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Dr. Darren J. McAulay

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Antarctica - 2009/10 (part 1 of 2)

15/02/2010 16:12

 Antarctica - 2009/10 season      (Part 1 of 2)

Second Season Guiding for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions/Adventure Network International (ALE/ANI).

I departed Le Chazelet heading for Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile on November 5, 2009. Then on November 12, after lots of preparation and packing, we all got in to the giant Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft and set off to the Ice. Following an extremely smooth landing on the blue ice runway (thanks to the work of the advance team) we all began the Patriot Hills camp set up - first up was our personal tents and cook tent. One day of wild winds did not deter the camp building and after a week, with Patriot Hills up and running, the Vinson guide team took the ski plane (Twin Otter) the 220km to the Branscomb glacier on Mt. Vinson (our home for the season).

Windy day at Patriot Hills, Antarctica.

 Vinson Base Camp.


This season saw a small, but International, set up team (Chris (USA), Pachi (Chile), Namgya (Nepal) and myself) on the mountain. However, we soon built up the Vinson base camp including communications (HF and VHF radio systems), solar power, waste containers, tents and stores. We then skied up the mountain to prepare Low Camp, the fixed ropes and High Camp before the clients arrived.

 Wall building at Low Camp, Mt. Vinson.



Namgya snowmelting for tea!


For the first two client programs I was Vinson Base Camp manager. Amongst the numerous tasks this involved keeping a track of all expeditions and teams on the mountain. I was extremely fortunate to get to fly over to the far side of the Vinson Massif with an Austrian team who were to attempt Mt. Tyree (2nd highest in Antarctica). Russell (the Twin Otter pilot) landed us safely on the Patton glacier where we all enthused at the view in this rarely visited part of the Ellsworth mountain range. Not only was Mt. Tyree impressive but the whole Patton glacier was surrounded by stunning peaks including Mts. Gardner, Shear, Morris and Evans peak. Wow!

 Vinson Massif from the south.

  Mt. Shear and Mt. Morrison, Ellsworth Mountains.


Having helped the Tyree climbing group unpack their gear we then flew back all the way to Patriot Hills to pick up more Vinson climbers. Although it was now 11pm the sun was shining and the light extremely clear so the trip through the Ellsworth mountains was superb. Later in December I was going to be leading a ski trip from Mt. Vinson back to Patriot Hills (see Ellsworth mountains ski traverse coming soon) so this flight provided me the opportunity to view (from above) the route. Through relatively unexplored terrain the proposed ski route would be descending the 80km long Nimitz glacier, crossing the even larger Minnesota glacier and then on through the Heritage Mountains range to reach Hercules Inlet (the edge of the Antarctic Continent - would be the coastline if the ice melted!) and back to Patriot Hills camp. Over 250km of skiing!! 


 Patton Glacier of Mt. Tyree flowing northwards.

  The Twin Otter below Mt. Tyree.


Back at Vinson base the new teams were all getting ready to ascend the mountain...... This season all ALE/ANI clients again reached the summit successfully and safely.....more to come.....