Today, December 17th, was our first full day at Patriot Hills, which is an impressive operation located along one of two areas of blue ice on the continent suitable for landing heavy aircraft. The runway, while not quite as smooth as an ice skating rink, is very slick and climbers eager to rush off to the side to snatch that perfect photo often find themselves flat on their backs.
Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE), the only non-scientific operator of flights to Antarctica, maintains a number of Weatherport tents and a good deal of heavy machinery needed to keep the runway open when strong winds off the Antarctic Plateau cover it in snow. We have contracted directly with ALE (with Scott Woolums as our guide) and have use of these tented facilities where we will cook and dine in relative comfort in an otherwise most inhospitable place.
Today we took a 6 hour hike to the highest peak overlooking the Patriot Hills camp.
The next step in our journey will involve flying 1.5 hours to Vinson Base Camp in ski-equipped Twin Otter aircraft (in background of top photo). We are all eager to start climbing but must be patient for weather conditions to permit this next leg of our adventure.