Mountain Climbing in Antarctica, Part 3

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December 30, Camp 3 to Base Camp
We wake up late, knowing how much we have to carry down the mountain, and dreading it. We descend slowly, admiring the spectacular views. Further down we see that a huge ice section had avalanched off the face yesterday and slid over our trail. The ice chunks are the size of cars.

The blue ice that we are walking on is said to be 13,000 feet deep. The true shade of this ice blue is beautiful. The weather changes incredibly fast in Antarctica, and suddenly the visibility is zero. Once in a while the fog lifts, huge icefalls and cracks are visible. It’s pretty intimidating, as soon as the fog rolls in, the crevasses seem to disappear… however you know they are there. It’s like a nightmare, not knowing if your next step will pretty much be your last. It seems like it’s taking forever to get to Base Camp but soon the little plane comes into view and we know we are “home”. The celebration dinner is great…chicken, steak, rice, corn and Vino Tinto to the max.

December 31, New Years Eve Base Camp to Patriot Hills
We wake up rested and ready to go. The plane shuttles everyone back to Patriot Hills. The day is beautiful and we take a scenic ride around the mountain that we stood on top of, just two days prior. Vinson Massif is peeking out of the uniquely blue ice. It’s truly is a fantastic sight. The pale blue ice surrounding the mountains looks like islands in the Pacific. There are hundreds of unclimbed mountains piercing the sky. Once in Patriot Hills, we get a true luxury… our first bath! A bath in Antarctica, like any mountain adventure consists of “wipies” and a thermo of hot water. It feels great to get “clean” again. Tonight is the big celebration/new year party. There is a ton of food, drinks and a cake in the shape of Mt. Vinson with all the camps marked. It’s great party, and a nice way to end a successful journey. We walk back to our tent just after midnight… of course the sun is shining brightly.

January 1-4, New Years Day Patriot Hills
Well it looks like we have to stay in Patriot Hills for a few more days. The wind is so gusty that the C-130 can’t land. There’s not much to do except, eat and play scrabble. The wind is so fierce, that we can’t even go outside. I’m talking 80 – 100 mph.

January 5, Patriot Hills, Punta Arenas, Chili
Yoo-hoo!!! The wind has died and the weather is great, besides I don’t think I could play another game of scrabble if I was paid to.

The C-130 arrives and everyone scrambles with excitement and loads the plane in record time. On board we have all the climbers we came with, which is always a good thing. The take-off is rough! The enormous plane bounces all over the ice, then finally lifts off of the glacier.

Antarctica is once again below us. The vastness and white solitude make up the entire continent. The flight to Punta Arenas will take nearly 6 hours. As we head north and the white glaciers turn into blue ocean, and we see our first sunset of the new year.

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