On November 19th, 2011 we left our cozy hotel in Punta Arenas, Chile to fly to Antarctica and embark on our adventure to summit Mt. Vinson. I am excited and a little anxious as there are a lot of challenges and potential hardships ahead of me for the next few weeks.
I always question myself. Am I ready? Have I done all I need to do? Will I perform well? How will my family be while I am gone? I think this questioning is natural, and it helps me to stay safe and be well prepared. However, in the mountains there is no place for hesitation. One must be strong and confident and put 100% into everything that is done. Hesitation erodes commitment and lack of commitment reduces focus and the energy put into a task. In the mountains, hesitation can lead to bad things happening.
Now ready to go, myself, Ryan Waters and Ron Sanga took a 4.5 hour flight which landed us at union glacier at 4:30am. We had some food and waited to fly to Mt. Vinson. We got to Base Camp around 4pm on November 20th and set up camp. It was -15c sunny with light wind.
The morning of the 21st we got up and headed out of Low Camp to Camp 1 around 12:30 pm. It was a beautiful but long ski through a magnificent 9km of valley that took us five hours to complete. Along the way we had great views of Upper Branscombe Glacier below the face of Vinson. It was cloudy with light snow as we skied. We got to camp in a light snowstorm, it was cold and our hands quickly got cold as we set up camp.
The next day we moved up to High Camp in a single carry. Our packs were heavy but this would save us time and overall effort. The headwall was 1,200m of fixed line and while not technically difficult it was very tiring and took us around three hours to climb. We then ascended for another 90 minutes to High Camp. We were quite tired when we got there. We set up camp and prepared for a summit push in the morning. We had originally scheduled eight days to do this climb, but somehow made it in four long, hard climbing days!
On Nov 23 we set out at 9:30am for the summit, 3,600 vertical feet away. The route follows a gentle but exhausting valley for 7km. The sky was clear with a slight wind. Temperature was around minus 25. After six hours we made it to the summit ridge at 4:30pm. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped to around minus 45 with the wind chill. The summit ridge was amazing with a razor-sharp top and steep drops on both sides. Conditions were perfect with clear blue skies — but difficult to enjoy with the cold and the wind. After a couple of bad summit photos all three of our cameras froze. We spent a total of about 20 minutes on top.
I am now only the 15th Canadian to have successfully made it to the summit of the tallest peak in all seven Continents. It’s still sinking in.
Message sent from the summit, Nov 23rd, 2011: The whole team reached the summit of Vinson today at 4:30 pm Chile time. We enjoyed very nice weather with clear skies and just slight winds on the summit ridge. We are all back in high camp and looking forward to a good rest before heading down in the morning to low camp and the to base. Good night from way up here in the bottom of the world. – Ryan Waters
The journey down was easy but tiring and took us around three hours. We made it back to High Camp, had dinner and slept. On the 24th we made the long journey back to Base Camp. It was a fast, fantastic, and challenging climb.
Now back in Base Camp we have had to change our plans for the rest of the trip. We were supposed to ski from Vinson Base Camp back to Union Glacier. This is a 150km trip that we expected would take seven or eight days. Unfortunately, we found that the mountaineering boots we were wearing to climb were not comfortable for skiing. We skied on Vinson from Base Camp to Low Camp and a fair bit of the mountain pulling sleds with our gear behind us, but we knew we could not go the initial distance we had planned.
The new plan is to fly back to Union Glacier to do some hiking, climbing and skiing around the Antarctic mountains to explore areas the have never seen footsteps. Summit Life. Scott out.
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