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...."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Garibaldi Glacier

Okay, so now I have my bearings and I won't make anymore misleading posts about how they're rocking the trip and are already through the crux...

They're currently at the head of the Garibaldi Glacier and are about to sneak back up onto the neve beneath some unnamed peak to the east. They've been encountering lots of bad weather, as illustrated by their report of "6 hours of sun in the past 17 days" (sunscreen = golden anvil).

I'm pretty sure this is the same Garibaldi Glacier, taken, circuitously, from here.

On November 8 they managed 2km in a whiteout, then Steve (and sled) fell 50 feet into a crevasse and spilled white gas all over his clothes. According to the message "he sounded upset that his clothes smelled of white gas". You know, if I'd just fallen 50' into a crevasse I wouldn't be too worried what I smelled like. And I'm sure there would be a far more overpowering smell than white gas.

As of today, November 10, they're still at the same camp with the weather clearing a little.

Current location: 442392 3946023

Some bleak sounding numbers:

1/4 of the traverse completed
1/2 the food consumed.


So I just realized I've been calling the area the boys are in right now the crux, when in fact the crux is still further south. Sorry if I got anyone all psyched up!

I guess that's why I'm in charge of the blog updates, and not the navigation...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Crux

A post dated blog entry - hopefully this is about where they should be by now:

A lot of the Darwin Range looks relatively placid on Google Earth, which I’m sure it isn’t, but that’s not the point. The point is that there’s one section that doesn’t look flat and for sure isn’t. Es “muy encantilado.” With any luck, we’re approaching it now.

By all accounts (both of them: Google Earth low res and the image below), it looks like this “impass” is just to the north of Monte Darwin, with a transverse ridge leading down to Fiordo Parry. Incidentally, we’re afraid to travel on the south side of the ridge because it’s too gnarly, although there is more boat traffic in the Beagle Channel in case of retreat). The lower we go to navigate around the crux ridge(s), the more broken the glaciers will be- for sure we won’t be able to cross at the toe of the glacier without a raft. Higher up the mountains will probably be obscured. Most likely, we’ll be searching around the middle part of the ridge, looking for a good place to descend. Due to the “make or break” condition of this part of the traverse, we thought it prudent to bring two 60m ropes for the possibility of an extended rappel. I know, it seems silly that an extra 30 metres out of a total 120,000 will make a huge difference, but that rope is one more advantage we wanted to add to our pile. I’m not sure how much this extra 60m half-rope weighs, but I’m certain it’s more than a nice sharp telephoto lens, or a pizza, which we’d rather bring (but neither of which I’d want to use to get down a 58-metre cliff).

Check out the zone here in two of the air photos Kari acquired in Santiago. We have only this area and the start zone because the whole meal deal would have cost $3,000 and wouldn’t have been prepared in time. Our crux is more to the northwest, but the interesting part is that wild glacier cutting off a fjord down in the southeast part. We’ll be traveling north of this section but it’s my hope to at least get a glimpse. You don’t see to many “oceanic lakes” (?) such as this in the world these days.

Wild! On Google you can really see the difference in colours and how the glacier cuts off the fjord.

If we make it past the crux zone it’s all relatively smooth sailing from there, with long, sweeping glaciers to cruise on, directly to Bahia Yendegaia.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fart Induced Psychosis

So I got a little more info from Jasmin regarding the fellas current mental state. Apparently on one of the messages from Kari she could hear Steve in the background impersonating R2D2 and, according to Kari, making robotic movements. I think the volume of 'post-digestion' air in the tent has started to affect their mental aptitude.

Lets' hope for a break in the weather before one of them turns into a 'Golden Anvil'.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Storms, Snow... Yahtzee!

Hi all,
Jasmin got a call from Steve, they're hunkered down at the moment waiting out a storm. They've made some progress and apparently are kicking some serious ass at Yahtzee. From the tone of their correspondence it sounds like they're getting a little giddy in the tent...

They're closing in on Mt Darwin so hopefully the weather clears and they can send it! Oh and then continue the next 90km or so...

Here's a short video courtesy of Mark Tinholt from a trip a few years ago with Steve and Chad Sayers. They were in an area about 100miles north of where they currently are playing Yahtzee. I imagine this is pretty much exactly what they're up to right now.

Along with their coordinates they sent an amendment to the Trip Dictionary:

False positive: the discrepancy between the rising trend on the barometer on our watches and the reality of the weather outside

Golden Anvil: Dean's IPOD or any other device that doesn't work anymore but is too valuable to throw into a crevasse

The Show: As in "I'm going to the show". Any hypothetical objective such as finishing the traverse which a participant aims to accomplish. Mostly used in context of getting ones Yahtzee bonus of 35 points.

Lets roll: Referring to getting a game of Yahtzee going. Also used as a sarcastic statement to get a laugh when looking out the window of the tent at the worsening storm.

Current location:
Camp 6: 437 813, 394 6880 (1420m)