November 27 – 30, 2011
Today, we got up around 8:00am. It is a long way down to Base Camp and it is important to make sure that we all make it down healthy. As we all knew, accidents often happen on the way down after a long summit day. The weather was still good and we left Camp 2 around 9:00am, went down the fixed rope and arrived in Camp 1 after a few hours. Once there, we took all our remaining equipment and food, loaded up the sleds and moved on to Base Camp where we arrived at 4:00pm. It was a long day but all of us were happy to be back in Base Camp. There were already a few other groups waiting there and it looks that we were the last on the list in terms of flying back to Union Glacier. Based on this information, we put up our tents and enjoyed our celebration dinner in an open camp.
During the evening, the Twin Otter picked up one after the other teams and finally, at 2:30am, on November 28, it was our turn to leave Vinson Base Camp. Once again it was a great flight back to Union Glacier where we arrived shortly before 4:00am. Some of the team members, including myself, decided to stay up until 8:00am when breakfast would be served. Yes, at the Union Glacier camp live is much easier: good food in warm eating tents.
Of course, every one of us was hoping to leave Union Glacier as soon as possible. Well, we all depend on the weather and the Il-76… and , yes, we had to wait another day. We put up the tents again, hopefully the last time… As we woke up the next morning on November 29, there was some snow on our tents and visibility was very limited. Since the Il-76 needs to be able to do a visual landing, there was no hope that morning for a flight. During the day the weather improved but then we got the news was that there is over 120km wind in Punta Arenas, the starting point of the Il-76.
Another few hours passed and finally we got the word that the plane has left Punta Arenas in Chile and is on the way to Antarctica. We packed our tents the last time, moved our luggage to a check point and got ready for the trip to the blue-ice runway. We left the Union Glacier camp around 11:00pm and arrived at the blue-ice runway shortly before the Il-76 landed. What an amazing experience to see a huge four jet engine plane landing on ice…
Unfortunately, we had to wait almost three more hours at the runway and I experienced probably my coldest moments of the whole trip. Finally, after 3:00am on November 30, we left Antarctica in the freight room of the huge Il-76 and landed safely at 10:00am the next morning in Punta Arenas, Chile.
It has been a short, but extraordinary trip to one of the most remote places on earth. I am so grateful that I was able to do this. This was an experience which I will remember for the rest of my life. And, the Antarctica has been kind to us regarding the weather, especially when it comes to strong winds and extreme cold. Thank you!!!!
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life’s about creating yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw
Moving down the mountain.
Heavy loads on a steep descend…
Moving further down the glacier with heavy packs and fully loaded sleds.
Celebration dinner in the open with good food and cold wine…
Finally, the Twin Otter arrives at 2:30am in the morning…
Our climbing route up to Vinson summit and back.
Antarctica – View from Union Glacier.
Orientation regarding the Il-76 arrival – How much longer do we have to wait?
Our camp at Union Glacier – Still waiting…
Finally, moving to the blue-ice runway – It was cold on the open deck.
Loading the Il-76 on the blue-ice runway – Will the ice hold???
Il-76 from the front – What a fantastic plane… and it will bring us back to Chile!!!
Back in Punta Arenas – Beauty and Life… again