Team Members Summit
Monday, December 20, 1999
Hello, this is Willi Prittie from Antarctica on the Vinson Massif climb. Sorry the dispatches here haven't been coming in the last few days; we've had some phone and radio problems around here in Antarctica.
To fill everybody in, we did spend four nights waiting out very stormy conditions at Camp II on the Branscomb Glacier, at about 10,100ft, and finally we got a clearing. So we had a beautiful day to go on to hike at about 12,300ft. There's a fair amount of wind-deposited snow from the storm and we had some concerns about avalanche conditions, but we were able to work that pretty good...[Unintelligible]...High Camp. Everybody enjoyed that greatly. The following day we can't exactly say dawn but it looks very good in the 24 hours...[Unintelligible]...we actually left for the summit about 11:30, Punta Arenas time, and as we climbed up the conditions did steadily start deteriorating...[Unintelligible]...and the winds started to pick up. So we had an interesting time watching all that even though it wasn't affecting us yet down a little lower on the peaks.
At about 14,700ft, however, we had a slight problem Dana Isherwood has strained her back a little bit on the...[Unintelligible]...quite heavy pack and it was bothering her quite a bit. She decided it wasn't worth straining it further, even carrying a light summit pack. So we had a conference and John, from Seattle, also decided his ankle break, that had happened fairly recently, was bothering him quite a bit and so we had a group meeting and the two of them decided it would be safe for them to descend from 14,700ft...[Unintelligible]...their very high experience level that they both have in the mountains. So we did that, the three of us, which is Hugh Morton, Houck Reed, and Michele Santilhano, continued on up. Within the next couple of hours the weather continued to deteriorate; we had a lot of gray-out conditions, occasional whiteout conditions with blowing snow, definitely a lot of clouds, sometimes there'd be some breaks and then we had some questions. We did continue to push on.
We got to about 15,700ft, slowing down a bit, and Michelle was having some problems during the day and finally she was just was having a bad day and kind of hit the wall. So, we did run into Dave Hahn's group coming down from the summit, just about five or six hundred feet below the summit. We kind of all made the decision that Michelle would go down with Dave Hahn and she graciously offered that to us, which helped out a lot. [Unintelligible]...Hugh Morton and Houck Reed and myself actually continued on and we did summit Mount Vinson on the 18th, at Punta Arenas time 8:45pm. It was very cold; I would estimate about -30ºF, with up to 20mph winds on the summit. We, of course, did have to take a lot of photographs. This was Hugh Morton's seventh summit a big congratulations to him; he did a great job. And we were able to descend and get back to camp by about, just before, midnight, actually. We actually had very clear conditions on the summit. All of the clouds had cleared in the last 45 or so minutes of climbing to get to the [Unintelligible]. Even though it was extremely cold and windy, we had great views of the icecaps. It is obviously an awesome place down here in every sense of the word.
We've had a wonderful climb. Everybody's gotten along very well. We've clicked very well as a group; everybody worked very well as a team. And we've really enjoyed our stay here in Antarctica. Now there is some possibility that more climbs will come. There is an interesting set of delay factors. We're in Vinson Base Camp right now. Today is the 20th of December here and they have a potential rescue that they need the Twin Otters for, at the South Pole, of one of the crossing teams. And they have certain delay factors in that with weather and whatnot. They're delayed with flying the Hercules by weather; so it looks like we may have one or several more delays here in Base Camp. So there are the possibilities that we'll be doing some more climbs here and we will see how that transpires and keep everybody informed accordingly.
As it is, it has been a wonderful time and one of the most unusual and special places on the surface of the earth. We're all doing fine and everybody sends love to all of their family members and friends, certainly. So this is all for now from Willi, goodbye.
Willi Prittie, MountainZone.com Correspondent