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Blog - Polar Explorers | Polar Expeditions
Friday, 18 January 2019 20:14

Vinson Summit!

Wohoo!! Jim and Garrett reached the summit of Mount Vinson today at 1:35 CST. They made the round trip from High Camp in 8 hours and forty five minutes. When they left High Camp this morning the skies were clear and the thermometer read -20 F. It was quite chilly on the way up but they were well prepared. Jim says they had an absolutely fantastic day and a good go of it. We are so happy for them and especially proud of Jim for whom this marks the completion of his Seven Summits adventure.

They plan to descend all the way to Vinson Base Camp tomorrow and the forecast looks good. If the weather remains good they may even catch an Otter ride back to Union Glacier (that's a plane, not an animal). 

Garrett shares this description of today in an audio dispatch. Check back tomorrow for another update!

Below: The summit of Mt. Vinson (thanks to South Pole Last Degree/Vinson Combo Alum Ian Clarke for the image!)

Friday, 18 January 2019 03:18

Rest Day At High Camp

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.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019 23:40

Ascending to High Camp

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. 

Audio Update continuation here.

Below: The top of the fixed lines before heading towards High Camp. (From a previous expedition - that's Keith in the photo)

Tuesday, 15 January 2019 23:20

Vinson team makes it to Low Camp

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!

Jim Lumberg's Audio Dispatch (part 1)

Jim Lumberg's Audio Dispatch (part 2)

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

Monday, 14 January 2019 02:27

A day at the South Pole

Welcome back! The team spent the day at the South Pole, taking pictures, reflecting on their experiences and relishing in their accomplishment. While they are still "rouging it" they have the luxury of heated tents that they can stand it (!!) and a basecamp chef who makes excellent meals. No doubt it feels like five star luxury to them! Everyone is doing good. They LOVE the messages that many of you are sending through to them. Soon (tomorrow if all goes as planned) four of the five team members will be returning to Punta Arenas, Chile, where hot showers, a real mattress and all the creature comforts of civilization await. Jim Lumberg will continue on to Mount Vinson where he will attempt to summit this tallest mountain in Antarctica. You can follow his progress here. We'll also post a final dispatch from Jim H, John, Steve & Keith in Punta Arenas.

We have three audio dispatches today and they are all excellent! Have a listen to their very heartfelt messages with touching shout outs to friends and family.

Audio dispatch #1 (Keith, Steve & John)

Audio Dispatch #2 (Jim Holliday & Jim Lumberg)

Audio Dispatch #3 (John)

Below: Last night's celebration

Below: At the Geographic South Pole

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