Archive for December, 2007

#5 of the Seven Summits – Mt. Vinson Massif, Antarctica

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…

Climb On!



The Happy Factor

Today I went to get my usual latte, extra large “skinny” latte from Joe’s Coffee on 30th St. I equate Joe’s to my very own Cheers bar, you know, that place where everyone knows your name?  That’s a big deal for me since I still don’t consider myself a Bouderite but I’m getting there!  Especially when I walk into Joe’s and Anthony is already making my latte.  I don’t even have to order it, Anthony just knows.  Today I wished Anthony a merry Christmas, happy holidays (one has to be very ‘pc’ here in Boulder) and a happy New Year.  I told him I would be out of town for awhile but I’d be back.  Anthony asked where I was going.  I’m sure he assumed I would say home for the holidays, or skiing in Sun Valley.  “Nope, I’m going to Antarctica!” 

“No, really?” 

“Yup, I’m going to Antarctica the day after Christmas to take on what I hope will be my fifth summit of my mission.”  By now others waiting in line were looking at me and listening to this conversation.  Now I make it a point NOT to look like a mountain climber.  I shave my legs, don’t have facial hair, wear makeup, skirts and I try to bathe at least daily.  I go out of my way to maintain some sort of resemblance to a female when I am not in the mountains.  Once over 10,000 feet all bets are off and one has to be careful what one says to another down clad individual least they mistake you for someone of the opposite sex.  The conversations can get pretty dicey up there.  But today I still had my girlie girl look going. 

Yes, I told the crowd (I was feeling more and more like Norm sitting at the Cheers bar) I was going to Antarctica to climb Vinson Massif.  I had already done four of the seven summits and I was from Boston until last spring.  Finally someone asked why I was taking on this mission. 

Because I am trying to show the world what people with MS can do and to encourage those living with MS to find their own mountain. 

Anthony stopped mid-latte.  “No wonder you are always so happy.” 

And so, right there in a coffee shop everything I am and everything I want to be and hope for in myself and others was so simply stated.  I am always happy. 

I am happy when my youngest brings seven friends for dinner to my tiny condo and the dinner table is filled with huge bodies and lively conversation.  I am happy when I go for a run up into the canyon and take my camera so that I can return east and show my friends and family just what I get to experience everyday living in Colorado. I am happy when I get to visit a foreign country like Ecuador, climb some amazing mountains and look for a dining establishment that has guinea pig on the menu.  I am happy as I make wonderful new friends here in Boulder and now have the best of both worlds, east and west. 

I am happy as I reach for higher summits, loftier peaks and take with me in my heart and head each and every person living with MS. 

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and peace in the New Year.  And may you too have something in your life that brings you joy and makes you happy because then you truly will be you and that’s the best. 

Climb On    

Posts by Date

December 2007

About Wendy Booker

In June of 1998, this 55 year old mother of three was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS after experiencing balance problems, blurred vision and numbness on her left side. When first diagnosed, Wendy was devastated. But it took very little time for her to transform anguish into inspiration. She immediately turned her hobby of casual running into a continuous pursuit and has now completed nine marathons.

Mountain climbing became the next conquest. Wendy learned about a team of mountain climbers with Multiple Sclerosis who were attempting to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. With no previous climbing experience, she dedicated a year to hard training and set off with them in 2002. Although weather conditions prohibited the team from completing, Wendy attempted the summit again in 2004 on her own and she succeeded!

The feeling of accomplishment she experienced propelled her next aspiration: to climb the highest mountain on each continent. Just five years later, Wendy Booker has successfully reached the top of six of The Seven Summits – Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif and Mt. Kosciuszko. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on earth, still awaits for 2010.