Monday, January 5, 2015

Pringles and Beer at Base Camp

Randy and Anders called late last night to say they had made it back from the summit and were literally collapsing into their tents at High Camp.   It was a 9.5 hour round trip and they were both completely depleted but still thrilled they had been able to summit. Neither of them could talk long because it was so frigid and they couldn't wait to get into their sleeping bags.  The satellite connection wasn't great, and they were speaking through several layers over their faces, so it was hard to hear them,.  But I did hear "awesome, gorgeous, great climbing, amazing, exhausted......"   And I do believe that Anders even said it was really fun!  The incredible exuberance and strength of a young, well-trained athlete!

Evidently, the summit at Vinson is just a small area atop a very steep ridge.  And with the sub zero temps and pounding wind, they could just endure it for a few minutes, enough to take in the view, snap a few pictures, high-five, and head down.  I can't wait to see their photos which I know they will share on this blog, but for now here are a few shots of previous teams near the peak so you can see what it's like up in the ozone layer near the South Pole.

A team Approaching the Summit
The Narrow, Steep Ridge at the Summit of Vinson

The Summit Ridge
And here's an aerial view of Vinson; you can imagine the views they had from the peak!

This morning the team loaded up all the gear from Camp Two then faced the challenging and somewhat intimidating job of descending the fixed ropes with 50+ pound packs.  I'm sure it was a relief to be heading downhill, but descending a very steep headwall clipped onto fixed ropes is not easy with such cumbersome loads.  Then they had to stop at Camp One, pack up everything there onto the sleds, and hike down to base camp with their backpacks and full sleds.  I haven't heard all of the details, but they did call from Vinson Base Camp saying they made it safely in six hours.  They were very happily sitting in the snow, eating Pringles, and drinking beer.  I am positive that those beers tasted great!!
At that point, they were waiting for the Twin Otter to fly them to Union Glacier Camp, where they would once again set up camp and spend the night.  At Union, they may have to wait a few days for the Russian Cargo plane to transport them back to Chile, based on weather and availability.  They were actually ahead of their planned schedule so they may have to wait till Friday.  But the good news is this Union Glacier camp is the one with heated Quonset huts for meals and team meetings, and even toilets and a shower!  I am pretty sure the team will have a celebratory dinner in one of those warm huts tonight and bask in the well-earned satisfaction of their pretty spectacular individual and team triumph!

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