Vinson Massif: Post 3

Vinson post 3

Finally we are in Antarctica.  After 4h 15m we arrive at Union Glacier. The Ilyushin-76 was a experience, with 60 passengers and tons of supplies we unloaded on the blue ice glacier and get our first feel of the Antarctic cold. 


The inside of the Ilyusin I am in the blue mask trying to drown out the noise of the engines and the fuel drums clanking in the cargo behind us

There are 4 camps on the way to the summit, each decreasing in what they offer and comfort level.  Union Glacier (UG) is where multiple expeditions will start.  There are trips to the South Pole, ski touring, penguin watching, even sky diving, but most of the 60 passengers are here to climb Mt. Vinson. 

The hotels at Union Glacier

We start with a team of 5 climbers and French guide JB. Mike F Ohio, Michael Salt Lake City, Charles UK, Valentine Argentina and me.  We all have pretty extensive climbing resumes too. I am happy to get going.  Sleds and roped travel will be new learning opportunities for me.  We eat a hot meal at Union Glacier and head directly to the twin Otter and Vinson Basecamp. A short 40 minute flight and we land on a short snowy field beside a group of tents.  The last group that climbed got stuck here for 11 days.  Just hope our luck is different. 

Unloading at Vinson base camp 

As I get out of the plane in Basecamp I am met with Rob Smith my Everest leader that I haven’t seen since June.  He is the Basecamp manager and has been here for several weeks. We will be his last group.  It was great to get caught up.  I also know that the mountain is much safer with him on it. 

Gary and Rob at Basecamp

We spend one night at BC and then rig our sleds for the long uphill walk to Low Camp.  After 5 hours under beautiful sunny, warm (above 0), we arrive.  Adventure Consultants, ALE, IMG, and Alpine Accents have expeditions.  I met another local Kentucky man with the same climbing obsession a doctor from Owensboro, Josh. He is climbing with Alpine ascents. They got hung up and will fall a day behind us, with an expedition still coming down from the summit.  He had a team member Don that lost 3 fingers climbing Denali this past summer.  He cast the frozen digits and had a necklace made.  My wife didn’t like the idea and my youngest thought it was cool and wanted my middle finger if I lost any.



Pulling sled up the valley


Base camp tent at midnight still not ready for bed.

When you arrive at camp your work hasn’t ended you have to build ice walls, pitch a tent, unpack, prepare a meal, make water for the next day and get into the bag before the sun cast a shadow on your tent and the temp drops like a rock.  We will not see darkness or above freezing temps for the next several days.  If you get behind in these chores you could get in trouble. We finish at 11 and go to bed.  I am glad to get the first day and sleds and rope travel under way it took a little getting use to but the Antarctic weather was kind to us.  

Lesson to grandkids:

Beware of the shadows,  get your work done in the light of day and enjoy the accomplishment of the days work.  Procrastination and complacency will derail your goals and add unnecessary stress to your life.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Absolutely true about procrastination and complacency. In climbing mountains… and in my math class!!
    I’m amazed people go all the way to anyarctica to skydive!

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