2002 Mount Vinson & South Pole Cybercast

#14 January 23, 2002.  Punta Arenas, Chile.
Hello Websters,

The clouds lifted, our spirits soared and the plane took off. And that was all that was needed to get us to the fair city of Punta Arenas, Chile. Even in our air weary state we were able to find an all night restaurant (Thanks Neil) where we gorged ourselves on the fine seafood this region is known for. With much vino and cervaza we toasted our success and good luck with the weather. It was noted that Shackleton spent a year and a half on the ice, so we indeed were blessed.

As the team's thoughts and energies turn homeward, we say our goodbyes and reflect on our shared experiences. Soon we all will be back to our regular lives but we will remember the cold stark beauty of the last continent and the warmth of camaraderie forged in a group effort to attain one of the truly remote places on earth. And we will smile.

Signing off for Team Patience and Persistence this is Vern Tejas thanking you for following our progress and sharing our adventure.

Live Adventurously, Vern Tejas

#13 January 22, 2002.  Union Glacier, Antarctica.
Hello this is Vern Tejas with Alpine Ascents' Mt. Vinson expedition and finally the fog has lifted and the sun came out and the plane came out as well.  It picked us up late, late last night and it flew us all the way to Union Glacier.  So we're now in Union Glacier, hoping for the arrival of the big Aleutian Jet, the Russian jetliner that will take us back to South America.  Everybody is excited to be heading home and back to their loved ones and ant the same tie we're a little bit sad to see all of our friends over the last several weeks going separate ways.  But the spirit of harmony and the team spirit just permeates the whole group.  We're very excited that we've finally got the ability to accomplish so much and are happy that it all turned out so well.  "Tracy, this weekend," From Chuck.  So there you have it kids, the next time we talk to you, it will probably be from the tip of South America, and just be aware that everybody is on their way home.  Ciao for now.

#12 January 20, 2002.  Vinson Base Camp, Antarctica.
Hello this is Vernon Tejas for Alpine Ascents.  To all you cybernauts out there, we are finished with our expedition, sort of.  It's not turning us away.  This continent can be quite brutal in it's grip.  We're at Base Camp still, we'll keep you posted.

#11 January 19, 2002.  Vinson Base Camp, Antarctica.
Hi this is Neil McCarthy calling from Vinson Base Camp.  We're sitting here on here on a beautiful Antarctic Day.  We spent the morning eating French Toast with Strawberry Syrup and told stories from our individual experiences on this climb and others around the world.  There are a couple of things that we would like to share from summit day that we were not able to get out earlier.  Alpine Ascents is participating in the United Nations Poetry from the Peaks to increase international awareness of mountain ecosystems.  On the climb we read a verse from William Blake's "Gnomic Verses", on the summit.  The verse goes:

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet, this is not done by jostling in the street"

On another note, Gary Weaver would like to send a special message to his friend Pam, who is fighting cancer.  He has dedicated this climb to her, said a prayer for her on the summit, and is bringing a rock back from the top for her.  Our thoughts are with Pam.  While waiting for a plane to pick us up and take us back to Union Glacier, we are enjoying the solitude and expanse of this amazing place.  It is truly indescribable in words.  We hope to start the journey home tomorrow and we look forward to sharing pictures and stories with our friends and family.  Thanks for checking in on us, hope everyone is well.

#10 January 17, 2002.  Summit, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica.
This is Vern Tejas with the Alpine Ascents Vinson summit team.  We're standing on the top of the bottom of the world!!  We have just made the summit of Mt. Vinson!  Our whole team is here, and everybody's doing well.  We're taking pictures and giving handshakes and hugs all the way around.  The Kazakhs are the first ones ever to make it from their country.  They're celebrating, what fun what joy!  Everybody's taking photographs, right now all of our eagle scouts are taking a photograph on the summit.  Literally we are having so much fun here we can hardly even tell you guys.  This is a riot of color, a riot of happiness.  All of our persistence paid off all of our patience finally came to bear.  So Team Patience and Persistence is now standing on the top and having a gay old time! Woo Hoo!  Thanks the powers that be.  It is dead calm up here, fingers are out of gloves, faces are totally exposed,  it must have been 60 degrees on the way up here, we can't believe it.   We have down clothing good to 50 below and yet most of us are just burying our faces in our hands in this wonderful beautiful weather.  

It's now about 7, 7:30 in the evening and it's a beautiful evening.  The mountains to the south, Shinn and Garndner and and Epperly are standing boldly above all of the clouds.  They flatten out and provide a nice beautiful plane of pure white out to the North and to the South of us, all the way around.  You can see the curvature of the Earth it is so fantastic!  Mountains everywhere, but you know what, because there are also all those clouds and we know we won't be flying anytime soon.  So Team Persistence and Patience will be standing by to fly back.  Anyway, celebrate with us, Whoo!  We have finally reached the top of the bottom of the world, ciao for now talk to you later.

#9 January 16, 2002.  Camp III, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica.
Hello this is Vernon Tejas with Alpine Ascents Vinson expedition, and we are now team persistence.  We're at high camp and the weather is blowing, we have a little bit of clouds, so we're waiting and getting a real good rest and acclimatizing for an ultimate summit push, hopefully tomorrow.  If everything cooperates, we'll be on our way quite early in the morning and hopefully summiting about dinnertime up on top.  It's about a 4,000 foot gain, so it's going to be a long day, with about two miles from our camp to the summit and then back again, so it's going to be a real good workout.  We're all looking forward to it, everybody's anxious, and we're wishing everybody back at home all the best and we're sending our love.  So this is all for now from 12,000 feet on Mt. Vinson, Camp III.

#8 January 13, 2002.  Camp II, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica.
Vern Tejas: Hello friends and family and loved ones, this is the Alpine Ascents Mt. Vinson group.  We're at 10,000 feet at Camp II.  It was a relatively easy day, without any major hills to undertake, so we progressed right along, got here early and set up a beautiful camp.  It's now very well built, we've got a double cook area and five tents all in a line. Underneath the beautiful Mt. Shinn, which is the third highest peak on the continent, and we can see the headwall that we have to go up tomorrow, it's very steep, and it looks like lots of things have tumbled down, but we shall press on undaunted, weather permitting, so keep your fingers crossed and pray for some clear skies, and away we'll go.  That's all for now, ciao.

#7 January 11, 2002.  Camp I, Mt. Vinson, Antarctica.
Hi everyone this is Neil McCarthy calling from Mt. Vinson, we have reached Camp I.  We had a beautiful day, lots of sun, very warm temperatures, we were struggling to keep enough sunscreen on  and keep hydrated, but we have a wonderful camp set up.  Everyone had a great meal and we're going to bed. It's about 11:00 pm and the sun is shining bright, hopefully everyone there is well, we'll check in as soon as more information comes available.

#6 January 9, 2002.  Union Glacier, Antarctica.
This is Neil McCarthy calling from Union Glacier.  It's a beautiful day here today, but conditions are still poor at Mt. Vinson.  So we're unable to fly to the mountain.  A few climbers form another group attempted to reach the mountain today in what is fondly called the "Polar Pumpkin", a bright orange single engine Cessna airplane that ahs been here for about twelve years.  It has to land short of the mountain but hopes to reach Base Camp tomorrow, at which point we will follow.  Until then we enjoy the hospitality of the staff at Union Glacier, three wonderfully prepared meals a day complete with wine and beer at dinner, and a dining tent warmed to about 70 degrees F, by the stoves and the radiation of the sun.  Great music and marvelous conversation, getting to know the folks on other adventures here in Antarctica.  Until tomorrow, thanks.

#5 January 8, 2002.  Union Glacier, Antarctica.
Hello this is Vern Tejas for Alpine Ascents, this is the Vinson trip reporting.  The hot sun  beat down on us as we walked from the airplane to Union Glacier in the middle of the night, apparently we slipped in between Antarctic storms.  As the wind rose last night in the wee hours of the morning, we were soon joined by snow and clouds, so we spent the morning cutting snow blocks and building walls, to protect our tents and bide our time and enjoy the hospitality of this unique camp away from camp, organizing and modifying our gear.  So keep your fingers crossed and hopefully soon we'll be at the Base Camp of Mt. Vinson.  Ciao for now, this is Vernon signing off.

#4 January 7, 2002.  Punta Arenas, Chile.
Hey Gang,

The weather has improved markedly in Antarctica and we are on hot standby. So hot, that we have just checked out of the Hotel. We will visit our favorite restaurant for what we hope will be the last time, at least for a few weeks. And then we will hopefully get the thumbs up in the form of a positive weather update. Upon which we will shoot out to our waiting Russian-made jet and get airborne before the weather gods change their mind.

It was a mad scramble to weigh all of our gear and load it onto the truck. All told we have 540kgs (1,200 lbs.) food and equipment. When I think that we will be climbing with all of that, it is a rather daunting prospect. Yet each day we will literally eat our way up the mountain, as we consume both food and fuel. Soon our loads will become more reasonable and our bodies harder allowing us to focus on the mountains that await us.

First though, we must fly 2380 km.(1,800 mi.) across the dangerous Drake Passage, some of the roughest water on earth, and vast expanses of ice and snow. We will land on one of the few blue ice runways on the continent. This natural occurring feature allows us to switch aircraft at Union Glacier(Lat.80degrees South). From there it's off to Vinson base camp in a much smaller Twin Otter aircraft, which is snow skis. Of course this whole scenario is possible only if the weather cooperates, so please keep your fingers crossed. And just maybe we're out of here today.

Totally Stoked Vern Tejas

#3 January 6, 2002.  Punta Arenas, Chile.
Holla amigos y familias. Many of the climbers have told friends and family that we would be flying to Antarctica in a C 130 Hercules aircraft.  This is the plane that has been used for years and that I flew on last year. It is 4 propeller aircraft that makes the flight to Antarctica in a little over 6 hours.  But  the organization that flies us to the ice has brought in a different plane this year.  When I landed in Punta Arenas I saw the aircraft sitting on the tarmac.  It is a monstrous plane from Russia called an Iliushin 76.  It has 4 jet engines, more wheels than I could count and an enormous payload capacity.  They tell us it can make the flight to Antarctica in 4 hours and can land in slightly stronger cross winds than the C 130 Hercules.  The reason this is interesting is because it is cross winds that create the blue ice runway.  Winds called Katabatic winds come down from a high plateau over the Union Glacier and scour the surface at the base creating a sheet of blue ice.  While it is not smooth like a skating rink it is just as slippery and shiny as if the Zamboni machine has just come out and polished it.  Because the pilots can't use the breaks when landing all the conditions have to be just about perfect so the plane can land on the runway and stay on the runway.  The cross winds affect our ability to fly to the ice because they must be able to approach the runway head on instead of approaching in what pilots have told me is called "crabbing" which basically means flying sideways on approach and then straightening out at the last second before touchdown.  This is very common on commercial flights landing on concrete runways, but this is anything but a common commercial flight.  You can imagine if the plane lands a little sideways and tries to stop it could start spinning like a top.  Something I am sure no one is interested in experiencing.  So we continue to wait for the right conditions before we can take off for Antarctica.  

Because of the delay Gary Weaver, Jean Michel Vallete and myself took the opportunity to do a little fly-fishing yesterday.  We hired a guide and headed to an amazing river just a few miles from the end of the road.  Our guide told us that just ahead was the terminus of the road to southern end of the Americas.  From there one would have to walk one or two days to reach the most southern tip of the continent. This area is so rich with the history of exploration. In addition to seeing quite a number of old and abandoned ships, we drove past the grave of the Captain of  The Beagle, Charles Darwin's ship during his exploration to the South America and the Galapagos. But back to fishing.  A beautiful sunny day, a peaceful river, lots of falcons, kingfishers, finches and an endless number of ocean birds flying overhead, no other people around.  A sportsman dream come true.  If only we caught something bigger than a french fry.  Jean Michel did catch one pretty good size trout and I am sure it will continue to get bigger in the future as he tells the story to his family and friends. 

Hope all are well.  Neil McCarthy

#2 January 5, 2002.  Punta Arenas, Chile.
Hello Friends,

Our morning run was just the ticket to build a great appetite. With that to motivate us, we ran the breakfast bar at our hotel out of food. And then it was off to view penguins in their natural habitat. The photogenic Magellanic penguins that dwell on the tip of South America are ground burrowers. So we were delighted to discover that they are not at all shy. Several modeled their striped tuxedos with pride while fluffy fledglings looked on. Quite a rewarding outing.

Part of the team decided to test the waters with rod and reel as we wait for an improvement in the weather. Happily there has been some improvement and our spirits are high. Our Kazakhstan (Russian) team members have challenged the rest of us to join them at 6:30am to train. Yarvand (Eric) is a highly regarded Soviet climbing coach so this should be very interesting.

Stay tuned, Vern Tejas

#1 January 3, 2002.  Punta Arenas, Chile.
Hello Cybernauts

This is Vern Tejas reporting for Alpine Ascents International for our Mt. Vinson climbing team. We are now fully assembled and ready to go. Currently we are in the Southern port city of Punta Arenas, Chile. This is the traditional "Jump off" city for explorers bound for Antarctica. So after a very thorough orientation from our flight service this morning, we strolled to the plaza to immerse ourselves more fully in this tradition.

The plaza is a tree lined quadrant that the city life revolves around. In the center of the park stands a monument to early exploration of Patagonia and there is a large statue of one of this areas indigenous people. Sailors and other adventurers have made a habit of kissing the toe of this brass Indian in hopes that it will give them the luck required to return from Antarctica....needless to say, we kissed it profusely.

Now, with a little luck and some cooperation from the weather at our next destination, Union Glacier Antarctica, our adventure will begin. The team is fit and all are experienced in glacier travel which combined with good sense of humor makes for a fine fun group. I'm truly looking forward to this experience.

Warm Wishes Vern Tejas

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