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Tents at Mount Vinson "Low Camp" crushed by the Antarctic Blizzard


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Punta Arenas Chile


Iside the Ilyushin cargo plane

Landed at Patriot Hills, Antarctica

Loading Twin Otter Skiplane

Patriot Hills from the Air

Landed at Vinson Base Camp

Mount Vinson from Vinson Base

Low Camp

At Mount Knutzen Summit

Chris, my guide

Knutzen from the Fixed Ropes

Chris on the Fixed Ropes

Five days stuck in the tent looking at this guy

The Loo with a View




Antarctic Dispatches  
in chronological order

Arrived in Punta Arenas Chile

December 1, 2007 2:39 PM

 Hello - I have arrived in Punta Arenas. My equipment has been checked and
approved. I looked up my North Pole guide Eric Philips. He is going to
Antarctica on the same plane as me and will guide a group to the South Pole.

It seems strange to be walking the streets of this city without John and
Norbert, we had a great time last year. It reminds me that what makes these
trips special is the people I meet.

You can find more information at or email me at please send in “plain text” if possible without



In Antarctica

December 4th, 2007

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December 4, 2007 11:13 PM

We arrived at Patriot Hills in Antarctica at 11PM Tuesday after a five
and a half hour flight.

I hope to fly to Vinson Basecamp Wednesday morning.



Vinson Base Camp

December 5th, 2007

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December 5, 2007 6:37 PM

Today we flew by Twin Otter ski plane to Vinson Base Camp. The most
beautiful place I have ever seen! Imagine how it must look up higher.

Today we made plans, selected equipment and food and loaded our packs.
In the morning we will start late to allow the sun to come out from
behind the mountain. We will climb to low camp and spend at least one
night there.

The weather is good now but not expected to last.




Low Camp



December 7, 2007 12:34 PM

We arrived at low camp today in just over four hours travel. I have my own guide, Chris Simmons. We crossed several crevasses. We walk 35 feet apart roped together wearing crampons.
The weather was good, we hope it holds. Tomorrow we will climb one of the nearby mountains to acclimatize.
The picture shows a tent at low camp and a couple of the smaller peaks. The day after tomorrow we go up the snow slop to the right.
It is minus 22 in our tent now because the sun is behind the mountain this time of day.



Summit of Mount Knutzen


December 8, 2007 2:25 AM

Tomorrow we move to high camp. Chris says it will be a hard days climb,

We climbed Mount Knutzen today in 7.5 hours.

Picture shows difficult ridge we crossed to obtain summit.



At New High Camp


December 9, 2007 5:12 PM

Yesterday we traveled from low camp to new high camp in 11 tough hours. We used a new route clipped to fixed ropes to limit a fall. The rope is 3/4 of a mile long.

I will send a picture showing Chris at the fixed rope, you can see how steep the climb is. At the top of the rope it is uphill another hour to the new high camp. We are the first to use this location so there was nothing here. I took up a full pack with my sleeping stuff strapped on the sides. Chris had a full pack plus a sled, tent, food and shovel on his back, incredible!

Made camp last night and were to tired to eat. This morning we had a three hour trek to the old high camp and back to get a stove, fuel and more food Chris did all the hard parts because it is my rest day to acclimatize for a summit attempt tomorrow. I went along as safety man for Chris because this is a new route through crevasse country. We traveled roped together and crossed several crevasses. It was great.

The weather is not very good, lots of wind. I hope tomorrow is better so we can travel easier and get great pictures.



Weather Day

December 10, 2007 4:12 PM

The winds are twenty knots and no visibility. We are literally in the clouds So no summit attempt today.

The outside temperature is up to minus 27 making the inside of the tent a little more comfortable.

If you want to experience this fun get a large chest freezer and live in it for a few days eating freeze dried foods. You also need constant bright light and wind sounds.

This is fun, but if we stay another day Chris and I will run out of stories to tell each other.

We have at least couple more days food so we will wait for a break in the weather.

If one of these messages come through all uppercase and a strange title starting ‘SMS from…’ it is me sending direct from the satellite phone.



Another Weather Day?

December 11, 2007 12:55 PM

The winds this morning were to high for a summit attempt so we are holding. However Chris thinks we should be ready to go on the next weather improvement even if it does not fit our daily schedule. So we may leave on short notice.

To the summit and back should be 12 to 16 hours.

We are in good spirits but this windblown tent on the top of a mountain thing is getting old. 



Day Four at High Camp

Mount Knutzen from the Fixed Ropes

December 12, 2007    4:30 PM 

Day four stuck in our tent at New High Camp. The weather has changed, it’s worse. Temps down to minus 30 and 40 knot winds.

Some of the other expeditions around are running out of food and fuel. This is discussed at set times over the radio.

Dave Hahn, a legendary Vinson guide is bringing emergency supplies up the fixed rope from Low camp. When asked if I needed anything I asked if he could stop at Starbucks and get me a Latte Grande with extra foam. Dave said he would bring it but I have my doubts.

Chris and I are almost out of supplies but we have a buried cache at old High Camp that we can access. We may rope up and walk there tomorrow.

Turns out Chris and I are both Patrick O’Brian fans and love Battlestar Galactica so we have new things to talk about.

We still think we can wait this out and summit. Chris bets we summit Friday



No Summit

December 13, 2007    2:08 PM 

Last nights weather report said conditions will get worse until at least Monday. There will be no summit attempt.

Chris and I will descend to low camp as soon as conditions allow However we have been in 50 knot winds for the last 12 hours and can’t move.

We can’t light the stove in this wind but have water and trail snacks in our sleeping bags.
I am writing and sending this message from inside my sleeping bag, an interesting process.

Not getting the summit is disappointing, but frankly, and to keep things in perspective, I will be more disappointed if the Pats don’t go 19 and 0.



Down to Vinson Base

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December 14, 2007    6:05 PM

Yesterday the winds were so strong that tents were shredding on the mountain. Chris and I packed up and started walking for the fixed ropes.

Foolishly I had neglected to eat all day. It was to windy to light the stove. Plus we were listening to reports and other expeditions, making decisions and packing up to go quickly because the winds were due to increase even more. I got light headed and for a few minutes we had quite a bit of drama. An Austrian guide named Walter stopped to help. He and Chris belayed me as I walked down the fixed rope.

Near the bottom of the fixed rope I fell in a crevasse (a small one) up to my hip with one leg. I yelled to Chris I was in a crevasse. He said “big deal, pull you leg out and keep walking”. So much for my only crevasse fall.

At the base of the fixed rope they measured the winds at 75 knots while we were descending. Several times I was blown of my feet. Without a belay to the fixed rope it would have been impossible.

We were going to stay at Low Camp but found it destroyed. The high winds had crushed or shredded all but two small tents, now more than full with people. We received a report that three Swiss Climbers were injured on the fixed ropes and not moving (meaning not climbing or descending). We later found out they were OK except for an injured knee and frostbitten fingers.

We continued on to Vinson Base Camp where they had hot food and coffee waiting. The decent took about 13 hours.

The picture is Chris with a “get that camera out of my face” look and me with a “glad to be alive” smile.



Leaving Vinson Base?

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December 16, 2007    11:35 PM 

Things are getting back to normal here at Vinson Base Camp. Yesterday a group of staff guides went up to rebuild Low Camp. Some people have gone back up for another summit attempt. But that makes getting home for Christmas doubtful for them.

I am due to fly Monday to Patriot Hills by Twin Otter skiplane. There are hopes on getting the Ilyushin, originally scheduled for December 10, into Patriot Hills on Tuesday. So with luck I will be in Punta Arenas late Tuesday and home Friday.

The picture is Vinson Base Camp with Vinson Massif in the background. My tent is the one on the far right.



Good News, Bad News

December 17, 2007    4:50 PM

We have arrived in Patriot Hills to find they have had an unprecedented snow storm while we were in the wind. This part of the Antarctic only gets a couple of inches of snow each year. We now have a decades worth.

The weather is perfect now for a flight to come in, but this will only last another 24 hours or so. Then the weather is expected to go bad for about a week.

The bad news is the runway is covered with snow. They are working hard to get it cleared but think it will take another 24 hours. So we are in a race to see if they can clear the runway before the weather window closes.

Tomorrow we will either fly to Punta Arenas or start constructing a Christmas tree.



I’ll Be Home For Christmas

December 20th, 2007


In Punta Arenas Chile. Home Friday.