Mt. Vinson Massif, Antarctica – 16,067’- December 2016
Antarctica is the fifth largest continent with a size one and a half times the size of the United States. It is the coldest, windiest and driest place on Earth. The coldest temperature ever recorded was -128.56 degrees Fahrenheit on July 21, 1983, at Antarctica’s Vostok station. The winds can reach 200mph in some places. Antarctica is considered to be the largest desert in the world because of it’s extremely dry climate. The Antarctic ice sheet is the single biggest mass of ice on Earth and has an average thickness of one mile. Around 70% of the planet’s freshwater is hidden under the Antarctic ice. There are no permanent residents on this continent, but it is dedicated to peaceful research involving 30 countries. During the summer months, it is the home to some 4,000 plus researchers and around 1,000 in the winter season. The highest peak on Antarctica is Mt. Vinson Massif in the Ellsworth Mountains.
My sixth of the Seven Summits began on November 22, 2016, as I left the U.S. for Punta Arenas, Chili. Once in Punta Arenas, I met up with my team and guide, Dave Hahn, for a briefing and gear check. We had a little time for sightseeing as we waited for our opportunity to start this journey. You see, just getting to Antarctica is an adventure! The first step involves flying a Russian llyushin ll-76 cargo plane for a five-hour flight to the blue ice runway at Union Glacier, then taking a Twin Otter for an hour long flight to the base of Mt. Vinson Massif…and all of this is determined by weather. We ended up having a couple of days of delays, along with anxious anticipation. As with the previous climbs, I trained for many months in preparation to make this another successful summit. What was difficult to prepare for with this mountain was the extreme temperatures and high winds. With the temperature consistently around -10F to -20F (sometimes higher), plus factoring in the wind chills, it was a cold like I had never experienced. We went through a 36-hour storm at Camp 1 with wind gusts of 80 and 90mph! It was definitely a test of my will and determination on whether I would see the top of the mountain. There is always a “make or break” moment on every climb, and this was it for me. As we waited out the storm in our sleeping bags, the intensity of the winds destroying our tent made the situation extremely tense and stressful. When the storm passed, I realized I had pulled a muscle in my back that would make climbing difficult. With the encouragement of my team and a day of rest to work it out, I was able to overcome the doubt and uncertainty of moving forward. Through this and many challenges, our team successfully summitted Mt. Vinson Massif on December 7, 2016. I had a team of three other accomplished climbers, and we were privileged to climb with the best mountaineer in the world, Dave Hahn. From beginning to end, it truly was an adventure. The end of a great climb like this is very emotional for me as I realize another dream come true.