Antarctica 2012 Update: Vinson Climbs Begin


The 2012 Antarctic season continued over the weekend with South Pole skiers battling high winds on their long marches to the bottom of the world. But they are no longer alone in their struggles on the frozen continent, as a slew of teams have now launched their attempts to summit Mt. Vinson, the tallest peak on the continent.

Standing 4892 meters (16,050 ft) in height, Vinson doesn’t challenge climbers with altitude or difficult technical issues. As with all things in Antarctica, it is all about the weather. On Vinson that means high winds and extremely cold temperatures, which test the climbers resolve on an almost daily basis. That was certainly the case this weekend, when teams were working on getting settled into Base Camp while acclimatizing to the conditions. Amongst them were the Adventure Consultants, who are in low camp on the mountain waiting out a raging blizzard. They report that the forecast indicates high winds will keep anyone off the summit for the next few days, but that they could begin the summit pushes as early as this week. 
The Berg Adventures team reports that they were at High Camp (C1) over the weekend but elected to drop back down to BC to wait out the winds. Their forecasts indicate that those winds will last at the ver least through today, although a weather window could begin to open tomorrow. Conditions are not said to be much better at Low Camp, but at least the change in altitude will help with acclimatization and overall comfort. Not surprisingly, the IMG squad is reporting a similar story. They had been holed up in Camp 1 for the past few days as well, but have elected to descend and wait for better weather. Everyone on the team is reportedly feeling good and ready to go, they’re simply looking for a 48-hour window during which they can make a dash for the summit.
Elsewhere, Aaron Linsdau is continuing on his ski expedition to the South Pole. After spending 30 days out on the ice, he continues to struggle to make any kind of meaningful progress. The high winds that are affecting climber on Vinson also made it rough for Aaron too, and as a result he is physically draining himself just to eek out a few meager miles each day. Worse yet, he has a few nagging issues with gear and his health, which aren’t helping matters either. Listening to his audio dispatches you can hear the frustration in his voice and I believe he has come to the realization that he won’t be able to complete the 1400 mile (2253 km) round trip journey that he had originally planned, he just hasn’t publicly admitted it yet. The South Pole is still within reach, but at this point I’m just not sure how there is any way he’d be able to make a return trip to Hercules Inlet at his current rate of speed. 
Meanwhile, Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir is having an easier time of it and will soon pass Aaron on her solo ski to the South Pole despite being out on the ice for about half the time. She seems to have found her groove and is routinely knocking off 10+ miles (16+ km) per day. Reading her dispatches are a sharp contrast to Aaron’s as well, while he seems to be suffering, Vilborg mentions that she is having fun and taking all the steps necessary o reach her goal, despite battling the same high winds and very cold wind chills.
The In The Footsteps Of Legends team has now been plugging away for nearly a week and they seem to be hitting their stride as well. While their not covering big mileage on a daily basis, that really isn’t what they have to do to in order to be successful. The group is making a two-degree journey to the South Pole which is expected to end late next week, and they’ve undertaken this expedition to raise funds for the Walking with the Wounded and Alzheimer’s Research UK organizations. The team also happens to have several members who were active duty servicemen who  were injured in the line of duty, making this an even more personal journey for them.
Finally, Richard Parks is getting ready to depart for the Antarctic soon. The man who once climbed the Seven Summits and visited the North and South Pole in just seven months time, has some unfinished business at the bottom of the world. On his last expedition to 90ºS he was forced to make a last degree journey due to time constraints. He’s heading back now to make the full journey from Hercules Inlet and should be setting out for Punta Arenas soon. He reported over the weekend that he had packed and shipped all of his gear, so now its just a matter of following suit and heading to Chile to catch a flight to the start of his expedition. That should happen in the next week or two. 
More news to come soon. Lots of action in the Antarctic now and a few big expeditions yet to get underway. 
Kraig Becker