Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In our element

Here's a sampling of Man in his element, or more likely, out of it. Let's not pretend each of us was raised by Inuit herdsmen, or wolves. It's tough being out there without a charged iPod or your email account. After five weeks you should have seen how fast we showered up and hit the new James Bond flick in Punta Arenas.

Below are some paired up photos of each of us in our element- or out of it. You decide:

Medig going for that Nat Geo cover, also showing a "mixed climb" that formed on his face

Ogle looking particularly gnarly and cool (really he was just digging a hole so he could squat to pee).

Wagner, pulling the "full Rupert"

A matter of scale

They say size doesn't matter... but after five weeks of sharing a small tent with two large men (Dean and Kari are both over 6', what were you thinking?) you come to appreciate that a sense of scale can be misleading.

Basically there's no room in the tent. And the manly code dictates that you NEVER touch the guy beside you, under any circumstance. If you happen to brush against someone's leg you must give the obligatory gruff apology, as if you were cracking your knuckles or scratching your balls and you accidentally touched your ski partner. Faux pas!

Anyway, we're talking about the mountains here. It was outside the tent where the real sense of scale became distorted. Check out these shots of this one peak- doesn't even have a name- that rises about 1800m above the Marinelli Glacier. The first shot is the zoom in on the upper part and the second shot shows the whole meal deal. The third image shows the "Great White Chute" to the right of the frame, which is to the right of the aforementioned peak. The Chute doesn't seem like much but it took an entire day to descend. And the whole time we managed to do it without touching eachother!

Now we can take a look at the lower Marinelli Glacier, nice and flat on the map. First shot is the Marinelli as seen from Dean's perspective near the top of the Great White Chute. Not flat. And it continues for ten kilometers. Second shot is us on the Marinelli Glacier a day later in a classic "get me the hell out of here" situation on Dean's birthday. He led the entire day and was quoted as saying "I don't know, this is kinda fun."

Incidentally, a cool feature of this glacier is how it pushes up against the nunatak (basically a mountain unto itself) at the middle top left of the second photo (the other part of the glacier flows off to the top right). The seracs push up about 400m vertical against the mountain-therefore we had to climb up to get down the glacier. Okay I'm not a glaciologist, just a skier.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Big Breakthrough


We made it back in one piece a couple of days ago and have been keeping firm ground beneath our feet and escaping the elements in Hotel Hain (until last night when part of the roof blew off). Thanks for your interest. We’ll try to post some photos and video as soon as possible- here is one clip that might get your attention. Anyway, in hopes of recovering some of the costs from the six hour zodiac ride out, we’ll probably hold off on posting our “best of” on the blog and save them to sell to Advil, Canadian Tire, and other lucrative outlets. Also, we’d rather be checking out different parts of Chile and Argentina in the couple of remaining weeks we have, rather than sitting at the computer.

Last night we did a slide show for about twenty local folks, many of whom were involved in helping us out, all of whom feel like old friends. If you ever need a connection down in Punta Arenas, we have it… We tried to convey the reality to them that we are just three guys who like the mountains- not some crazy “Everest is next” crew. I think they finally got that impression when they saw Kari’s tent photo exposé.

So yes, we spent a lot of time in the tent on this trip. The newspapers in Punta Arenas, which incidentally is in the rainshadow of the Darwin Range, said that there hadn’t been a period of bad weather like this since 1982, and people couldn’t walk to work because the rain was hitting them sideways for three weeks. Seems reasonably plausible to me, considering that during the first 25 days of our trip we tallied the total hours of sun to be eight, mostly behind some growing lenticular clouds. We then received two days of good weather, arriving in an untimely fashion however because we had to descend a 4000’ north-facing (sun-exposed) serac-laden chute the first day. We cleared that but then had to decide whether or not to continue with the ten or so days of food remaining (at a stretch). The good decision was to pull out, because the blog probably would have never been updated, ever. As it was, it took us a week just to get to a pick-up spot. It’s likely that we’d have needed a week at least of pure blue days just to get around the crux, if it was at all possible given the steep nature of the terrain. “Mellow” spots we looked at on the map mostly turned out to be fairly steep. That would be an understatement actually. So the apparently steep parts would probably have been a no-go, and we could have been pinned by weather in an area without escape. The whole range is mind-blowing and surely it will continue to get attention from climbers and skiers. Hopefully more Chileans. Anybody interested in 7000’ granite walls?

So we went to the elephant seal colony where (yes Ryan) we bonded with the seals- in fact I hope you all approve of Bertha here. I’m not sure whether it’ll be customs or immigration I’ll have to deal with, probably both…

There’s a lot more to tell- coming to a potluck near you. By the way thanks to Ryan, Jasmin, Emily and others for helping to keep track of us and especially to Ryan Gill for updating the blog here.

Stay tuned because I’m sure we’ll have some new postings in the next couple of weeks now that we actually have some information to convey, for example the 1800 “select” images and video from my broken camera, Kari’s artsy and telling shots and Dean’s video.

Thanks to all,

Steve and the boys

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24

Hi again,
I just got off the phone with Steve this morning. They're currently sitting on the beach waiting for a boat from Punta Arenas to come and pick them up. They managed to flag a cruise ship down, as Dave mentioned (thanks for that Dave), but didn't get picked up by them... I wonder why: "uh, yeah, sorry our ship is full... of clean people"
Anyway, they did leave them food and a bunch of booze, so obviously they celebrated. Steve said he woke up yesterday at about 3pm on the beach (side note: they're camping at an elephant seal rookery. I'm not sure what booze +lonely ski tourers+elephant seals adds up to, but I'm pretty sure it isn't good).

Currently at Camp 15 (459505 3971282)

They managed to escape the glacier, having to navigate some gnarly sections (rappels, serac's etc etc). Then they had a 3 day hike along the coast line, which sounded pretty steep and heinous, to get to where they're waiting for the boat!

So they should be in Punta Arenas tonight!

That's it for me then.

Gill out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Skiing to Sailing

Hey All,
Just got a note from Emily, the boys are off the glacier and on a boat to somewhere. Sounds like they're headed to Ushuaia to arrange transport to Punta Arenas. Good to hear they safely made it down to the water and managed to hitch a ride home. I'm keen to hear how that all went.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 25

A message from Steve.

Upper Pia Glacier:

"We haven't been moving like cheetah's through this mountain range... the more I think about it the more that doesn't make any sense. So far we've come 25km as the crow flies with another 65km to go, we're not breaking any land speed records.

We're at Camp 9...b, I say 9b because we moved a whole 3m since our last camp after being buried too deeply to excavate ourselves efficiently (2 hours to dig out, 1 hour to blow back in).

We've had 8 hours of sun over the past 25 days, none of this has been direct - no blue skies to cheer us on. It's rained or snowed every day, almost constantly. The wind picks you up and moves you; as Dean says "It's like the finger of God flicking you off his shoulder". Our longest travel day so far has been 10km, the longest stormbound time has been 6 days, although we're at day five and counting... This week we managed to travel 5km, last week 3km. During the last crevasse fall benzene spilled over everything I have including my clothes and food.

But there are good things to report too. Our packs and sleds are much lighter now (we only have a dozen or so days of food left), we've become experts at Yahtzee after playing so much, and we've absolved ourselves of all expectations of making it to Yendegaia. If we get some clear days at all we'll at least be able to make some headway, who knows how far, if at least to the nearest boat. Despite all of this we won't give up until the last crumb is eaten, which is probably somewhere in Kari's beard (are they considering cannibalizing Kari?).

You wonder what Darwin would think of this scenario, especially of three skiers praying for a miracle, even just a small one."

Sounds like they're looking for an escape route now. If anyone talks to them before Jasmin or I do, pass on that there was some information offered with regards to a previously used route down to the ocean. Either me or Jasmin has the details on this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 21

I just got off the phone with Steve. Those guys are getting pretty bored with all their tent time, and consequently are doing the equivalent of 'surfing the internet' via sat phone. I wouldn't be surprised if they start making prank calls just to amuse themselves.

Here they are as of November 11, looking south. Camp located at 445622 3942510

He said they pretty much need a miracle right now for things to not go off the rails. The travelling has been steeper and more heavily crevassed than expected, and the weather has been either too windy, too warm or snowing too hard to travel. On a few occasions they've had a break in the weather, decided to go for it, broken camp (which takes two hours) and then started out, only to get hammered by weather again. Given the terrain they're in, they have some pretty tight weather parameters in which they can travel safely.

They're approaching a decision point in the next little while as to whether they'll be able to continue with their current food supplies, or bail. On the phone he said they're not that far from the ocean but that it would probably take a week for them to get down to it, even if it was possible, due to the broken nature of the glaciers.

Here's another picture from Mark Tinholt from their previous trip
"Connnncentrate, connnncentrate... Hey a nickel!"

He was also telling me about the crevasse fall. He fell in about 50' but was caught by the rope near the bottom of the crevasse. Kari was pulled down and dragged on his face before he managed to self arrest and stop Steve's fall. Then it was 3 hours* of ascending the rope to get out. Luckily he didn't get hit by his 100lb sled on the way down. True to form all he really wanted to say was "I got some awesome photos from inside the crevasse".

It sounds like they're getting a worn down by all the frustrating weather, but are still motivated to give it a go. Hopefully they get at least a few days of good weather which might give them time to get around Mt Darwin and onto the easier section of the trip. Even with that scenario he thought they would be running on fumes by the end of it.

Fingers crossed they get some good weather. Don't be surprised if you get a random phone call from Tierra Del Fuego.

*I wonder if it took 3 hours to ascend the rope because they were all taking pictures and footage of each other. I can just imagine it: "okay, Steve just go back down and climb that section one more time, that's it, now look to your left...."