Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year and Successful Move to Camp 1

Randy and Anders called last night to wish us Happy New Year and report on their successful climb to Camp 1 (also know as Low Camp) at 9500 feet.

They both slept really well the night before at Vinson Base Camp, having been instructed to stay in their tents from 7 PM to 9 AM because of the frigid weather.  Since they were actually moving up to Low Camp and not just dropping off gear and descending, it took quite some time to have breakfast, break down camp, load everything into their backpacks and sleds, and rope together for safe glacial travel.  By then the sun had peaked around the mountain, and it was at least relatively warmer, so they set off on their climb.  Since they'd be carrying heavy loads and moving, they each were wearing only 3 layers.

As the day progressed, clouds came in and it actually snowed a little, an infrequent event in Antarctica.  Surprisingly, Antarctica is the driest continent in terms of precipitation.  I guess once it snows on top of all that ice, it never melts or goes anywhere because there certainly is a lot of snow in all the pictures. But this was the first snow of the season -- a very dry, light snow.  Randy described it like tiny pieces of styrofoam.

Hauling about 80 pounds up to 9500 feet made for a tough, physical, and demanding day.  It took around 5 hours to travel the 5.2 miles.  Randy's back was sore, but he was so relieved that his calf injury didn't bother him.  For those of you that don't know, he's been suffering for about month with some bad tendonitis and was concerned how his leg would hold up particularly on steep inclines.  Today wasn't overly steep, so we'll have to see how his calf reacts on the very steep ascent to High Camp. But so far so good!  Randy said the sled is a challenge. It is attached to their backpacks and intermittently yanks them, so they'll be forging ahead while this cumbersome sled does it's best to jerk them backwards.  But he did it well and kept up with the team, which I think is pretty impressive for being 57 and the oldest in the group.  I guess training for and completing all those Iron Man races many times over helps!  I asked how Anders was handling it all, and he said Anders is just "great and super strong" and had no problem with any of it.  Nice to be 28, have an incredible spirit of adventure, and be very fit!  Plus Anders is just in his element out in the mountains.  It is said that Antarctica is the closest to you can come to being on another planet without leaving this one since it is so barren, intense, remote, and awe-inspiring, so I knew Anders would be completely invigorated by this unparalleled experience out in the middle of nowhere and would "crush it" as my kids would say!

Here's an archived picture of a team pulling sleds near Low Camp to give you a sense of what they are experiencing and seeing.

By the time I spoke to Randy, it was about 9 pm their time, and they had set up camp and just finished some pizza and soup.  He said the mountain and the headwall above them look enormous, and they were all getting into their tents soon because a massive ventricular cloud had appeared and that meant a COLD night.  They were told to stay in their tents until a very reasonable 11am since the sun was expected to hide behind the massive mountain from 3am till then.  The guides' plan is to emerge from their tents, assess the weather, and decide whether it's clear enough for a carry to High Camp at 12,500.   They have to conquer an intimidating 2000 ft vertical wall where they use ascenders to climb fixed ropes.  Ascenders are mechanical devices, attached to the climbers' harnesses, that slide up the rope and then lock. Anders learned how to use an ascender on Denali, but this will be Randy's first time.  They will only do this if the weather is clear.

Here's a look up from Low Camp at the steep headwall they have to scale up to High Camp.

I was so happy to later get a Happy New Years call from Anders.  He had still been in the dinner tent when Randy had called.  Anders said it was "pretty nice out" which made me smile because it is SO Anders to downplay the intensity of the weather, or really any part of these expeditions.  He doesn't like me to worry.  I did laugh when he admitted he did have on 5 jackets and 3 pairs of pants!  But it wasn't windy at that point which is a huge break on this extreme mountain.  When I asked, he said they could all feel the low oxygen effects of high altitude, but no one was sick from it.  Interestingly, because of the proximity to the South Pole, climbers feel an exacerbated altitude effect, meaning at 10,000 ft, they feel like they are at 12,000 feet.  It has to do with the low air pressure in Antarctica. So whereas 9500 ft at Low Camp wouldn't typically have a significant impact on them, I could already hear a bit of altitude hoarseness in both their voices.

Like Randy, Anders raved about his team and especially the two guides, Greg and Mike.  For those of you that are interested, here's a couple bios of these two climbing rockstars.

Antarctica is 2 hours ahead of Eastern time.  As I'm writing this on New Years Day at 10am, the guys should be up by now and deciding on the plans of the day.  I'm sure I'll hear from them soon and will update on their schedule.  For now, the guys had said to wish everyone a Happy New Years, so know that they are thinking of everyone and appreciating all your support.  Happy New Year to you and all your families!  

1 comment:

Casey Silver said...

Go get em boys! Happy new year!