January 24th, 2012
If there is one place in the world that makes you realize just how insignificant and vulnerable you are it is Antartica. I flew from Punta Arenas, a small town on the coast of Chile four and a half hours south to a blue ice runway on Union Glacier and our first camp on the way to Vinson Massif the tallest point in Antartica.
The landing strip is operated by ALE, a logistics company who assists in all expeditions to the icy continent, they are a first class operator and Ill be forever grateful for their help with feeding us and getting us to Vinson Massif base camp. As soon as we stepped off the Russian Iluysian aircraft onto the blue ice the cold was immense. It was a balmy minus 20 during the middle of the day, and I didn’t know it then but I’d be praying for minus 20 in a weeks time. From the ALE camp we flew in a Twin Otter eight seater aircraft to our base camp and starting point for the mountain. We flew over some of the most amazing land I have ever seen. The snow and ice stretched to the horizon in ever direction, the tips of rocky mountains protruding through the 3000m thick ice shelf all around us, it is one of the driest and most inhospitable places in the world and one wrong move out here can be a quick end to life.
We landed in the snow at base camp, the starting point of our climb. It was cold and sunny with an epic view to say the least. From here we loaded up sleds and packs with everything we would need on the mountain for the next ten days.
We slept at base camp our first night and started to make our way up towards our goal the following day. Over nine days we worked towards the top, carrying loads, dragging sleds and pushing on through the continuous daylight and freezing temperatures that make up the Antarctic summer. We set up our high camp and waited for our chance to make a summit attempt.
We received weather reports indicating clearing weather in the afternoon of our second day at high camp so we decided to go for it. No one can predict the weather, a common thought these days and today it was totally accurate. The weather didn’t clear and simply got worse three hours into our summit bid forcing us to turn around and make our way back to high camp. Our spirits still intact we made a second attempt the following day. The weather was windy the second day but clear enough to continue on, special care had to be taken for exposed skin as it would freeze within seconds in the well below freezing temperatures. We made it to the summit ridge after 8 hrs of climbing in terrible conditions, rarely stopping as it would simply get to cold when we weren’t moving. The summit ridge is the last 200m traverse to reach the top of Antarctica which this late in the afternoon was getting battered by gale forced winds. It was minus 35 before the wind, with the wind it was pressing on minus 60 and is the coldest I have ever been in my life. I made it to the summit and raised my ice axe in the air, with barely enough time to choke back a tear of triumph I turned and immediately started the second half of the climb back down to high camp. Getting to the top is optional but getting down is mandatory. It took us four hours to get back to the relative safety of our tents where we consumed as much fluids as our bodies would allow and fell into a well deserved rest. We all stood on the summit of the tallest mountain in Antartica at 4892m on the 19th Jan 2012 and the coldest day in this Australians history.
As I made my way down to base camp the following days my mind changed from completing a mission to preparing for the next one. In a short few months time I will journey back to the Southern mountains of Russia to take on Mt Elbrus once again. A tough decision had to be made on our last encounter to turn around, but a wise man once told me “it’s better to come ten times to the mountains and go home then to come once and never go home “. You can choose when you fail on a climb but the mountain will decide if you succeed or die.
So as I fly in the old Russian plane back to civilization from one of the most amazing places I have ever visited,im already planning my first workouts back at the training camp in thailand. Preparation is the key to success and I love to prepare.
Thanks to everyone for their support and stay tuned for some crazy training to follow. OLOC – one life one chance
January 22nd, 2012
Their tired bodies really enjoyed the restful nights sleep at Union Glacier. Unfortunately no flights out yet. So they sit waiting patiently reading, chatting and getting fed by the base cook. See how they go tomorrow. (Mandy)
January 22nd, 2012
They had a well deserved sleep in and left High Camp at 1pm. Going down the fixed rope should be easier than going up, but tell that to your knees.
They had a fry up at Low Camp then loaded all their gear back into the sleds for the trip back down the glacier.
The Twin Otter aircraft was sitting at base camp waiting for them. The fight back down to Union Glacier was amazing. They landed to a hot meal and heated dining room, sit toilets and running water. LUXURY. Now just waiting for the flight back to Punta Arenas. (Mandy)
January 20th, 2012
Where fahrenheit meets celsius.
They left camp at 11am in clearing weather which it did for another hour, then they climbed in a whiteout for several hours. It was -35c on the summit and as they got to the ridge it cleared, but unfortunately a 25 to 30 knot wind blew up, making for a very cold final ridge climb.
There wasn’t even a pause on the summit just a turn around and head back to camp arriving at 11pm, all very cold still and of course tired.
All the camera’s froze -40fahrenheit is the same as -40c, but they think it was more like -50 to -60 with the wind chill.(Mandy)
January 19th, 2012
It was a tough day climbing from Low Camp to High Camp. Almost 1000m vertical with heavy packs. But the team did well and got there in 6hrs.
When they awoke in the morning there was mist and clouds. After an hour the clouds lifted and they saw the peaks above, but the the blizzard of snow with strong winds started. Whiteout. So they came back down to camp and will try again tomorrow. (Mandy)
January 19th, 2012
It’s just after midnight and the team are settling down for the night. All abit tired but optimistic about the climb ahead.(Mandy)
January 19th, 2012
The sun hit the tents at 11.40. The temp went from -25c to zero inside our tents so it was possible to get dressed in comfort.
After brunch we headed up the glacier to the fixed lines and climbed 300m to the lunch ledge. We left a load of gear there for the high camp and “Sherpa Rappelled” back down to low camp for a late dinner.
Hopefully tomorrow we move to high camp. (Mandy)
January 19th, 2012
Today was a tough one, towing our sleds and carrying heavy packs for 7hrs, which is actually good time.
It was spectacular though as they climbed above the clouds. Mt Tyree and Mt Shinn were visible.
They have earned a sleep in tomorrow.
January 14th, 2012
They had an amazing 11hr sleep followed by a walk for a couple of hours practicing glacier travel and cramponing. Then a crevasse fall rescue session followed by dinner. Half way through dinner they got the GO NOW call. Hurriedly they packed and loaded the Twin Otter ski planes for the 50minute flight to Vinson Basecamp. Everyone is settled into their tents and the view is amazing. Will update more when I receive it. Mandy
January 14th, 2012
The group of six left Punta Areanas at 7pm and landed at the Union Glacier in Antarctica. It was 4am before they got to sleep and today 12.01.2012 the storm arrived, cloud and light snow preventing any flights in ski planes to Vinson basecamp. So spent the day practising tying knots, rigging the packs and sorting crevasse rescue gear.
Looking forward to a good nights sleep unless the storm clears and they get an early wake up call. Will keep you up dated with all news. Mandy
January 28th, 2012
Moderation and easing into things has never been my strong point, for this reason Im fairly sure I over did it today for my first day back after Antarctica. For the build up to the Crossfit Open ill throw up my training day for all those who would like to follow along. First up this morning was a strength session.
Front Squat, 5 x 5rm – 105kg
Strict Shoulder Press, 5 x 5rm – 70kg
Weighted Pull Ups, 5 x 5rm – 32kg
Dips 5 x 5rm – 32kg
Kipping Pull Ups, Hand Stand Push Ups superset. 20 Pullups 8 HSPU
After Lunch I had a rings skill session practising ring pull ups, ring dips and muscle ups.
3PM (Hottest Part of the Day) NANCY Kicked my ass
5 Rounds for time
15 Overhead Squats with 43kg barbell
Now it started ok dancing with Nancy, then in the third set of OHS I was failing bad. On the fourth run the heat kicked me in the guts and I was slowing like a wounded dear. To make a long story short she beat me down to finishing with the bar before I collapsed in a pool of sweat at 14.17 min. Def not a score worthy of my personal whiteboard, but it is a great motivator for the upcoming week. Bring on Sunday and session two.