Heading out, we think...
01/10/2006, Punta Arenas still, not for long though.
Well we got the call, it sounded good on the ice, at least long enough for us to get the green light to prepare for a departure. I'm waiting for my folks to join me in the lobby of the hotel, then we'll board the bus on our way to the airport. It's quite an undertaking get everyone organized, dressed and ready for the departure to just the airport. That said, I'm still a little optimistic on the conditions. Rumors are running around that Patriot Hills is excepting more snow and reduced visibilty, I find it entertaining really. The rumor mill is always such entertainment really. We will try, we also may be back before we fly out and go through the whole procedure of ushering folks through customs and security, yes we have the same formalities as a normal commercial carriers excersise, this though is far from ordinary.
In my experience, as the sun dips closer to the horizon, the winds typically calm down, and that may be our ticket. It's a 4 1/2 flight to the ice, and assuming we launch in say 2 1/2 hours from now, that would have us on the ice between 11:00 and 12:00 PM tonight, really it's an idealyic scenario. We'll see, I'm always hesitant to state my opinion on weather, since folks can hang on the words you offer up. The good news is were still on schedule, we have all this factored into our climb, allowances are sometimes never needed, but on this climb they almost always are needed. So hopefully the next dispatch will be from the ice, making it truly the beginning of this trip. Ciao for now.....Jamie
Hotel Cabo De Hornos
01/10/2006, Still Punta Arenas, but hopefully that will change soon!
It's 0530 in the morning, the light is just coming up, I'm up and ready to start the day. We were on stand-by all day yesterday starting at 0930 waiting for a phone call stating the weather was good enough to fly. The phone calls came every 2 hours or so, but the weather was not looking good. Bad weather on the ice in this instance was the wind, just to high given the tricky nature of landing a large aircraft on a "blue ice runway". This is really as tricky as it may sound. Most planes use brakes to stop, we don't and can't, instead it uses 'reverse thrust", and a long runway to slow down. This particular aircraft is really large, in fact it's huge. All of our gear is onboard, and all were left with is the cold weather gear we will fly to the ice with, and a small carry on with some personal effects in it. Wish us luck today, and a big hello to all my familly, Mom, John, Debbie and anyone else I'm forgetting.
Hurry up and wait!
01/09/2006, Finnis Terrae Hotel Punta Arenas.
Info from previous 2 day's from Don Lewis.
Waiting is part of the game
We came early knowing that if everything went according to plan we would have some extra time. And, for the most part, we have some of the "waiting part" to deal with. Fortunately we have come to a destination type of city. One of the good parts of the area is that they some wonderful wine at extremely reasonable prices. Chile apparently is a wine mecca.
Our Chief Guide, Jamie's room in our hotel is simply too tight. He has a lot of equipment and will be provisioning our trip. The "inn is full" and one good option was for him to move, which he did. He says that his new room is quite spacious. It had better be, the trip provisions will require quite a bit of room to repackage. As an FYI, in a previous posting I had said that we would have a 500 pound allowance for the four of us. It was a jet-lagged error - there are only three of us and the weight limit will be 375 pounds. This morning Jamie said that even meeting that weight limit will not be slam dunk easy. Even with my slightly heavy camera, we have done our part in limiting weight with our "sporks" and leaving deodorant back in Punta Arenas. But obviously, a toothbrush handle here, and a spork there and we will make much progress with cutting down on the 375 pounds of gear. The weight comes from the food, fuel, multiple tents, skis and ski boots for Jamie, cooking gear, and the long list of necessary individual items. And, if truth be known I am sure that there is a bottle of champagne in there somewhere.
Did You Remember the Deodorant Honey? I am guessing that few people would find it tolerable to go two weeks or so without a shower. But surely our ancestors's first 999,900 years were without hot-water showers so I am sure we can survive. I wonder if they have masks for the tight plane ride back to Punta Arenas with activated carbon filters as well as those ubiquitous multi-purpose paper bags with fold-lock tops? Perhaps our training program should have included getting hot and sweaty and fermenting in a tight closet for eight hours to get adjusted to the confines of a tent without showers for a couple of weeks. On the other hand, perhaps living in a below-zero freezer will keep the "ripeness" down to a dull background "odour" (the French version) ... time will tell.
Cold Temperatures Jamie met with the aircraft operator along with other groups going to "the ice" (the term for Antarctica) to get updates, our schedule and to make other arrangements. He spoke with one highly-competent expedition leader (he has summited Mt. Everest multiple times) just back from the ice and he said that the temperatures there were the worse he has ever seen. My understanding is that the temperatures were in the -40F range in the high part of Mt. Vinson. As a detail, the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales intersect at -40 so that -40F and -40C are identical. Due to the very cold conditions there were three cases of significant frostbite with some frozen fingers and nose damage for some on a Mt. Vinson summit attempt. Apparently these individuals were there without the assistance of an expedition leader. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to deal with -40F.
Apparently it really was a dark and stormy night when we arrived. We heard a report that a sail boat sunk in the Cape Horn area and that a family of four had to be rescued. I'm guessing that the loss of their boat does put a crimp in their travel plans. At least they were safely rescued.
Penguins! Some have asked if we will see Penguins in Antarctica. Unfortunately, we say 'no' since we land inland far away from the sea life. With some extra time on our hands we rented a car and "got out of Dodge" yesterday (Saturday) and drove to a delightful Penguin nesting area. It was just delightful. We saw Penguins swimming that a speeds up to an incredible two meters a second, momma grooming babies, and the "penguin wobble" as they walked. They are designed to feed in the sea, not walk on land. So, we did see Penguins in the wild after all.
While we were having a picnic lunch at the Penguin area, we met two motorcyclists. In addition to motorcycling around Asia, they motorcycled around the US, drove up to Alaska, back to the US, down Central America, through Venezuela, through Columbia and were now at the southern tip of South America. Now, that is some motorcycling! One would never guess their favorite country - it was Columbia, South America of all places. Apparently tourists are as rare in Columbia as Polar Bears in Antarctica and they were well-treated there.
Carolyne and I went out for dinner on our own last night and we asked a young male about restaurant opportunities. After his first recommendation of a restaurant was one that we have already visited, he said that he could get us into the Naval Club, a restaurant for Chilean Naval Officers. Apparently he was a naval officer. We invited him to join us and we had a delightful time talking to him about his travels and life in the Chilean Navy. He was an exceptional bright young man.
Jamie has purchased the food at the local store that looks like a Sam's Club. His best judgment from difficulties experienced by others on mountain climbing expeditions is that the failure to eat sufficient quantities of food by trip participants is a major problem. There is not so much as a single package of freeze-dried food in the 20 or so bags of food that Jamie purchased. He has said that we will probably lose body weight and that we will have to more or less eat all the time. Apparently our appetite will be significantly reduced.
JANUARY 8, MONDAY Our first window of opportunity to leave is tomorrow. We have a group meeting followed by a weigh-in with all of our gear. We have separated everything into three piles, the first is the "stay at home pile," street clothes, etc., the second is the "go in the cargo section bags," (the heavy part), and the last is "the pack that we carry on the plane." We take the last two for the weigh-in to see how we are doing with the 125 pound per person limit. Extra weight costs a small fortune at about $30US per pound. We will bring back our "carry on the plane bag" with cold weather clothes, synthetic climbing boots, medications, etc. Weight is serious business.
After The Group Meeting
Our flights are provided by Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions and they provided a short meeting for all of those who are flying to Antarctica. This includes the mountain climbers as well as a group going to the South Pole. It was a sobering meeting.
We are at the end of the season and the flights after ours will be to pick up participants, not to deliver more. So far this season they have flown 309 down to the ice with about 250 clients going to the pole or to Vinson for the most part. At any one point in time they can have 100 - 150 people as participating in something or the other.
The Champagne is Safe! Good news, we are under 375 pounds, but just barely. Our food and gear weighs 122 Kg (about 268 pounds).
Can We Fly Tomorrow? The runway is blue ice and they have picked the location as someplace flat with little snow. But, they might get some snow tonight which might put a crimp in our travel plans. We will get a call at 9:30 am in the morning for an update. We have been advised that we can get a call anytime and are expected to be ready to go in 35 minutes. The earliest that they will call is 6:30 am and we will be expected to have paid our bills and ready to rock and roll by 7:05 am. But their best guess is that we will not fly until tomorrow evening.
Bad Weather This Season The representative of our flight said that the weather this year has been the worst in the 20 years or so of their operation. As we sit, there is a group of climbers on the high camp on Vinson socked in by stormy weather. They have had three bad "blows" this year in Patriot Hills including a 100 knot gale (nautical miles per hour). They have had the most snow in 20 years as well.
We are at the high point of risks for crevasses. They have already had one difficult crevasse extraction this year and one the year before. Perhaps more significantly, there has been a major avalanche on our route. But Jamie indicates it was more of a glacier collapse than a true avalanche not that it matters a lot. All in all, this is not a mountain of great risk. There has been only one recorded fatality on Vincent.
1,000th Successful Summit of Vinson Recorded This Year We understand that the 1,000th successful summit was recorded this year. If we were hoping for a triple digit historical rank we are out of luck. This compares with 2,500 - 3,000 successful summits of Mt. Everest and, as an estimate from Jamie of probably a quarter of a million on Kilimanjaro.
Postings from Antarctica If there is a delay in website postings, it will be good news since it will mean that we have flown to Antarctica. But we understand that we can wait for one, two, or more days. Subsequent postings from Antarctica will be via satellite telephone.