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  Dr. Clare O'Leary attempts to finish the 7 summits on Vinson

Dr. Clare O'Leary became the first Irish woman to reach the highest point on Earth while Pat became the first Irishman to summit from both the Nepalese and Tibetan sides. Clare now attempts to finish the 7 Summits. Pat Falvey, veteran expedition leader, Everest climber, author and motivational speaker.  is with Clare attempting to finish the 7 summits for a second time.

December 3rd/4th: Although Punta Arenas is a small city, it is certainly a busy one and difficulties with accommodation are the norm. We were unable to get accommodation for five consecutive nights in the one hotel and so had to move down the road this morning with all our gear in hand. Between our lack of Spanish and the hustle and bustle of this place, we were very concerned that John’s luggage would be misdirected. Phone calls to the airport were in vain; it was impossible to even get anyone to reply. As a result, we decided to go back out to the airport to see if we would have any more luck. Although it was reassuring that they could trace the bags, they failed to deliver it last night as promised. It’s a real heart sink. To make matters worse, today being Sunday, most places- including the LAN Chile office - are closed. Alex, from the Russian team, has kindly offered John a down suit if he’s stuck. If we’re not ready to leave when our flight is ready, its tough luck and $20,450 dollars down the swanny for John’s flight to the Antarctic..

Yesterday we completed our packing and weigh in for the Illuyshin. We should be just about within the restrictions (with John’s gear hopefully included).

Photo right: Clare sewing sponsors logos

The tradition of a siesta for a number of hours mid afternoon still holds here; its easy to forget about this and it was for this reason that I ended up spending a few hours sewing logos for my sponsors, Emirate Computers and Nokia UAE, on my down gear. Sewing is not my strong point, but I just about managed! I think the lady in the alterations shop needn’t worry about competition though!

Photo left: Briefing prior to flight given by Peter Mc Dowell, Antarctic Logistics

This morning we had a briefing at 10am. We have just heard that a flight went out last night at 10.15pm. This was brilliant news for us. Everyone’s mood has lifted and there was a buzz in the air. We were given the fine details of how to keep Antarctica pristine and the ‘wag bags’ that we need to carry for human waste disposal. We leave nothing on the Antarctic and we have to bring it all back to Punta Arenas.

Photo right: Multinational teams ready for Antarctica

The plan from here on is that at 09.30hrs tomorrow we will be phoned regarding our flight. If the weather conditions allow, we will fly tomorrow. If not, we will remain on standby – ready to be collected and go to the airport within 30 minutes- until we actually leave. If the weather is really bad, we may be told to forget if for 12 -16 hours. The same stipulation holds – if you’re not there for your flight, tough luck. That counts a trip to see the penguins out, unfortunately!

Photo left: John and Clare at Magellan’s statue

On returning here to our hotel, John was presented with his bags. What a relief! It really has been a stressful 36 hours for him - waiting and waiting.

Photo right:
Pat takes it
a toe further – kissing Magellan’s foot is believed to mean you will return to Punta Arenas.

So, we have just our final preparations to do now. If we do get out and are lucky enough that conditions allow us to get
a Hercules directly in to Vinson Base Camp, we would really be singing. Patience is the name of the game. If we don’t send an update tomorrow, it will mean things are going very right for us!

2nd: John arrived safely yesterday evening but unfortunately arrived minus his luggage, which has been misplaced somewhere between Madrid and Santiago. We're trying to track it down today and are preparing to fly down to Antarctica on 5th. The stores here in Punta Arenas don't sell gear that would be in any way suitable for the Mt Vinson climb, so fingers crossed his bags turn up to day. In the meantime we have gone ahead and weighed all our expedition gear, food supplies, climbing hardware etc ready to send to the airport. The charge for excess luggage is $60 per kilo so we need to keep within the limit.

Although the weather on Vinson has been dreadful and the conditions are the worst in 20 years according to those on the mountain at the moment, we are still looking forward to getting out there. Antarctic Logistics, who run the flight service, have been extremely concerned about the conditions and have told us that a number of climbers have abandoned because of problems with frostbite.

Since arriving, we have met up with two good friends of Pat, Alex Abramov, one of the top Russian climbers and Dave Hamilton from the UK, both of whom will be on the mountain at the same time. Dave has been waiting for the past 10 days for his flight to go so frustration and boredom are building for him; lets hope we won't be in the same boat!

December 1st
John Dowd departs for Punta Arenas.
John called to the mountain lodge this morning to pick up some gear before departing for Heathrow later this afternoon. We had a quick chat and gave him a solar panel for Pat to power their satellite phone. He was excited and couldn’t wait to get his first glimpse of the frozen continent.


November 30th
We left Sydney this morning and are now en route to Santiago and then on to Punta Arenas in Chile. It was an early start, yet again. We’ve covered thousands of miles in the past week and the travelling is gradually tiring us out. Rest prior to Antarctica will be a priority.

With Kosciuszko in the bag, we are now down to our final summit. This will be a real test. A frenzied phone call to the shipping agent during our trip to Aus could give us no further information about our expedition gear for Antarctica. It was only today, minutes before leaving Sydney airport that we finally got the good news from our shipping agent – John Bland from Allied Forwarding; our gear was waiting for us in Punta Arenas. What a relief! John has been handling our shipments on all our major expeditions and is acutely aware of the importance of ens uring everything gets to its destination on time. He has been a tremendous help to us over the past few years.

We boarded our Qantas flight on the first sunny day of our stay in Australia. The weather had been uncharacteristically wet for the previous week – our luck! The Aussies were delighted, having been going through an unrelenting period of drought. We travelled to Auckland first and then on to Santiago across the international date line; flying back in time we managed to gain 16 hours today!



Pat Falvey, veteran expedition leader, Everest climber, author and motivational speaker.

To book Pat Falvey on his 'AGAINST THE SKY' LECTURE TOUR. e-mail us at  

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