Another night of no sleep for me, I’m on antibiotics for a gum infection and the insomnia is an unwanted side effect. A little annoying but I’m sure I’ll crash out tonight.
We’re still at base camp, located on the stunning Branscomb Glacier with views of Mount Vinson (when the clouds clear!), Knutzen Peak and Branscomb Peak. This Glacier is literally a frozen sea of ice, if it was flowing it would take you right out to the Ross Sea some hundreds of miles away. We’re in the middle of vast white wilderness where, on occasion, it’s hard to tell the difference between clouds and mountains – and that’s just the view from the toilet!
Mount Vinson is 20km long by 13km wide and sits in the Sentinel Range in the Ellsworth Mountains near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s the highest peak in Antarctica and a mountain I’ve always wanted to climb, to be here with Matt and be able to share this as our honeymoon is truly special. It’s also a great acclimatisation trek before I start the solo expedition to the South Pole in the next two weeks.
It dropped to -18C in the tent last night but I barely noticed. I’m wearing Aclima double wool, world’s warmest baselayers, and if anything I’m too warm, especially when snuggled into a -40C Western Mountaineering sleeping bag. It’s a bit overkill for base camp, but it’s the kit I’ll need at high camp where temperatures dipped to -38C today, so no harm getting used to it.
Happy feet today as we trekked up a mile or so as an acclimatisation trek and escaped camp for a few hours. We’re the first and only group on the mountain this season so usually we’d be breaking trail – which is hard work. Luckily for us though the mountain rangers have just returned from installing new fixed ropes below High Camp, so there’s a path of sorts.
It felt extremely warm on our trek today, yet everyone struggled with fogging and freezing goggles. Before we go any higher, I took the opportunity to try the new Cold Avenger range of facemasks. They’re a potential for the solo expedition and what better place to test them than here. I’m pretty blown away so far, I tried as hard as I could to cause them to fog and simply couldn’t. Look forward to seeing how they perform the higher we go. The search for the perfect face mask system is the holy grail of every mountaineer.
We finished in time for dinner, and as I’m writing this from our tent, the sun disappeared behind clouds and the temperature dropped fast. Who wants a slightly grim, but fun survival tip? Filling up a bottle with wee can act as a great hot water bottle!
Subject to weather we’ll make our move from Base Camp to Low Camp. A gain of only 640m covering 5.6miles up the gradually rising Glacier. It should take us around five hours with our backpacks and sleds of kit. We’ll be roped together throughout as there are crevasses everywhere on our way up.
Can’t wait to be back on the move, and travelling higher up the mountain!
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