After many complications and delays, the entire season of North Pole expeditions has been cancelled. Early in April, flights to Barneo Ice Camp were delayed due to permitting issues with the Antonov-76. The flight providers were able to secure a Basler DC-3 to continue operations, but ultimately the Basler was unable to make flights to Barneo due to an extended period of unstable weather surrounding Longyearbyen and Barneo. In our 27 years of North Pole expeditions, we have never experienced a cancellation like this. The PolarExplorers guide team has been in Longyearbyen since the beginning of April preparing for our six North Pole expeditions, but without the ability to fly to the ice through Barneo, it is impossible to move forward.
We are deeply disappointed that we won't be able to share this experience with all of our amazing team members who have dedicated so much time and effort preparing for these adventures. Our team is already looking forward to returning in 2020 for another opportunity to reach the top of the world.
With less than two weeks until our North Pole season kicks off we are hard at work prepping and getting excited!
The first round of our guide team has arrived in Longyearbyen and are looking forward to welcoming the first of our team members in the coming days. Our Polar Shakedown Training will kick off on April 8, followed by our expeditions on April 13.
This is an exciting time for all involved! The world over gear is being organized, weighed and counted (then recounted!) Decisions are being made - should I take this hat? Or THIS hat?? It's all coming together for what will surely be an exciting time!
We hope you will check back regularly to follow the progress of our teams and to listen to their daily audio dispatches. The first blog will be posted on April 13, 2019!
Check back again on April 13!
We'd like to introduce you to our 2019 North Pole Last Degree Ski Teams! These international teams will kick off their expeditions on April 13 in Longyearbyen, Norway. Make sure to bookmark our blog to read the daily updates and listen to the daily audio dispatches!
(Each team is color-coded)
On April 13 our North Pole Flight team will kick off their exciting top-of-the-world adventure with a pre-flight briefing and, weather permitting, a flight to the North Pole on April 14. Follow their updates on our expedition blog staring on April 13!
Great news! We have received word that Jim and Garrett will return to Punta Arenas tonight. The Ilyushin departed Punta Arenas mid day bound for Union Glacier. With at least an hour turn around time on the ground at UG we expect a late-night return to Punta Arenas. We are thrilled for them that the Vinson expedition was safe & successful (and pretty darn quick!)
It's a great feeling to board the Ilyushin knowing that the return to family and friends is close at hand. The four hour flight offers an excellent opportunity to reflect upon Antarctica and experiences had on the White Continent. Upon stepping off the plane at the Punta Arenas airport it is immediately apparent that you are no longer in Antarctica and not because of the view or the temperature. Rather the scents... of Earth and floral aromas, and the humidity. It's a wonderful treat to take a few deep breaths as you walk to the terminal.
It will be a late night, but no doubt it will feel GREAT to sleep in a proper bed and have a hot shower. Enjoy it Jim and Garrett, you deserve it!!
This will be the last post for our Last Degree / Vinson Combo expedition. We want to congratulate Jim and Garrett on a job well done, and give Jim a virtual bear hug for his Seven Summit success.
Be sure to join us again in April for our North Pole season!
Below: The Ilyushin at Union Glaicer's blue ice runway. The view from the cockpit is incredible! (previous expedition)
Jim and Garrett made it down safely from High Camp and all the way back to Union Glacier in one day (yesterday). No doubt the trek down was one filled with satisfaction. The anticipation and nerves that are often present on the ascent are gone allowing you to take in your surroundings with a new appreciation. And then there's the incredible flight back to Union Glacier which is stunning in every regard.
Union Glacier can feel like a small town after being gone for a while, and the creature comforts it provides make it a wonderful place to spend time.
If weather cooperates they hope to make it back to Punta Arenas today. This will be the completion of a very long journey for Jim (the Seven Summits) and one step closer to a different goal (the Grand Slam).
We will keep you posted. Hopefully the next blog will be posted from Punta Arenas!
Below: Union Glacier basecamp
We just received word that Jim and Garrett reached the summit of Mount Vinson today at 1:35 CST. We are so happy for them and especially proud of Jim for whom this marks the completion of his Seven Summits.
More to come later, when they are back at High Camp and have had a chance to rest. Check back again soon!
Below: The summit of Mt. Vinson (from previous expedition)
Jim and Garrett had a nice and relaxing rest day though the nylon on the tent was surely flapping. They awoke to cold temperatures of -25 F with a stiff 15-20 knot wind. There's nothing sweeter than awaking to foul weather and being able to sleep in knowing you don't have to go outside. The tent takes on an oasis feel to it and you count your blessings all the more.
What do you do on a rest day? Rest! Or write, play cards if you have them, chat with a friend, read if you have a book or watch a movie on a device. The main goal is to let your body recuperate and acclimatize to the higher altitude. Jim and Garrett did all those things today and they are ready for their summit attempt. The forecast is for improving conditions overnight. If they awake to good weather they will go for the summit. If the weather still has some improving to do they'll wait until the next day. We will keep you posted!
To conserve their sat phone battery they opted not to send an audio dispatch tonight. They want to relay to everyone that they are comfortable, warm, rested and excited for the summit.
Check back again tomorrow!
Below: Another view of yesterday's fixed line ascent, approaching the top (previous expedition). Thanks to PE guide Taylor Sweitzer for the pic.
Today Jim and Garrett ascended from Vinson's Low Camp to High Camp. This is a fairly significant climb of nearly 3,000 feet up a steep slope with fixed lines. While not a complex ascent it is certainly not easy, with burdensome packs and steep pitches. It's slow work with a lot of heavy breathing. One step, then another, then maybe a short pause before repeating, over and over again. By the time you reach the end of the fixed lines and ascend a little further into the camp it is common to be completely exhausted. Fortunately the view (when you find the energy to look around) is incredible with the vastness of Antarctica spilling from of the mountains below.
High Camp is typically a small tent city, with multiple teams in various stages of their summit attempts. We like to climb Vinson after our Last Degree expedition for a few reasons: one of them is that by the time we get there most other Vinson teams have completed their climbs and we tend to have the mountain to ourselves (or at least almost to ourselves). It's certainly not the hustle and bustle of earlier in the season. This makes it all the more special.
Jim and Garrett plan to take a rest day at High Camp before attempting to reach the summit the following day. Weather is always a factor and they will keep their eye on the forecast. After today's ascent a little R & R will be good for the body (and soul!)
Make sure to listen to Jim's audio update here & check back again tomorrow for another update from the team.
Below: The top of the fixed lines before heading towards High Camp. (From a previous expedition - that's Keith in the photo)
After receiving a "no-go" on the flight to Vinson Base Camp last night (poor visibility at Vinson) they awoke at Union Glacier to good news - the weather had cleared and the flight was on. If you want a recap of what the flight is like to Vinson Base Camp read yesterday's blog. In short it is AMAZING. Absolutely stunning - and we are so glad they had perfect weather to enjoy it at its best. After arriving at Vinson Base Camp the boys (Jim and Garrett) headed up the valley to Low Camp. For Jim it was likely a refreshing change to have something to look at with every passing step. It's not that the Last Degree has no views, but it's a lot of white! White and blue...or white and grey... or just plain white. But today on Vinson it was a bluebird day. This surely made the trek to Low Camp phenomenal. Mountains flank the sides of the valley that they ascended and every time they looked up they were surely thinking to themselves "this is awesome!" Tomorrow they plan to ascend to High Camp. They will likely have a morning that's not rushed. Low Camp is in a shadow in the early morning making it a cold place. As soon as the sun appears over the peaks of the surrounding mountains everything feels easier and more welcoming - a good reason to sleep in an extra half hour or two!
Jim posted two wonderful audio dispatches. Make sure to have a listen!
Below: Vinson Base Camp, which they left this morning. Thanks to SP/Vinson Alum Michael Creasy for the photo
When we last heard from our team they were back at Union Glacier, briefly, before they continue on to their next destinations. For Jim Holliday, Steve, John and Keith the next destination is Punta Arenas. For Jim Lumberg the next destination is Mt. Vinson.
The team departed the South Pole for the Union Glacier basecamp around 10:30 this morning. The flight across the interior of Antarctica is amazing if you can grasp the enormity of what is passing below. Often the passing shades of white lull you into a deep state of meditation or sleep and the flight passes quickly. Other times the flight provides the perfect opportunity to reflect about life on the polar plateau - skiing in white-outs, pulling a sled, the camaraderie of tent life, and the simplicity of expedition travel. The same is true for the flight back to Punta Arenas, which is roughly four hours. It's a good time to reflect.
When the team lands in Punta Arenas they'll transfer to their hotels where they can soak in the luxury of indoor, civilized living!
This is not the case for Jim Lumberg who continues today to Mount Vinson, the tallest mountain in Antarctica. Jim is in the good hands of guide Garrett Madison and together they plan to depart Union Glacier today for the roughly 40 minute flight to Vinson Basecamp. This must be one of the most scenic flights in all of Antarctica. Mountains everywhere. Big glaciers. Craggy peaks. It's stunning, and a great start to this amazing climb.
This will be the last post for the Last Degree Ski Expedition. Great job guys! We are proud of you! And for Jim Holiday a very special congratulations on the completion of your Grand Slam. Your mom is surely smiling :)
Check back regularly for the latest on Jim's ascent of Mt. Vison. If we receive any additional information tonight we will post it.
Below: The view from Union Glacier