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  The Mountain Madness expedition to Mount Vinson


Picture Show from Vinson

Trip Report: 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 departure.

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 figures crossed!

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 with anticipation.

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 happen!)

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 exciting day!

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 today’s carry.

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 yet.

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 this spring.

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 16th.

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 below

The Mountain 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

They 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 ice climbing.

In 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 very clear)

Dispatch Two: Christine  Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch Three: Christine 1/8/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch Four: Christine 1/8/2004 midnight Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch Five: Christine 1/10/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch Six: Christine's team  Note these are MP3 Files.

 

Dispatch Seven: Christine  Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch Eight: Christine With Summit News! Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch Nine: Christine with more News! Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch Ten: Christine  1/17/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch 11: Christine, waiting with friends  1/20/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.

Dispatch 12: Christine, on the way home 1/22/2004 Note these are MP3 Files.

Millet One Sport Everest Boot  has made some minor changes by adding more Kevlar. USES Expeditions / High altitude / Mountaineering in extremely cold conditions / Isothermal to -75°F Gore-Tex® Top dry / Evazote Reinforcements with aramid threads. Avg. Weight: 5 lbs 13 oz Sizes: 5 - 14 DESCRIPTION Boot with semi-rigid shell and built-in Gore-Tex® gaiter reinforced by aramid threads, and removable inner slipper Automatic crampon attachment Non-compressive fastening Double zip, so easier to put on Microcellular midsole to increase insulation Removable inner slipper in aluminized alveolate Fiberglass and carbon footbed Cordura + Evazote upper Elasticated collar.

Expedition footwear for mountaineering in conditions of extreme cold.  NOTE US SIZES LISTED. See more here.







 

 

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