2001 Mount Vinson & South Pole Cybercast

Dispatch #1:  12/29/00 11:23am, Punta Arenas, Chile

Hello, Vern Tejas of Alpine Ascents here with the first Mt. Vinson climb of the new Millennium...or was that last year. Regardless, our small yet experienced team is poised on the tip of South America ready to fly across the Straits of Magellan to the last continent. Our food is organized, our bags are packed and all has been weighed to the ounce. Soon all will be loaded onboard a magnificent C-130 Hercules for the 6 1/2 hour flight to the "Ice". The weather however, needs to improve at our temporary destination Union Glacier (Latitude 80 South & Longitude 80West). With only 500 foot visibility, I for one can afford to wait. And seeing as how that is also how our extremely qualified flying team feels as well, we can catch up on our jetlag. And of course we have all of Punta Arenas to explore. So we are off to see what this historical southern outpost has to offer.
"To The Summit"

Dispatch #2:  12/30/00 8:17am, Punta Arenas, Chile

What a fabulous day for flying a kite...So that's what we did. It was the maiden voyage for my wonderful Christmas present, a three square meter red TRACTION KITE. You know, the kind that are all the rage with the new sport "Kite Boarding". I believe that it could have a lot of crossover potential for snow travel. So Bob and Gary accompany me to the nearby beach to get a handle on it, so to speak. And we get a little lesson in respect for the wind. We realized right away after measuring the wind at 26 mph., that we were pushing the envelope. The kite soared beautifully into the sky taking me along with it. Fortunately, Bob was carrying his mandatory 40 feet of perlon and was able to snub me off to a sand filled tire. Gary instinctively jumped on for added ballast. And that little kite proceeded to drag the two of us, tire, sand and all down the beach. Many times it would lift our feet right off the ground so instead of flying the kite, it was flying us. This is where the rope came in handy, as it kept us close to the earth. Twenty minutes of that and none of us were interested in going to the gym, for we already had our work out.

Eagerly awaited weather reports come in four times daily from Union Glacier. It appears to be gradually improving there, so spirits are high. Wish us some good weather. Vern Tejas signing off from Punta Arenas, Chile.

Dispatch #3:  12/31/00 2:57pm, Punta Arenas, Chile

No sane person would fly a kite on a day this windy. So we head over to the park to catch the military parade...But that's a whole other story. Bob suggests we check out the cemetery that he's heard folks are dying to get in. Seriously though, it turns out to be a great idea because the cemetery of Punta Arenas is world class. Being dead in Chile is special. And Sunday is the day when folks express their love for dear ones who've passed on. This is the most beautiful place in town. Many add to the vibrant bouquets adorning the neat rows of tombs and graves. Truly monumental mausoleums are interspersed throughout fantastically trimmed hedge trees. People are walking slowly, some smiling, some in tears. They come to tend the living flower gardens on their family plot. One side of the cemetery is reserved for multi storied burial structures which provide a highrise of sorts for the deceased. We find it all to be fascinating and leave with a deep feeling of awe and reverence.

The balance of the day we work out, nap and generally prepare for the evenings headlong rush into the next thousand years. We think of our loved ones. And we wish to all that health and happiness walks with you into the new millennium.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Bob, Gary and Vern

Dispatch #4:  01/01/01 2:57pm, Punta Arenas, Chile

The weather in Union Glacier is clearing, though the winds are strong. Speaking of clearing, that's what the runway crew is doing as we speak. The last storm left a bit too much snow on the ice to safely land our C-130. And speaking of the runway, it's a unique glacial occurrence. Catabatic winds sweeping down off the polar plateau for centuries have blown away snow accumulations on the leeside of the Union Glacier. This has created a long blue ice strip on the glacier's surface that can be used to land a wheeled aircraft. However, after a snow storm the runway is camouflaged white and is rather treacherous to land a plane on. The wind, in time, will naturally clean the snow away. But time is of the essence, so that is why the snow blower was invented.

Today Gary got his Skypilot's license for his deft handling of the BIG RED KITE. Thanks Santa. Wind was a steady 12 kph. and blowing onshore so we weren't so concerned about drowning. Afterwards, a bit of jogging on the beach and a nice staircase helped to defog our party heads. The silver lining to our forced standby is it allows us plenty of time to workout, so we will be totally peaked when we get to Base Camp. Ciao! for now, Vern Tejas.

Dispatch #5:  01/02/01 4:20pm, Punta Arenas, Chile

YIPEE! It is finally flyable and more importantly landable at Union Glacier. Our intrepid crew are now returning from a successful fuel flight to the Ice. And the crowd goes wild. Our spirits have been lifted by the prospect of soon being on our way.

If only it holds for a day while our flight team gets some rest. The challenges of trying to accomplish even what would be considered routine in the civilized world, can be overwhelming when one is this remote. But with the fuel in place and a well-rested crew the stage is set for the last leg of our journey to Mt. Vinson. Cioa! from Vern Tejas in Punta Arenas on what is hopefully our last night here.... at least for awhile.

Dispatch #6:  01/04/01 9:10am, Punta Arenas, Chile

Hi this is Liz from Adventure Network, just to let you know that Vernon, Gary, Bob, Paul Gauthier and Michail Pankin, left last night from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier at about nine o'clock local time and arrived 6 hours later.  They then, today, 4th of January, set off from Union Glacier to Vinson Base Camp, so we are now awaiting further information on their progress at Vinson, thanks you, bye, bye.

Dispatch #7:  01/05/01 8:39am, Camp I, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica

Cybercast hello, Vernon Tejas. Finally we made it out of Punta Arenas. The weather is co-operating. We've been having good weather for 2 days. Made it to Camp One. Everyone is elated and exhausted. We flew all night and climbed all day. We're at 8,800 feet on the flank of Mount Vinson. Friends and family to pray for us. Elated and ready to summit!

Vernon from Alpine Ascents off and clear.

Neil McCarthy is currently in Punta Arenas with Team II.  All are well and awaiting departure to the ice.

Dispatch #8:  01/06/01 7:31am, Punta Arenas, Chile (Team II)

Hello everyone from Punta Arenas Chile. It is a beautiful day here and our team is sorting through equipment to have it weighed for the flight to Union Glacier, Antarctica. We just came from a meeting and they hope to fly us out tonight!!! They have said the weather looks good now and they have put us on standby for a 7pm departure. Spirits are very high because originally they told us that Sunday would be our earliest opportunity to go. 

There are quite a few factors involved with being able to fly to Antarctica. The main weather factor is what is happening on the ground at Union Glacier. This flight is possible because there is a blue ice runway at the base of Union Glacier that allows a wheeled C-130 Hercules to land. This runway exists because of cross winds (Katabatic) that sweep down off Union Glacier and clear the snow from the ice. But it can also blow new snow onto the runway or the cross winds can be too strong for the plane to land. 

Another weather factor that contributes to a safe landing is perfect line of sight. The pilots need to be able to see the horizon and have visual contact with folks on the ground in order to line up properly. They told us there are a few folks on the ground with sighting mirrors reflecting the sun to help the pilots line up with the runway. Yes it is 2001, and technology is amazing but after all, we are about to fly to one of the most remote places on earth. The captain of the plane told us the landing would be a bit bumpy, he described it as similar to a car going over a cobblestone road, but he assured us it is very safe and well within the design limitations of the plane. Well, that is all for now. Joe, Tom, Paul T, Michael and myself are eager to be on our way and have some packing to do. I hope the next time I talk to you it will be from Union Glacier or Vinson Base Camp. Neil McCarthy

Dispatch #9:  01/07/01 9:25am, Camp III, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica (Team I)

Vernon Tejas: Wow, what an afternoon! Thanks for all your wishes. It seems to be working for us.  We have been joined by two other members. Now the team is five. They were able to fly with us to Antarctica.  Their names are Michail Pankin, Paul Gauthier.  We are happy to be at camp 3, 12,100 feet. If weather is good we will try for the summit tomorrow. Tired, but dare not let the chance slip by. Hi mom.

Dispatch #10:  01/07/01 12:26pm, Punta Arenas, Chile (Team II)

Hello everyone. This is Neil McCarthy in Punta Arenas. Unfortunately we were unable to fly last night or this morning. As it turns out it had absolutely nothing to do with the weather. We were informed that there are some internal problems taking place in Air Traffic Control here in Punta Arenas and they have restricted flights in and out of the airport. We have been assured that everything is being done to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. I have also just been given a report that the weather has begun to deteriorate at Union Glacier, so a flight tomorrow does not appear likely. We are disappointed but we are remaining positive that we will be on our way as soon as possible. I am sure there are some folks down in Antarctica hoping we get to fly in soon as well, because our flight in is their flight out. We will certainly remember that when we sit down for dinner tonight in a wonderful restaurant. Best Wishes to everyone.

Dispatch #11:  01/08/01 7:26am, Punta Arenas, Chile (Team I)

Vern's first group consisting of Michail Pankin, Paul Gauthier, Bob Hempstead and of course Vern, summited on 07 Jan 2001.  Gary Weaver did not make it to the summit of the mountain.  All are back at Base Camp today.  2nd group consisting of Michael Davis, Paul Theofanous, Tom Johnson, Joe Leroy, with Neil McCarthy arrived at Union Glacier today at 15:42 local Punta Arenas time. The group hardly had time to settle in and off they went on the Twin Otter to Vinson Base Camp, arriving at 18:54 local. Teams are doing great.

Dispatch #12:  01/08/01 9:25am, Base Camp, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica (Team I)

Yow Sir ! Yesterday we sumitted ! Hat's off to the team. Less than 4 days after leaving South America and we're on top of Antarctica.

An amazing effort by Michail Pankin, Paul Gauthier and Cowboy Bob Hempstead. The weather co-operated and served up a crystalline day. Thanks for the prayers.

We just made to Base Camp when the plane arrived with Neil and the second team. Timing is everything. Ciao - for now.

Vern Tejas.

Dispatch #13:  01/09/01 8:45am, Camp III, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica (Team II)

From: Vernon and Neil, Mike D, Paul T, Joe L, Tom J. It's a beautiful day. We are at Camp 3 and will climb to the summit tomorrow. Weather is supposed to be good. We are going to enjoy a hot drink and watch the sun move across the sky. Wish you all were here and everyone is doing great.

Dispatch #14:  01/12/01 9:44am, Camp III, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica (Team II)

(relayed through various channels) The team, as of last night, 11 Jan, were at camp three. They are up there with another team of 5 at the moment. The day before (10 Jan) they had been at camp three, but had to return to camp 2 due to very high winds. Not been able to attempt the summit yet due to adverse weather conditions, so are still waiting at camp 3 for the winds to die down. Lying low in tents at the moment.

Dispatch #15:  01/13/01 8:15am, Camp III, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica (Team II)

Well the dawn was clear and beautiful but the wind was high. So we woke up early and we gave it a college try.  The wind and cold cut us like a knife.  So we returned to Camp 3 to enjoy the better life.  We will try again come the morn.  Wish for us don't be set by storm.  Pray for us we have no storm. We are all well and thinking of you.  Vern Tejas 

Dispatch #16:  01/14/01 8:15am, Camp III, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica (Team II)

Good news - all groups have summitted Vinson, and were making their way back to camp 3, and hopefully by early today will be at Base Camp. Then ANI will start to ferry the groups back to Union Glacier. There they will wait for the Hercules to come in and bring them back to Punta Arenas.

Dispatch #17:  01/16/01 8:27am, Union Glacier, Antarctica (Team II)

Hey! We are now one step closer to our return to civilization. The Twin Otter aircraft flew us to Union Glacier. This is the main connection HUB for adventurers in Antarctica. We are on weather standby for the Hercules C-130 which will take us back to Chile. We visited the now famous DC-6 crash site as a diversion. Being here on hold is a lot more enjoyable now that we have accomplished what we came to do. We all are looking forward to our reunion with our loved ones. But for now patience is a virtue. Ciao! for now - Vern Tejas.

Dispatch #18:  01/17/01 9:00am,  Punta Arenas, Chile (Team II)

Hey gang, We made the great leap across the Drake Passage last night, arriving in Punta Arenas around midnight. We are all busy with flight arrangements and packing. Yet we still find time for goodbyes and reflection. What a fantastic place Antarctica is, with it's starkly beautiful mountains and unforgiving weather. We were truly lucky to be able to visit this vast wilderness and climb it's proudest peak. One returns with awe and respect for one of the few untouched regions of our world.

Thank you for coming along for the climb. We really appreciated your prayers and best wishes as they are certainly what helped to get us through. We all are happily looking forward seeing our loved ones very very soon.

Ciao! for now Vern Tejas

 

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