw walking in the rain one would have thought that carrying an umbrella would have attracted lightning. Jamie says that the wind would invert an umbrella here and people just go without. And only a few had on rain jackets with hoods. It seems that people everywhere here just let their heads get wet. They are a hearty group I presume. It is going to be "a bad hair day" in town tonight.
Everything was uneventful. Life is good . we checked into our rooms, had a delightful meal and await the much-anticipated equipment check tomorrow morning.
JANUARY 6, 2005
By Donald E. Lewis
The Devil is in the Details
We are finally able to get our report card from the long process of gearing up for this very unusual expedition. The gear for this trip is surely the most expensive gear on earth as well as the most time-consuming to obtain. After all, where does one go to get prescription ground, extra dark sun glasses with side shields and a nose guard? I have honest never been through anything like it before. But the success or failure of our trip depends upon our gear, and in fact our very lives may depend on it as well. In the near worst-case scenario a single piece of inadequate gear could cause us to terminate the summit attempt. In the worst case scenario we could turn into a solid "frosty the snowman" if we had a gear failure. The adequacy of our gear is determined by our experienced Chief Guide (the title on Jamie's coat). The "come to Jesus time" was after breakfast. As an aside thought, I wonder whether Jamie's cholesterol count is over 1,000 or not, but surely his doctor would not bless his breakfast with seven scrambled eggs and enough butter to grease the axles of a wagon train.
The gear check looked like a rummage sale run amok in our too-tight room. Although we do have a king-sized bead our gear is double and triple stacked. Space is at a premium and even Jamie's (expensive) room looks they priced the construction by the square inch.
Jamie said in advance that it would be unusual if we did not have to go searching for something or the other and in fact that was the case. We pulled out each and every item from our five-pound, 900 loft down 40F below zero sleeping bags and the custom-made Pillsbury Dough Boy down coats to mere 81 mg enteric coated aspirin. Jamie's prophesy was right . we did have some issues including a significant one. Our big problem was that Jamie said that our outer shells were simply not durable enough. He pointed out all of the weaknesses including the thin limited rip stop nylon, the weak zippers, and even the too-large size of the stitching. Apparently in my zeal to cut out the weight I skimped on the cheap immitation Gortex shells and pants). These outer-gear components are real "bet your life" pieces. As luck would have it we have exactly what we need . but it is back in Connecticut. We also had some failure to communicate on our water bottles and had to replace four of those too. I also have those back in Connecticut. Added to our inadequate gear list was our wimpy eating bowls. Jamie even looked down his nose at our "sporks" (combination forks and spoons). Even with these "issues" Jamie said that we ended up a much better than average but perhaps he was just giving it a good spin. Since the commute back to Connecticut would kill us and it would take DHL four days for an "overnight" delivery (we checked), we had to head off for the North Face Store to shore up our weaknesses. When we land at "Patriot Hills" in Antarctica there won't be so much as a candy bar for sale on the entire continent. Better get the gear here "chop chop" and move forward to sampling the fine Chilean wine. Punta Arenas is a great place . if you own a sporting goods store. It was "hemorage money" time and I will never admit, even under torture, how much we paid for the four pieces of Gortex shells. As a hint, I think I would have rather bought drinks for the entire town's population at the local bar.
Jamie went off to buy the food and Carolyne and I went shopping at the local bazaar. We are all back and as I write this at the end of the day, the sun is still "15 fingers" over the horizon and it is 8:20 PM. We are only about 2,000 miles from the South Pole and we are in the land of the midnight sun. Tomorrow we are off for some hiking in Patagonia.
Evil Spirits Away .,.
I've attached a picture of the obligatory good luck activity of Carolyne kissing Magellan's toe in the town square. Surely this will ward off all evil spirits as promised.
Raining like mad, but so cool to be here!
01/05/2006, Punta Arenas
Bam were here. Crazy at times to think of what is possible. We all met in Dallas, Don and Carolyn are so pumped. Great team we will all be, much laughter. Don walks alot, and knows how many steps it takes to get there.
Fast forward many miles over vast oceans can´t imagine what goes on under ones plane as we fly obliviously over it all on our way south. I just stared out the window most the time not able to sleep, I never do. Excitment, anxiety....I kept looking towards Brazil for good reason!
Made it into Santiago, bam, new country. New smells, new money, new people, and wow were all together. Rounded up gear, and made the final leg to Punta Arenas. Bumpy in the aircraft, I love it all though.
Sat together tonight and poured over details of the expediton at Sotitos. An old friend and institution here in PA. Great to be back, taste the old famillar Sauvignons. Onto maps, plans, details, and more details. It´s as if were off into space, it may as well be space.
This part of the world is truly incredible, vast windswept regions. Trees bent over from incessant wind, windows worn out from constant abuse of nature, thick sweaters, wollen scarves and not an umbrella to be seen any place. Hell I don´t think they´d stay intact in this wind, punishing but invigorating no doubt. That is life, feeling it in your face, at least at that moment it was refreshing! This is Patagonia after all, it should be windy!
We do a long equipment check in the AM, then it´s the food purchase. Don and Carolyn tonight along with myself rubbed Magellans toe, we will be back for the same in 20 days. Those in the know, it´s a.....integral. One rubs noses otherwise, and that is just fine, it all works to ones benefit.
Departures for team
Photo of Don Lewis and Carolyn Gatesy on the summit of Mt. Hood, Oregon, 2005.
Okay then, web in my head is starting to clear. Details, details all in the name of FUN in the land of Sun! Don't forget the sun does not set this time of year on the ice.
Down to the wire as we prepare for another great expedition down to Antarctica. No doubt a highlight of the year. All of our final preparations are complete and were officially ready for our trip to begin.
Our team members for 2006 season are Don Lewis and Carolyn Gatesy. An adventourous husband and wife team hailing from Marlborough, CT. SEI is proud to have them as team members on this expedition to the highest point in Antarctica.
Brief biography on each climber:
Donald Lewis, 62, is the founder and president of Foley Services, Inc., of Glastonbury, Conn. Foley Services is a leading provider of DOT safety regulation program services with a focus on drug and alcohol testing programs for motor carriers. He has hiked, backpacked, and trekked extensively throughout the US as well as around the world including extensive treks in Asia and the summiting of Kala Pathar at 18,182 feet.
Carolyn Gatesy has been adventurous and involved in sports all her life, starting with competitive swimming for over 15 years, then running, triathlons, tons of hiking and backpacking, and maintained a great love for the beauty and excitement of climbing mountains.
She has a BS degree in Math and Computer Science, an MS in Math, and an MBA in Finance. She has been an entrepreneur for over 25 years mostly in IT but have also written a now "sold out" book on staying in Firetowers and Lookouts in the Northwest. She currently operates an Office Business Center in CT and has 2 bright creative kids, Trevor age 13 (we are climbing all the highpoints in the US together) and Alexandra age 11 who would rather dance and sing.
Hats off to them both. Antarctica holds a special place in my heart, and having the chance to lead such wonderful folks will be a great treat for me.
I will not actually begin doing daily dispatches until I reach Punta Arenas, but I never know. Don and Carolyn will both be helping share the load with daily dispatches as well. This of course is after were done with all the daily chores once on ice.
One of the biggest technical issuse I've faced in past years is dealing with the need for power. Managing power, and of course having enough is a huge consideration. I've figured it out, and have come up with good solutions. I unlike other expeditions rely on a lap-top versus a PDA, as I personally like to edit, and configure video as well as other things a PDA can't do. What that means though is between shooting video, digital cameras, satphones and of course the lap-top, energy is consumed quickly. In the past I was able to augment solar and wind turnbines into a standard 12 volt battery array, and with the help of invertors were on our way. This season I've tried to reduce the weight of everything, while of course having enough power to do what I needed. I've taken a 12 volt gell cell battery, incorporated a 14 volt 950Ma solar panel with an internal solar selector that prevents overcharged batteries, and then I incorporated a 75 Watt invertor into it as well. And away we go. So far all the test have worked out well, and I've had plenty of power. Basically I figure someone may find this intresting, and probably can offer me great tips for making it better and even lighter, but hey it's what works well....
That is it for now. See you in a couple from Punta Arenas