Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Solid Ground

Our summit day could have not been better. No wind and clear sky and although the temperature was minus 25 C, the sun made it feel much warmer.
More people die going down than up so we were very careful on our descent to High Camp. We arrived 10 1/2 hrs from leaving that morning. We were extremely tired and our feet quite sore with blisters.
The next morning we had to face going down the headwall with full packs and that was one of the more dangerous days. There was more gear to be picked up at Low Camp and loaded onto sleds that we pulled down to Vinson Base Camp.
After 3 flights from Base Camp and about 6,000 kms later we have arrived at Santiago,Chile where all 5 of the family members are now together to rest for a few days before heading back to Canada. It is strange to see colours other than the white expanse of snow and ice and the dark colour of the mtns in Antarctica. It is also stranger to see darkness again having had 24 hrs of bright daylight for the last few weeks...
We are looking forward to seeing friends and family on our return.

Monday, December 27, 2010

They made it

I am thrilled, overjoyed and relieved that they made the summit. I wish them a safe trip back to Chile and look forward to hearing all the stories when the family meets in Santiago. Great team work.

Monday, December 27, 2010 - Mission Accomplished!

(12:36 EST via satellite phone from Dan)

About a week ago we left Low Camp at 9,000 ft and went up the very steep headwall as well as the rest of the mountain to High Camp at 13,000 ft. We encountered very high winds on the way, blizzard conditions, and spent two nights up there with the winds blowing at 40-60 km per hour. It was -14 degrees Celcius inside the tent in the morning. We got a radio report that conditions were going to get worse and that the wind was going to double and we made the tough decision about going back down to Low Camp where there was less wind – which we did.

We spent three days at Low Camp and got continuous reports of the very high winds at High Camp so we did make the right decision. The tent that we had left at High Camp and that we had used was covered in snow and was demolished.

After the third day, which was Christmas Day, two important things happened. One was not so good and that is that the winds came down to Low Camp and we were faced with winds in the range of 60-70 and 80 km per hour in gusts. Anyone that didn’t have a tent that was secured with snow block walls, they were busy making those block walls.

The other thing that happened, we did get a report that our weather window was improving and that we were expecting some good weather and so on December 26 we headed up to High Camp. We had some beautiful weather. It was supposed to take 6 to 8 hours but we were ready and it took us 4 hours and 20 minutes.

The next morning, December 27, we headed up for our summit bid. At 2:20 pm December 27 we made it to the top of Mount Vinson, the highest point in Antarctica, and for me the seventh summit. The view is absolutely spectacular here and we are looking at a breathtaking...

(Note from Susanne: The last paragraph was dictated by Dan with much emotion in his voice, and unfortunately his transmission was cut off before he could finish, due to the limitations of voice mail.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

South Pole

The information about the south pole is very interesting. There are 5 south poles.
  1. The Ceremonial south pole is an area near the geographic south pole where the flags of the 12 original Antarctic Treaty Nations surround a metallic sphere on a small barber's pole.
  2. The Geographic south pole is a marker. Since the South Pole sits on a sheet of ice that moves between 10 and 30 meters a year a new marker is put into the ice each year at 90 degrees south.
  3. The Magnetic south pole is a wandering point where the magnetic field lines meet.
  4. The Geomagnetic south pole is similar to the magnetic south pole but I really do not understand the difference.
  5. The Southern pole of inaccessibility is a remote location in Antarctica that is the most challenging to reach. It is a point most distant from the Southern Ocean.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

(10:00 pm via satellite phone)

Merry Christmas to all!

What mountain climbers need mostly is patience. It was a very good move on our part to move down from High Camp to Low Camp as High Camp has been continuously pounded by high winds over the last few days. It has been quite nice at Low Camp and we built a Christmas tree yesterday out of cylindrical sections of snow, put a Santa hat on top, and sang Christmas carols with some Chinese climbers.

The good news is that we do have a weather window starting tomorrow (Boxing Day) and we plan on moving up at that time, so hopefully we can reach the summit before more bad weather comes in.

We’re hoping for the best.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feliz Navidad

I am spending Christmas with my son Alan and his wife Natalie in Chile. The weather in Santiago is hot about 30 degrees Celcius a lot different temperature that what the rest of the family is experiencing in Antarctica where the temperature at the south pole is minus 25 degrees Celcius. Who knows what the temperature on the mountain is. It looks as if the next few days will be sunny so it should be good climbing weather.
Feliz Navidad!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

(10:10 pm via satellite phone from Mount Vinson)

On the evening of December 20th, 2010, we arrived at High Camp (elev. approx. 13,000 ft). The winds were blowing steady at about 30-35 mph, blowing snow and very cold. It continued all night shaking our two small tents even though they were partially protected by a wall of snow blocks. Our site is a small flattish area shrouded by steep snowy mountainsides with occasional rock ridges. Other peaks tower over us.

The conditions did not change all day Tuesday, December 21st. We were limited to our area of movement. Exposed skin will freeze after about 10 seconds in the wind which must create temperatures of about 40 below zero celcius or farenheit (the same). Going to the bathroom outside behind a small block wall is a real treat. Thank heavens for pee bottles, eye shades, and warm clothes.

On Wednesday, December 22nd we received a weather report that the winds would increase to 50-60 mph and temperatures would drop. Our tents could get blown away if it got much stronger and the conditions were expected to worsen for at least two more days. We elected to go down to Low Camp where conditions were safer where we now are. We just cut out some snow blocks and built a wall around us for wind protection. Hopefully in a few days we head back up. Pray for favourable weather.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Physiological altitude of Mt. Vinson

Due to the rotation of the earth the atmosphere bulges out at the equator and thins out at the poles. As a result, there is less oxygen available to the body at the poles and the body thinks and reacts as if the altitude is much higher than the same altitude at the equator. Vinson base camp is at an elevation of 2,150m (7,000 ft) but the body feels as if it is at an elevation of 3,000 m (10,000 ft).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

(via satellite phone)

We set off from Low Camp (elev. approx. 7, 000 ft) this afternoon at about 2:00 pm in a clear blue sky day. Because of the intense sun, we wore long sleeved synthetic shirts only for about 40 minutes, then a cold wind came up and we added layers.

We stopped to drink and eat a little at the bottom of the headwall. It is very steep and has one km of fixed ropes that we had to go up with our fully loaded packs. It is 11:25 pm now and I’m in our tent at High Camp completely and utterly exhausted. It’s about 13,000 ft. but it feels like 15,000-16,000 because of the low atmospheric pressure.

The last hour and a half of the climb was a steep snow-covered ice sheet so we were tied together in case someone slipped and we carried our ice axes in a position to do a quick self arrest if needed.

The last one and a half hours was also in a strong cold wind with some blowing snow. I had to stop regularly from lack of oxygen and to warm up my hands and check for frostbite. No part of our skin could be exposed to the wind or it would freeze.

Other than being exhausted, Adam, Laura and I, have no ill effects and feel pretty good. The steep climbing carrying loads is very, very hard on the achilles tendons so we will see how we are tomorrow.

Another well earned rest day tomorrow.


Call from Low Camp

I got a rushed call from Dan last night and a cheery hello from Laura. Everyone is well and excited about today's adventure to High Camp

The Route

Compared to Mt. Everest this climb is happening very quickly. The family flew from Union Glacier by small propeller plane to Mt. Vinson Base Camp at 2,150m (7,000 ft) on the Branscomb Glacier where you get a great view of the summit pyramid of Mt. Vinson and several surrounding peaks. There they did an acclimatization climb, practiced climbing as a team, and reviewed some technical climbing techniques. They followed the gradual slope of the Branscomb Glacier roped together due to crevasse hazards to Low Camp at 2,880 m (9,100 ft). At Low Camp they rested for a day. Today, they left for High Camp at 4,000 m (13,200 ft). To get there they have to traverse the spur at the northern end of the Branscomb Ridge. This involves ascending fixed ropes on some 45 degree slopes of snow, rock and blue ice. This will be a very strenuous and tiring climb. I assume they will rest a day or two at High camp before tackling the final ascent to the top - weather permitting. The route to the summit rises 900 m (3,000 ft) in a short distance. The final climb is on hard snow and ice slopes. I'm holding my breathe.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday December 19, 2010

(via satellite phone)

The inside tent temperature at 3:00 am was plus 10 degrees Celsius. At 7:00 am today it was -7 degrees Celsius. At 11:00 am today it was -12 degrees Celsius inside the tent. And at noon it was plus 7 degrees Celsius. And at 1:30 today it was 22 degrees Celsius inside the tent. The sun makes a tremendous difference.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

(via satellite phone)

Woke up to a bright clear day again. Temperature outside is generally about -15 degrees Celsius unless in the sun and then it feels much warmer. We prepared to organize to head up the mountain. We’re using sleds to put some of our gear on the sled and the balance we’ll be carrying on our backpacks and in this way we can do a single carry to the next camp. The trail up was fairly steep and mostly gradual it went along the edge of some ice falls and some seracs which are big ice walls that could fall down but there was no incident. After 4 ½ hours we arrived at Low Camp. We were all tied together for safety in case somebody fell into a crevasse because we’re climbing on a glacier that is full of crevasses. We had to put up our own tents which we did next to an ice wall to protect ourselves from the strong winds.

We’re planning for a rest day tomorrow.


Union Glacier Blue-ice Runway

In the past most flights into Antarctica landed at Patriot Hills. This November a new runway was opened on the Union Glacier 70 km. NW of Patriot Hills. It is a blue ice runway and you land flying into the wind. According to Adventure Network International, Union Glacier blue ice runway "will improve flight reliability and open new frontiers for exploration". The Union Glacier is an active glacier so there are several crevassed areas around the camp. Both safe and unsafe areas are marked. The scenery is spectacular with mountain peaks rising in all directions providing lots of opportunities for hiking, climbing and skiing. The family flew into Union Glacier camp.

Flight to Antarctica

One of the most dangerous parts of this adventure is flying into and out of Antarctica. Flight time is approx. 4.5 hours from Punta Arenas Chile. Do you remember your geography? The plane flies over:
Tierra Del Fuego, Drake Passage, Antarctic Convergence, Antarctic Circle, Bellingshausen Sea,
Antarctic Peninsula, Ellsworth Mountains, Union Glacier Blue-ice Runway. Tierra Del Fuego (Land of Fire) is separated from the mainland of Chile and Argentina by the Straits of Magellan. It is an archipelago consisting of several islands including Cape Horn. Drake Passage is open water and known for its violent storms. The Antarctic Convergence is an area where cold Antarctic waters meet warmer sub-antarctic waters producing an environment rich in the marine life that forms the base of the food chain for Antarctica's wildlife. The Antarctic Circle, is an imaginary line 66 degrees south. Bellingshausen Sea lies along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula between Alexander and Turston Island. The Antarctic Peninsula is the northern most part of the mainland of Antarctica and where most of the research stations are located. The Ellsworth Mountains are the highest range of mountains on Antarctica. Near the southern tip of the mountains lies Union Glacier Camp.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Cold Night of Bright Sunshine

Friday, December 17, 2010

A cold night sleeping on the Branscomb Glacier but woke up to bright sunshine. Getting 24 hours of daylight as the sun slowly revolves overhead around our camp. Hard to prepare to sleep in bright sunshine even at midnight.

Went on a short climb up our mountain route to acclimatize today and to get some exercise. Tomorrow we head for Low Camp. We are tied into a common rope in case one of us falls into a crevasse. Winds were light and in the sun the temperature was about zero. When the sun is hidden by clouds and the winds pick up, the temperature plummets. They expect the weather to deteriorate later on tomorrow. We are ready!


(Note from Susanne: You can follow the weather Team Mallory is currently experiencing in Antarctica at this link:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Antarctic facts

  • Antarctica is the world's fifth largest continent measuring 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles)
  • The ice sheet that covers almost all of Antarctica is the largest body of fresh water on earth containing approx. 91% of the world's ice and 70% of the world's fresh water
  • If the ice sheet were to melt it would raise the world's oceans approx. 70m (200 ft)
  • Antarctic is the driest continent on earth with an annual percipitation of less then 3 cm (1 inch) in the interior
  • Some scientists believe that no rain has fallen in Antarctica's dry valleys in Victoria land for 2 million years
  • The coldest recorded temperature was on July 21, 1983 at Volstok scientific station Antarctica -89.2 C (-128.6 F)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Greetings from Antarctica!

Greetings from Antarctica – a spectacular vast expanse of ice with rugged rock mountains.

We received a phone call at 10:00 am this morning that we had 45 minutes to get ready. We left Punta Arenas airport on the Russian Ilyshin aircraft, arriving 4 hours later at the Union Glacier camp. The weather was so good that about two hours later we left on a Twin Otter for our one and a quarter hour flight to Vinson Base Camp where we have our first look at the peak of Mount Vinson.

Tomorrow we start to acclimatize – maybe climb a small mountain.

Wow – what a view!


Preparing For The Flight to Antarctica

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yesterday we attended a pre-flight meeting organized by the outfitter Antarctic Logistics (ANI) in preparation for our expected flight later today. We are waiting for a phone call this morning to find out if the winds are low enough to fly.

Their previous camp on Antarctica was called Patriot Hills but possibly because a number of their tents were blown away they have moved the camp to Union Glacier where it is not expected to be as windy.

Our plane is a Russian made Ilyshin Il-76 aircraft that carries about 60 people. It lands on the cleared blue ice runway near the camp. On our flight will be Mount Vinson climbers but also a few that are planning to ski to the South Pole about 600 km from our camp.

Our flight will take about 4 hours to the camp then another hour and a quarter in a smaller ski plane to the base of Mount Vinson. From Punta Arenas, we will be travelling about 4,000 km into the interior of Antarctica, a continent twice the size of Australia.

We hope for good weather!

Dan Mallory

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Laura's Gear is Found!

Yesterday, early morning, Laura’s gear bag was delivered to our hotel which was a big relief. It was located and shipped in a later flight. We have done some hiking and generally resting. We had a final gear check today and prepare for the gear to be loaded to the plane tomorrow for the flight to Antarctica the following day. We had 60 to 70 km winds the last couple of days which is good preparation for what we expect for when we arrive in Antarctica.

Dan Mallory (via email to Susanne Hemet)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Who owns Antarctica?

Antarctica is defined as all the ice and land shelves south of 60 degrees S latitude. It is the only continent on earth with no native human population. No country owns Antarctica. Several nations have laid claim to parts of Antarctica as national territory but their claims have not been recognised by other nations. The Antarctic Treaty System or ATS came into force in 1961 and regulates international relations with respect to Antarctica. Twelve nations originally signed the treaty designating Antarctica as a scientific preserve with no military presence or activity other than for scientific research . To date, 47 nations have signed the treaty but only nations carrying out significant scientific research have voting rights. Canada signed the treaty in 1988 but has no decision making powers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Team Mallory Arrives in Punta Arenas, Chile

Wow! We left Toronto airport Saturday, December 11 and had a short stop over in New York city, and Santiago, Chile. We finally arrived at Punta Arenas, Chile, Sunday at about 2:30 pm. A long flight! Punta Arena is one of the most southerly cities in the world and the jumping off point for us to Antarctica in a few days. The weather is mostly clear but quite windy. Calling for 68 kph winds tomorrow.

Laura's bag with all her climbing gear did not arrive and we are hoping that it will be sent on the next flight from Santiago Chile.

We will spend the next few days repacking, reviewing for essential gear only, coordinating plans with our outfitter and waiting for our planned departure in a few days.

Dan Mallory

The End of the World

Punta Arenas is a port and the southern most continental city in the world. It is the access gate to the Southern Region also known as "the end of the world".
Dan and I sailed through the Straits of Magellan from Ushuaia Argentina to Punta Arenas many years ago. On the last night of the voyage the ship's doctor gave everyone seasick pills after dinner and when we returned to our cabin on the third deck above sea level we notice that everything was safely stowed away. We knew we were in for an exciting night and we were not disappointed. We were awakened in the night by waves crashing over the third deck and water pouring in under our door. All our belongings were sliding across the floor and our bed had become a roller coaster. The captain tried three times to navigate a turn into the Pacific Ocean before being successful and when we finally arrived in Punta Arenas a lot of the roof tops were missing from the storm.
On this trip if a good weather window opens the family is given an hours notice before being picked up for the airport for their flight to Patriot Hills in Antarctica. After our sailing adventure in the area I understand why that weather window can't be missed.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tomorrow is the big day

Tomorrow December 11, 2010 Dan, Adam and Laura will fly from Toronto to Punta Arenas in Chile. It is a 17 hour overnight flight with two stop overs - one in New York and one in Santiago Chile. The flight will be exhausting. They then have 4 days in Punta Arenas to recheck all their gear and check in with the outfitter. The outfitter has been very specific about what they have to bring on the climb. Luckily they had most of their gear already from the Everest climb. Every mountain has been a different challenge so we will have to see what challenge lies ahead for them on Mt Vinson. Thankfully everyone likes winter.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Laura's update

Hello, this is Laura.
I thought I would give an update on what I have been up to since the last climb.
Since Everest, I have had lots of things going on in my life, but mostly school.
This past spring, I graduated from the University of Western Ontario and now I am a Registered Nurse. I took a position in the "new grad initiative" that the government offers for new RN graduates at a hospital up north for six months. There I have had the opportunity to work with some great nurses and doctors and develop some new skills while working with other nurses. I was very lucky to be offered a full time position at this hospital starting in February. My plan to climb Mt. Vinson worked out perfectly since I just finished the "new grad" at the end of November and now have two months off to climb and do a bit of travelling. :)
So follow along with the Blog as we journey to another continent and reach for the stars.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's happening - Mt. Vinson December 2010

Welcome. The family has finally decided to finish the 7 summit quest. Dan, Adam and Laura are madly packing and preparing. Susanne our wonderful web designer and myself will be posting blogs to keep you informed of their progress as they ascend the mountain. This is not the most difficult mountain to climb but getting there has some real challenges and it is just as expensive if not more expensive than Mt. Everest. It does not have the same aura as Everest but its isolation and exteme temperatures make it very challenging. Keep tuned.