Dispatches - Vinson Massif 2003/04

December 18, 2003

During the southern summer season of 2003/04, Adventure Consultants operated an expedition to climb Vinson Massif in Antarctica. At 4,892m/16,050ft, Vinson Massif is the highest mountain in Antarctica and one of the coveted 'Seven Summits'.

Adventure Consultants Vinson Massif Expedition 2003 Dispatches

The AC team heading south to Antarctica this season to climb 4,897m Vinson Massif are:

Expedition Leader: Luis Benitez - USA

Len Stanmore – Canada
Bruno Rodi – Canada
Jason Rodi – Canada
Anthony Baldry - Australia 

The itinerary for the 16 day expedition, 28 November - 13 December 2003, is as follows:

Day 1 Meet in Punta Arenas, Chile
2 Weighing & loading of gear
3 Fly to Patriot Hills, Antarctica
4 Fly to Vinson Massif Base Camp
5 - 13 Climb Vinson Massif
14 Return to Patriot Hills
15 Depart for Punta Arenas
16 Leave for home destination

Delays caused by bad weather affecting the flights between Punta Arenas and Patriot Hills, as is common for expeditions to Antarctica, may mean it takes longer than 16 days to complete the expedition.

27 November 2003 - Happy Thanksgiving!
For those of you following along from the USA, Happy Thanksgiving! For the rest of you, welcome to the end of the earth! (Well, almost).

We are here in Punta Arenas, awaiting the arrival of the rest of our group, and the ever important flight to the ice. Right now, the weather here is finicky to say the least. Cold, sunny and the ever presentescoba de dios, or broom of the gods, meaning, WIND!

It is quite common for groups to get stuck on the ice or here due to the winds cancelling flights. Personally, I prefer here. So, Anthony arrived last night, Len is due in this afternoon, and Jason and Bruno, the father-son team is due the next day.

We are hoping to then catch a flight in to the ice on the 30th if all goes well.

We will keep our fingers crossed.

Until we get going we won’t be cybercasting every day, only as events progress.

So till then...

30 November 2003 - So the waiting game begins
Today was a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait. We thought we would be flying later today, as the 1st flight made it in last night. We finished packing and sent our large bags to be loaded on the plane. We then found out, much to our dismay, that winds had increased at Patriot Hills, up to 64knots per hour, and we were not going to fly tonight. Our main bags however, went to the plane to be loaded. Hopefully we will fly tomorrow morning, but for now the team is still content to explore town, get to know each other better and eat as much ice cream as we can before we leave.

So, keep your fingers crossed that the winds will drop, and we will keep you posted!

9 December 2003 - Sooo close...
We were so close! This morning at 5am my phone started ringing... Mark from ALE was saying there was a small weather window and that we were going to try to get to the ice. After that was a flurry of activity, paying room bills, loading gear, changing into mountain clothes and loading onto the bus for the ride to the airport.

We were whisked through security, seeming like we were on the way (believe it or not, this was the 2nd time we had done this, once before on Tuesday), only to have Rachel come and say that the winds were back up and they were cancelling the flight for yet another day.

This is a normal routine for trying to get to the ice, a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait! People’s nerves are getting a bit frayed on other teams as Christmas, business deadlines and life back home is starting to weigh into others’ decisions to stay or go.

For now, our team is in good spirits, hiking everyday above town, visiting penguin colonies and watching a bit of HBO while contemplating starting Christmas shopping!

So stay tuned for further developments!

10 December 2003 - Departure!
Hopefully the waiting game is about to draw to a close. We just got word that a potential weather window may be opening up down on the ice. If this happens, I will send this dispatch out, so if you are reading this, we are on the way!

The plane we are flying on is a big jet cargo plane called an Ilyushin, from Tajikistan of all places! This plane is one big cargo room, no first class seating for us! The flight takes us about 4-5 hours to get to Patriot Hills(depending on headwinds), which is actually PAST Vinson! Then we have to wait for a smaller plane, a Twin Otter, to fly us the final hour to base. As the sun never sets down there, our first day promises to be some around the clock work!

Till then, wish us luck!

11 December 2003
Here we are, waiting yet again for our second leg of flying. As I phoned in yesterday, we arrived here mid-afternoon, only to be thwarted yet again by weather to fly onward to Base Camp.

After a nice evening of stories under the never-setting sun, and balmy temps of only -10°C, we are now re-packed, and awaiting the final leg.

The weather guys here tell us that getting there later today should not be a problem. So we are gonna have some lunch and wait for our flight.

We will hopefully be writing tomorrow from Vinson Base Camp! Finally!

Until then...

12 December 2003 - The waiting game continues...
Thinking we were on the last flight to Base Camp, we loaded the plane and, with a Belgian team, waited to go. Four hours later, we were still stuck at Patriot hills. We were told that weather at Base Camp was poor and we were to be stuck here yet again....

So this morning, we are told that we will try to fly at 2pm our time to Base Camp. The wind is up here... hopefully not too strong to takeoff!

For now, we are all still hanging out in the cook tent here (nice and big!), and keeping our fingers and toes crossed to get this ball rolling!

Two other flights went to Base Camp yesterday and it sounds like they are all beginning to move up the hill. Does this put us "behind"? Not really. Simply on a different timetable...

So till we hit Base Camp.....

13 December 2003 - Greetings all from Camp One on Vinson!
We finally made it to Base Camp late last night and, under the endless sun, rigged sleds, re-packed food and got the show on the road!

We are now sitting here at Camp 1, finishing up dinner and heading off to bed (eyeshade always needed to block the light!). Our plan right now is to head to Camp 2 tomorrow (a short day), then carry to Camp 3 and return to Camp 2 the next day. Rest the day after that at Camp 2, then move to Camp 3 the following day and hopefully summit the day after that!

So until then...we will keep you all posted.

14 December 2003 - So here we are at Camp 2!
Today was short, only 2 hours. But this allowed us to spend the afternoon re-sorting for our carry to Camp 3 tomorrow!

We will then return here tomorrow night before moving to Camp 3 the following day, weather and health permitting. Everyone is in great spirits and raring to go!

So stay tuned!

16 December 2003 - Well here we are! Finally!
Safe and sound tucked in at Camp 3, ready for our summit push tomorrow, weather and health permitting...

We will leave about 10am local time, hoping to summit around 4:30pm and be back by 8pm or so. A long day, but as the sun never sets, plenty of light to get the job done!

So we are wrapping up dinner now, then off to bed! Send good thoughts our way as everyone here is excited and ready to go!

Till then, goodnight from the highest human presence in the whole of Antarctica...

17 December 2003 - Summits!
Hi everybody, this is the Adventure Consultants Mt Vinson Massif team calling you from Antarctica. We summited everybody! We made the summit about an hour ago, it was too cold on top to call, let alone take pictures. We were estimating about 50-60 degrees below zero with windchill so we dropped down from the summit about 1,000 to 1,500 feet to make the call. Everybody here is feeling really good. Ccongratulations to Bruno and Jason on 6 out of their Seven Summits and good luck as they continue to ski to the South pole. Congrats also to Anthony for completing his sixth, and to Len for completing his second! And for yours truly, this is number sixth for me as well. So thanks for all the warm wishes and good thoughts coming from home, we will try send some photos along when we can get a chance, but we are all safe and sound heading back to Camp 3 for dinner. So until then this is the boys from Vinson wishing everyone back home a pleasant afternoon.

17 December 2003 - Back down in Camp after summit
Hi everybody, this is the Adventure Consultants Vinson Massif Expedition just checking in, returned safe and sound to Camp 3. Unfortunately, the camera was frozen, so there are no digital photos to send out. I apologise. We are busy melting snow for dinner and trying to get out of the weather, so things are a little busy here at Camp 3 tonight but just want to let everybody back home know we are safe and sound and looking forward to returning back to Base Camp tomorrow, weather permitting. But until then we are all tucked in and looking forward to getting down. Talk to you later, bye!

18 December 2003 - And so we wait...
Last night we apparently made it back to our high camp in the nick of time. The winds rose steadily, the clouds came in and before we knew it, the storm had arrived.

Needless to say, we are going to wait this one out. Antarctica is not the place to fool around with weather. A Jagged Globe team is waiting it out with us up here and a Berg Adventures team is stuck at Base Camp, so we are all cosy in our tents, drinking tea, cocoa, coffee, eating sausage and cheese, and catching up on some much-deserved sleep!

We are hoping this is a fast-moving system and we will be able to descend all the way to Base Camp tomorrow. Then begins the waiting game for flights back to Patriot Hills, and then for our flight back to South America. The guys are content with our success and for now are showing amazing patience and resolve.

So till tomorrow, send warm thoughts our way!

Post script: The team eventually flew out after a short delay and were delighted to return to Punta Arenas for good food and drink celebrations!

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