Picture Show from Vinson
Buenos Tardes! This is Chris Boskoff reporting
from the Mountain Madness Vinson 2004 Expedition in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Climbing members - Kay from Spokane, WA, Gene from Golden, CO, and Jay from
San Fransico, CA - arrived yesterday in Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas, the
capital of the Magallanes region, sits alongside the Straits of Magellan at a
southern latitude of approximately 54º south. J. Byron discovered this
location on the Brunswick Peninsula in the 17th century and named it "Punta
Arenas" (Sandy Point). The city of Punta Areas, founded in the mid 1800s, grew
into a center for commerce, fishing, Antarctic research, coal, wool and
tourism. Our hotel Isla Rey Jorge is a quiet and quaint place located close to
the town square.
Today was a productive and busy day for our expedition. After breakfast, we
congregated at the Cabo de Hornos Hotel “Cape Horn Hotel” where Antarctic
Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) organized a briefing. ALE provides the
logistical support for Antarctica “non-research” expeditions, which includes
the facilities in Antarctica and the charted flights to and from Patriot
Hills, Antarctica and the Mt. Vinson base camp. ALE charters an Ilyushin 76, a
Russian military transport plane. The plane fits about 50 people and cargo.
We were briefed on ALE procedures in Punta Arenas and the Antarctica. The
expedition could fly out at any time due to favorable weather conditions, so
our members had to be readily available to depart quickly. After the briefing
our group divided their gear into three separate sets of luggage. One group of
luggage included all the items we didn’t need until we arrived at Patriot
Hills. The second group was our carry-on luggage, which included camera
equipment, video camera, mountaineering boots, and warm clothing that we would
put on before we arrived at Patriot Hills. Our last set of items was clothing
that we would wear on the plane and included long underwear and a light
layering jacket. ALE came by around 1 p.m. to weigh and load the luggage that
we didn’t need until Patriot Hills. It would be stored at the airport until
Each member was restricted to 125 lbs. of equipment that included both
personal and group gear. If we went over our limit it meant a hefty excess
baggage charge. Our gear included everyone’s personal kit, group gear on the
mountain, and food for 17 days while in the Antarctic. This included a weeks
worth of food in case of delays. Fortunately everyone packed wisely and we
didn’t go over our weight limit.
Unfortunately, one of our team members, Jay’s, personal gear didn’t arrive on
his international flight from the US. This is always a frightful predicament
because if the flight to Patriot Hill happens today this could end his Vinson
climb. Jay and I took a drive to the airport in the afternoon to hopefully
locate his lost luggage. We tracked down the manager for the Lan Chile
airlines in Punta Arenas and were able to successfully track down his luggage.
It was expected to arrive on the next plane from Santiago. Yippee!
At 7 p.m. Jay’s belongings were delivered to our hotel and everyone
celebrated. We toasted to a short wait at the El Remezon Restaurant this
evening, and savored the local cuisine of Emu, Salmon, Guanaco, Lamb, Beaver
and King Crab dishes. We took a group photo at the restaurant to commemorate
our first night in Punta Arenas. Everyone was excited about our upcoming
flight to Patriot Hills. If the weather is good tomorrow in Patriot Hills we
will receive a wake-up call at 6 a.m. and instructed to be ready to leave our
hotel by 7 a.m. and transported to the airport for our flight. Keep you
January 5th: This is Chris Boskoff calling from Punta Arenas, Chile. Our 6
a.m. phone call never came, so we slept in and took a later breakfast. (The
time difference between Punta Arenas and the west coast is five hours, so 8
a.m. is very early for us!)
ALE called later this morning to tell us to stay close to the hotel. The
current weather condition at Patriot Hills was cloud cover that seemed to be
moving away from their facility. They hoped to fly out any time. We waited
Our hopes were dissipated when ALE called again at 2 p.m. to say it was worse,
with occasional snow showers and a ceiling down to 500 feet. ALE gets
satellite images of the area around Patriot Hills, so they are able to predict
condition within 12 hours. We needed at least an 8-hour window. It takes
around two hours to get everyone to the airport and ready to depart for the 4
and 1/2 hour flight.
With a nil chance of a departure today, our group chartered a private van to
go and see the Magellan penguins. We invited our recently acquired friends,
Jack and Todd who also were going with us to the Antarctica, to come with us
to the Seno Otway Penguin Colony. The penguin colony is located 65 kilometers
north along the Brunswick peninsula. The colony has over 10,000 penguins.
We watched these awkward looking birds waddle around occasionally jumping into
the sea for their evening dinner catch for a couple hours. It was nice for us
to leave Punta Arenas, stretch our legs and smell the freshness of the ocean
air. Now it was our turn to get dinner! Once back in Punta Arenas, we went out
to nice seafood restaurant on the coast. The food was delicious. We ordered
the fresh, local king crab and salmon on the menu. We toasted again for an
early morning departure to Patriot Hills and took the token group restaurant
photo. Jay said, “The journey is half the challenge.” Our group is beginning
to believe him!
January 6th: Once again our 6 a.m. departure wake-up call didn’t come. We
spent the morning switching hotels since the Hotel Isla Rey Jorge didn’t have
rooms available for tonight. (We were unable to make reservations in advance
since we couldn’t predict our length of stay in Punta Arenas). We settled into
the Finis Terrae Hotel, the “End of the Earth Hotel.” It is a first class
hotel with excellent accommodations! Since the weather in Patriot Hills was
still unacceptable to our Russian pilots, we took another tour south along the
coast to the Fort Bulnes. In 1843, Chile took possession of the Strait and the
Patagonian lands by establishing its’ first settlement and fort at the site.
This evening we ate at the hotel’s roof top restaurant. Since our hopes were
not as great as the previous two nights, we decided to hold off on our morning
departure toast and the token group photo!
January 7th: This is Christine Boskoff at Patriot Hills, Antarctica reporting
for the Mountain Madness Vinson 2004 Expedition.
We made it! Our group is super psyched! After a four-hour flight we landed on
the infamous blue ice runway. We barely made it because within 15 minutes the
clouds rolled in --- a mere 15 minutes later we would have had to turn around.
Wow! It’s hard to believe we are here. Just 24 hours ago our sprits were
dampen due to 7/8 cloud cover with significant snow cover on the runway. (The
Ilyushin is not equipped with skies, so it cannot land on a snow cover ice
runway. The ALE staff at Patriot Hills plowed the runway in order to make it
At noon today in Punta Arenas our group was told to standby, because the
weather was clearing. After a nice lunch at a close by café, we received the
green light at 4 p.m. The skies were clear and they cleared the runway at
Patriot Hills. At 4:50 p.m. we were loaded on a bus and taken to the airport.
Our gear was loaded in the middle of aircraft and we filed in single file
along the sides of the airplane. Many of the passengers had their video
cameras rolling to capture the excitement on everyone’s faces. Our seats were
hard with not much legroom, but we didn’t care --- we were going to the
Antarctica! We were given earplugs to help us deal with the loud noise of the
four jet engines of the Ilyushin. By 7:20 p.m. we were cleared for take off
and the Ilyushin departed for our journey south. Our in-flight dinner was one
of the better dinners I’ve experienced with the airlines. A large ham and
cheese sub with chips, dessert, wet wipes and plenty to drink.
Once we arrive at Patriot Hills, we hiked 15 minutes to the ALE facilities. We
pitched our tent and went to the ALE kitchen for a welcome dinner of beef
stew. Fran is the cook and does a fantastic job of cooking for the ALE staff.
It was now after midnight and it was still bright outside. This was one
characteristic of the Antarctic our group had to learn to deal with --- 24
hours of sunlight. We crawled into our sleeping bags around 1 a.m. after an
January 8th: This is Christine Boskoff reporting for the Mountain Madness
Vinson 2004 Expedition. It’s midnight and the sun is still high in the sky at
Mt. Vinson Base Camp.
Our team spent the day waiting for our one hour flight to base camp. ALE
charters two twin Otters and each plane can carry eight people plus their
climbing gear to Vinson Base Camp. It took five trips to get 28 people to
camp. We were one of the last groups to fly and with the threatening clouds
approaching late in the afternoon, it didn’t look hopeful. Fortunately at 6:45
p.m. we got the ok from our pilots. We broke down our tents, loaded the planes
and took off at 7:09 p.m.
Our flight took us over the Ellsworth Mountain Range. As I looked down on the
various peaks below, I wondered what new routes could be climbed. Our pilots
touched down their ski-equipped aircraft on a slightly uphill snow runway. We
arrived shortly before 8 p.m. The elevation at Base Camp is 7,100 feet. Our
group established camp. The Vinson Base Camp manager Heather, a Scottish woman
with a welcoming smile came over and briefed our group regarding the
environmental issues and climbing procedures on the mountain. We then feasted
on a tasty cheese, bean and rice burritos before crawling into our sleeping
bags close to midnight. Fortunate for the 24 hours of daylight, we can get a
lot accomplished in a single day.
ALE delivered us safely to base camp, now it’s our job to climb the mountain.
We are all excited to climb to Camp 1 tomorrow.
January 9th: A cold wind contributed to the -30 degree temperature that
greeted us this morning. After taking down our camp and dividing our loads, we
loaded our sleds and backpacks and climbed to Camp 1.
We departed Base Camp at 2:10 p.m., which sounds ridiculous if we were
climbing anywhere else in the world. The clouds soon rolled in and stole us a
view of the surrounding mountains. We ascended the gentle slopes of the
Branscomb Glacier and the sled hauling was pleasantly nice. We took several
breaks along the way to ensure we were properly fueled and hydrated. We
arrived at the site of Camp 1 at 9 p.m. and the clouds miraculously rolled
back and the sun greeted us.
The location of Camp 1 this year was slightly higher up the valley to
eliminate the need for Camp 2. Our camp was located around 10,000 feet.
Everyone is doing well and looked strong on the glacier today. We wasted no
time and Gene and I shoveled a platform and set up the tents, while Kay and
Gene worked as a team constructing a nice windshield snow wall out of blocks
of snow. We soon had water bottles full and a nice salmon pasta feast for
dinner. Hot drinks were served around midnight as the sun still hung high in
the sky. It’s truly the land of the midnight sun!
January 10th: This is Jay Weiner reporting for the Mountain Madness Vinson
Expedition. Today marks one week since our group flew into Punta Arenas. Our
arrival on this expedition seems to be a month ago due to the long journey to
get to Vinson Base Camp and the enchantment of Antarctica.
Sunlight hits Camp 1 at 11 a.m. Given the intensity of the cold, one does not
wish to arise in shadow. Thus we did not begin our carry until 1 p.m. after a
hardy breakfast of blueberry pancakes. It took us an hour and a half to reach
the base of the headwall. Due to the dense fog, our progress up the 1,000
foot, 40 degree headwall was slow. Fortunately conditions cleared and were
able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The weather was flawless as we
reached the top of the headwall – sunny with panoramic views. We reached Camp
3 at 7:30 p.m. Stashed 4-days of fuel and food and then headed down at 8 p.m.
We returned to Camp 1 at 10:30 p.m. Everyone was strong and exemplary during
January 11th: Hello this is Chris Boskoff reporting for the Mountain Madness
Vinson Expedition. We had a wonderful leisurely rest day here at Camp 1, and a
well deserved one too! The cold is a major element when climbing Mt. Vinson.
It is the toughest of the seven summits in that regard. Out here one must be
completely self-supported and well prepared for the worst weather and extreme
cold. Fortunately for our group everyone was well prepared for the cold.
Last night was the coldest night yet. It had to be -35 degrees. Fortunately
Jay, my tent mate, got turned around trying to warm his fee and slept on mine.
I didn’t mind since it was the warmest my feet have been at night since the
start of the climb.
We woke at 11 a.m. We ate, drank and slept today. Ahhh life in the mountains!
It was partially sunny today with temperatures around -10 to -15 degrees. We
would like to wish Kay’s son Andrew a happy 19th birthday and hope the Green
Bay Packers won against the Philadelphia Eagles today in the play offs. Go
Packers! Kay was able to reach her son tonight on our satellite phone to
personally wish him a happy birthday.
Tomorrow we plan to climb to high camp and sleep there for the night.
January 12th: This is Christine Boskoff calling from high camp at 12,500 feet.
We had a wonderful and productive day! After our 11 a.m. breakfast, we
dismantled Camp 1 and, at 2 p.m., departed for high camp. The snow conditions
were brilliant. The headwall can sometimes be icy, but we had a 6-inch layer
of snow and made progress quickly. We had a beautiful day climbing to high
camp. The weather was balmy and our group was strong, because of yesterday’s
rest day. We arrived at high camp around 7:30 p.m. It took us two hours to
construct our camp before we were able to focus on drinks and a nice hot
dinner. We were now poised in an excellent position for our summit push. We
are at high camp with four days of food and fuel, and everyone healthy and
psyched for the summit.
January 13th: What a beautiful day! Not a cloud in the sky and a slight
breeze. We got lucky with the weather for our summit day.
Kay, Gene, Jay and I started out for the summit at 11 a.m. after a power
breakfast of pancakes. Just above the first 100-foot slope, Jay complained of
back pain. Jay had a recent medical history of back problems and was showing
the signs once again. He decided to turn around, so the rest of the group
could go on. I thought this was very noble of him. Kay, Gene, and I continued
under clear blue skies. We trekked along the vastness of the glacier for four
hours until we reached the foot of Mt. Vinson. It was hot so we stripped our
layers of down and wore only a layer of polypropylene. It was the warmest day
After six hours, we reached the ridge of Mt. Vinson around 15,000 feet. The
cold wind greeted us as we reached the shoulder, so we had to put on our down
suits. We climbed the steeper snow slopes and reached the summit ridge, a
beautiful rocky ridge that led to the summit around 7:30 p.m. We topped out at
8:00 p.m. to 360-degree view of the Ellsworth Mountains. After celebrating on
the summit and calling home to say we made it, we descended our ascent route
at 8:30 p.m. We arrived back to our camp at 11:30 p.m. Jay greeted us once we
arrived. We were all very tired and managed to gulp down dinner by 2 a.m.
January 14th Our team arrived safely at Base Camp this evening. We woke this
morning at 9 a.m. under blue skies once again. Jay and I spoke about possibly
going back up for another summit attempt the next day, but his back symptoms
still existed and it would be too risky with no support above high camp. We
broke down our camp and headed back down the headwall.
At Camp 1 we loaded our sleds, which alleviated our loads on our backs, and
descended down the Branscomb Glacier. It took us six hours to get down and
considering our previous long day we were relieved when we reached Base Camp.
Our Base Camp manager Heather greeted us with a nice dinner of beef stew.
Everyone - Jay, Kay and Gene - did an outstanding job on the climb! Everyone
was strong and helped with responsibilities on the mountain to make this climb
a success. Special thanks to Jay, who made the selfless decision to turn
around on summit day. For Kay and Gene, Vinson was their 4th seven summits
they topped out on. Gene is joining our Mountain Madness Everest expedition
We should all sleep well tonight since it is considerably warmer at the lower
elevation of Base Camp and was a long active day.
January 17th: This is Chris Boskoff from Patriot Hills, Antarctica. The day
before yesterday (the 15th) Gene and I took a wonderful hike to the
surrounding hills around Base Camp. We climbed a 1000-foot knoll over looking
Base Camp. After a late lunch of cheese, salmon and crackers on the patio of
our Base Camp station, the twin otter planes arrived. This time we were the
first to leave. It would take the aircraft four trips of 10 passengers each to
get everyone back to Patriot Hills. The last group arrived mid day on the
We are now all at Patriot Hills and waiting for the Ilyushin to bring us back
to Punta Arenas. For the Ilyushin to land we need less than 15-knot winds.
Unfortunately the winds on the 16th are were gusting to 30 knots. At Patriot
Hills, we became creative with the cooking as our food supply dwindled. For
Kay we made a celebratory pizza. Gene said it was one of the better pizzas he
has eaten. Gene understands the merits of racking up brownie points by
complementing the chefs!
Today, the 17th, the winds died, but a low cloud layer has moved in with a
chance of snow showers. We are playing the waiting game and hope the weather
improves tomorrow. Once again we need a big enough window for the Ilyushin to
make the 4 & 1/2 hour flight form Punta Arenas and land safely within the
cloud ceiling and wind limits.
Fortunately we already obtained our goal here, so everyone is more tolerant of
the wait. The groups are filling their time by going on hikes to the
surrounding hills, reading, and having igloo building contests. However we are
anxious to return home and see our families and enjoy the comforts of home.
Fortunately we have a cell phone and we can call back home at night.
January 19th: Hello everyone. This is Chris Boskoff reporting for the Mountain
Madness Vinson Expedition. The winds are very strong at Patriot Hills today.
Our general routine is wake up at 11 a.m. eat breakfast, get the weather
report, take a walk, eat lunch, take a nap, read, eat dinner and play cards
until 2 a.m. Some of us mixed-up the routine yesterday and went sailing on
skis across the snow. With the high winds yesterday it was the perfect
conditions for sailing.
Tonight, the 19th, we had a “hoe-down” dance party in the mess tent. We danced
until 2 a.m. Kay being a ball room dancer out danced everyone while Gene snuck
out the back door to avoid the invitation to dance. Jay is busy entertaining
himself with the ALE folks. We are enjoying ourselves, but hope to fly home
soon. The winds are still strong as I speak. Hopefully the new day brings good
weather for flying.
January 20th: At last we got word late morning that the winds were low enough
to fly. We took our time breaking down the tents and packing our loads for the
flight. The Ilyushin arrived around 3:30 p.m.. Everyone joined in unloading
the barrels of fuel and loading the empty barrels, garbage, human waste, and
our gear into the aircraft. (It’s very prudent that all the garbage leaves
Patriot Hills after every trip.) By 5:30 p.m. we were able to depart.
We landed around 9:30 p.m. and loaded the bus to take us back to our hotel,
Isla Rey Jorge. The sky was beginning to show the signs of darkness that our
bodies longed for. We had an early morning celebration farewell dinner back at
the hotel, since we all were scheduled to depart on international flights back
home in a few hours (21st).
January 21st: Hello everyone. This is Chris Boskoff reporting for the Mountain
Madness Vinson Expedition. Our expedition departed on the 21st with everyone
rushing to catch flights with not much time for thought. Once we return to our
normal lives, we will have moments where we can reflect our adventure to the
frozen continent. With any adventure, it is the journey where lessons are
learned and memories are created and the goal is only the part of the
experience. The Antarctica will be engraved in our minds for a lifetime.
"Antarctica left a restless longing in my heart beckoning towards an
incomprehensible perfection for ever beyond the reach of mortal man. Its
overwhelming beauty touches one so deeply that is like a wound."
--Edwin Mickleburgh, Beyond the Frozen Sea
Christine Boskoff Mountain Madness, Inc.
Previous Dispatches are
Madness expedition to Mount Vinson: Located at a
latitude of 78 degrees 35 minutes south and 85
degrees 25 minutes west longitude, Vinson is found
in the Ellsworth Mountains. The 16,077 foot summit
is the highest point on the continent of Antarctica.
For most that have the unique opportunity to join an
expedition like this, their definition of wilderness
will be redefined. Isolated and starkly beautiful,
the icy continent of Antarctica is beyond
description and offers an adventure of a lifetime
for team members.
Last steps to summit
photo by: Mark Gunlogson
leave Punta Arenas in Chile for the six-hour flight to Patriot Hills. Then the
flight takes them over Tierra del Fuego, past the Antarctic Circle and on to
Patriot Hills. From there they make a one-hour flight to basecamp. With sleds
loaded they move up the mountain, establishing two or three camps before the
summit attempt. From high camp the final climb consists of moderate snow and
technical terms the climb is considered moderate, but cold temperatures (minus
20-30 degrees Fahrenheit are not uncommon) and strong winds often increase the
challenge. However, during the austral summer there is usually less than
18 inches of snow and 24 hours of daylight
contributes to our success on the climb.
|Picture: moving to high camp
by: Mark Gunlogson
This expedition is led by Christine Boskoff.
Dispatch one: Note these are MP3 Files.
Christine part one (note the
audio clears up after the first few seconds)
Christine part two (audio
Christine Note these are MP3 Files.
Christine 1/8/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.
midnight Note these are MP3 Files.
Note these are MP3 Files.
Note these are MP3 Files.
Note these are MP3 Files.
With Summit News! Note these are MP3 Files.
with more News! Note these are MP3 Files.
Christine 1/17/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.
waiting with friends 1/20/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.
on the way home 1/22/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.
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