Punta Arenas, Dec. 28:
Hola from the southern most city in the world! Brooke and I arrived late last night after over 24 hours of travel. We met up in Dallas and headed for Santiago, Chile then on to Punta Arenas on a domestic flight. All of our bags and gear arrived with us which is always a relief as lost luggage and climbing gear can be a disaster and cancel an expedition. After no sleep, or at least very limited sleep on an airplane, we slept for nearly ten hours last night. For those who know me well you know this is highly unusual so I must admit to being really tired.
First thing this morning we had to attend a briefing to receive instruction and details for our transport to Antarctica. Believe me from the pictures this is like nowhere we have ever been before. In fact, according to the Lonely Planet book only 450 people have climbed Vinson since it was first attempted in 1966. The briefing was attended by 55 people from all over the world – 50 men and 3 women! Not just climbers but trekkers, scientists and a two man expedition to the South Pole. Two British scientists will be spending a month in the Shakelton Range studying isotopes in the rocks and ice as they reflect from the sun. This is an amazing study as related to global warming.
We will be on ‘V4′ – the fourth flight onto the continent of the season. We have been advised that we plan to fly out tomorrow morning but all the flights are weather dependant and that V2 had a seven day delay, V3 a two day. Don’t recall what became of V1, but we are hopeful to be out of here tomorrow. Sitting next to me as I write this is a delightful girl from China. She just returned after a two week delay getting off the ice. She has given me lots of insider tips as to where to sit on the Russian military C130 plane, a formidable beast of an aircraft, no windows and two long benches with all the cargo wrapped in netting in the center. My Chinese buddy just told me to get on the plane last so you can see out of a little window and because the bench is more comfortable at the end wonder how many others know of this tip?
After the briefing Brooke and I did our gear check and packing. We are only permitted one bag weighing no more than 55 pounds. It took us all afternoon to eliminate things we figured we could do without, bummer it is mainly food! At 4:10 pm sharp we had to have our bags downstairs and put onto a scale, weighed, tagged and marked. Mine was only slightly over so I ate some gummy bears! Only kidding! Got to save those gummies for the top!
Tomorrow morning, if our flight is a go, we will be called at 6:30 am. We have a half an hour to be dressed and ready. On the plane we will wear our big climbing boots, heavier pants, two top layers, a down jacket and light gloves. A half hour before landing they turn the heat off on the plane, don’t know the reason for this, but I’ll be sure to find out. We will then put on our big down suits and be ready to disembark onto the ‘blue ice’, the official landing strip at Patriot Hills. If the weather is clear we will then fly on a small Cessna to base camp on Mt. Vinson. If not we will be entertained at Patriot Hills (which sounds rather cosmopolitan for Antarctica).
More updates to follow soon…