Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ready to Fly to Ice

This may be the last update we send until returning, as we are preparing to depart for Antarctica this afternoon. The last day and a half in Punta Arenas, Chile, has been a great chance to do a final sort of gear, get some sleep, and mentally prepare for the trip ahead. Yesterday the IL-76 made a cargo run to the Union Glacier ice strip and safely returned. The weather today is forecasted to be acceptable for another flight, however the winds are currently too strong on the glacier. In an hour we will receive another update from the logistics company as to whether or not we launch, but chances are likely we do. It is a four hour flight in the Russian cargo aircraft to the 'blue ice' runway. If we do make it this afternoon, we plan on making camp at Union Glacier, then flying via Twin Otter tomorrow morning to the base of Mt. Vinson. Since we like to think positively, if that goes well, we even plan to make our first gear carry up to Camp 1 and then return to sleep at the Vinson base camp the same day (tomorrow, 28 Nov). I'm (Rob) fighting a bit of a cold I picked up from the many nights of little sleep brought on by the last week of prep, long days at work, and travel down here, but it should be kicked soon. Either way, it won't slow me down. Graydon is feeling great now that he had a few nights of sleep. Our gear is already strapped down on the IL-76 Ilysuhin and we're simply on 'alert', awaiting the phone call to head to the airport.

The mountain will be pretty much empty, as no other mountaineering teams have been flown out yet. Other than our group of climbers lead by the famous Phil Ershler, there is a small brother and sister group who has two guides with them (including well known guide Wally Berg). That appears to be the extent of climbers heading to Antarctica at this time. I look forward to the relative solitude of such a small number of people in the area.

Attached are some photos from the slideshow we received yesterday from Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions. The presentation covered a lot of Antarctic programs- as there is a small number of people flying onto the continent to do research, cross country ski the last 50km to the South Pole, or just spend a few days watching and photographing Emperor Penguins.

If we do leave for the ice today, we'll check in with Capt. Mark Uberuaga via satellite phone once there. He'll then take over updates and occasionally keep you informed as we're able to feed him details. If you have any questions, Mark should be able to answer them or find someone who can, as he's not only a sharp guy, but also spent several years as a professional mountain guide!

Best wishes to everyone on your Thanksgiving weekend. (Sorry to hear Boise State choked and lost!)


Rob Marshall and Graydon Muller
USAF 7 Summits Challenge: ANTARCTICA

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