Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Next Up - Antarctica! Departure Dec. 13, 2009

For Hazardous Journey. Small wages,
bitter cold, long months of complete
darkness, constant danger. Safe return
doubtful. Honour and recognition in
case of success..."

-Ernest Shackleton's 1914
Expedition Recruiting Ad

Click on map for closer view
Vinson Massif at 16,067 feet is located in the Ellsworth Mountain
Range near the Ronne Ice Shelf, 750 miles from the South Pole.
Average summertime temperature is -20°F,
not including wind chill factor.

Vinson Itinerary (est.) & Other Details:
Note: Time zones become very close together the further south you go towards the pole. Combined with nearly 24 hours of daylight during the austral summer, the clock becomes somewhat arbitrary. Nonetheless for purposes of satellite phone calls and coordination of logistics, operations at Patriot Hills are based Punta Arenas local time which is Pacific time + 5 hours.
Dec. 13, 2009: Depart LAX 1:50 pm, arrive next day in Santiago, then flight to Punta Arenas at southern tip of Chile.
Dec. 15, 2009: After meeting with our expedition leader Scott Woolums, who will also be our guide on Everest, we do a final gear check and briefing with other climbers who will be joining us on the adventure.
Dec. 16, 2009: This will be our first attempt to fly out from Punta Arenas, over the Straights of Magellan and the Drake Passage to Antarctica. We are heading to the most difficult and dangerous place in the world to fly, so we have to wait for a near perfect weather forecast before attempting the 4.5 hour journey. Last year at this time our Polish climbing partner and good friend Ania waited TWO WEEKS and spent Christmas in Punta Arenas waiting day by day for a chance to fly.
Day 1 -Date TBD: The IL-76 Russian Cargo jet touches down on the blue ice runway at Patriot Hills. We unload our skis, climbing gear, food, fuel, etc. and wait. If we are lucky and the weather is good, we can continue our jouney to Base Camp this same day.
Day 2 or ??: Getting from Patriot Hills to Vinson Base Camp requires flying 1.5 hours in a much smaller turbo-prop aircraft - the Twin Otter, which is equipped with skis for landing gear. We have flown in this type of aircraft before landing on the Kahiltna Glacier en route to Denali, and also a wheeled version flying to the famous Lukla airstrip in Nepal.
Days 3-4: Acclimatization at Vinson Base Camp. The altitude here is 6,900 feet, but feels more like 10,000 feet due to the fact that the earth's atmosphere is thinner at the poles. We will ascend one of nearby peaks in the area and hopefully have a chance to carve some turns on slopes where relatively few people in the world have ever skied.
Day 5-6: We move upwards along the Branscomb Glacier to Camp 1 carrying our tents, gear, food, and fuel - some of which we are hauling behind us in sleds to lighten the load on our backs. We will be roped together due to the crevasse danger.
Day 7: Rest day at Camp 1 - 9,000 feet. Possible additional rest/acclimatization day depending on weather.
Day 8: This is a difficult 8-hour day climbing many steep, fixed rope sections on 45 degree icy slopes. Elevation gain is 3,350 feet and we will establish our High Camp at approximately 12,350 feet.
Day 9: Rest day at High Camp recovering and preparing our gear and bodies for a summit attempt the following day (weather permitting of course).
Day 10 - Summit Day: This will be our longest day yet, the route is exposed and subject to extremely high winds and biting cold. The rocky summit ridge gives way to spectacular views of Mt. Gardner, Tyree, Epperly and Shinn. At the summit the true scale and majesty of the Antarctic continent become overwhelmingly apparent. There are a multitude of smaller peaks that emerge from the vast ice sheet that streches to the horizon. We will take photos, savor the moment, and retrace our steps back down to High Camp.
Day 11: Descend from High Camp back down the fixed lines, along the Branscomb Glacier and all the way back to Vinson Base Camp. Here we will wait for good weather (common theme).
Day 12 or ??: Fly back to Patriot Hills and wait again (perhaps days) until the big IL-76 is able fly back onto the ice and return us to Punta Arenas.
Dec. 30, 2009: Whenever this happens to fall into the above itinerary - it's DENISE'S BIRTHDAY!
Jan. ??: Tour Patagonia region, as time allows.
Jan. 14, 2010: Scheduled to return home, although likely sooner depending on climbing itinerary.


redlava said...

Quite a trek!! You guys will be in our thoughts and we will be looking forward to the updates.

On a side note, I think you are a far better marketer of this journey than Mr. Shackelton could ever be. I would hate to see the folks that showed up to join based on that uplifting "help wanted" flyer.

The Schafer family sends you wishes for an awe-inspiring, breathtaking, and expeditious journey, but more importantly, we look forward to your safe return.

Noelle said...

Dear Paul and Denise,

Good luck! You are in good hands with Scott. He guided me successfully on 6 of the 7 Summits. Stay warm and enjoy the views!

Nicki Branch