Getting to Mount Vinson in Antarctica is an adventure in itself…first a five hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile in a Russian cargo plane…landing on an ice runway. From there, a beautiful flight in a small Twin Otter to base camp. And when that little plane drops you off and flies away, you realize for the first time just how small and how alone you really are. Other than your fellow climbers, you have seen the last living organism for a while…just rock and ice and (other than the wind) complete silence. Jon Krakauer said this about climbing in Antarctica…” You’re just this little fly up there, and the cold and the altitude are this big swatter waiting to whap you.” We will never get to the moon or Mars but being in the middle of Antarctica is about as close as a person can get.
The nine days we spent in Chile waiting for the weather to allow us to land on the ice gave us an opportunity to bond with our teammates and our guides, Phil Ershler and Mike Hamill. We couldn’t have asked for a better team…all far more experienced than we were…four from the US, one from Argentina and one from Taiwan.
The climb is pretty straightforward and the summit is only 16,050 feet but what makes Vinson so dangerous is the remoteness of it. Injuries here can be deadly because the weather may not allow a rescue for weeks. Julie and I were totally wasted after the first day moving from Base Camp to Camp 1 and we were ready to admit that we were in over our heads. Neither of us, however, had the guts to tell Phil that we wanted to turn back so we just bit our tongues and kept climbing. Fortunately, with the encouragement from our teammates, we got stronger as the week went on. Six days later, we found ourselves standing on the summit of Antarctica and the view from up there was well worth the effort.Share this post: by