Saturday, January 26, 2013

Vinson Base Camp to High Camp

ALE owns a subsidiary Adventure Network International (ANI) whose staff runs Vinson Base and patrols the mountain above there. ANI also employs guides for their own clients on the mountain.

Vinson Base Camp

ANI ensures that ALE customers from other guided groups and their own clients adhere to environmental practices in compliance with their operating permit. This mostly consists of removing all trash and poop from the mountain. Walls built with snow blocks enclose separate toilet areas for feces and urine. The feces toilet has a five gallon bucket equipped with a seat over which a plastic bag is attached to capture the waste, which then fits into a second bag to be packed out. This is easy as it freezes readily in the -20 to -30 degree C temperatures. All urine must be disposed of in a hole in the snow in that toilet area. Urinating in the snow along the climbing path is not allowed except in a few specified locations. You have to use a pee bottle when away from a specified pee spot.

The Toilet

Cody and I chose to ski rather than walk up the glacier up to Low Camp. This would make it a lot quicker to come down. We had to ski roped together to protect each other in case of a crevasse fall.

Skiing to Low Camp

At Low Camp there was a large cooking tent already set up for us to use. We spent the night there in tents cached for ANI clients before heading up to High Camp.

Seth carrying bag of snow to melt in Low Camp Cook Tent (photo by C. Smith)

The climb from Low Camp to High Camp ascends a 35 degree snow slope that has been equipped with about 2000 feet of fixed rope.

Slope to ridge crest and High Camp in center of photo 

On most climbs there would not be a fixed line on such a relatively low angled slope. But given the wide variation in climbing skill amongst those on Mt Vinson, the rope provides added safety on the steepest part of the route.

Climbing  up to High Camp

Cody and I got to the high camp a day ahead of most of the other climbers and it was nice to have the place to ourselves for at least a day.

High Camp

From High Camp there were beautiful views of Low Camp and the Eastern Antarctic Ice Shelf. Looking down from the Ellsworth Mountains was a vast landscape with ice stretching to the horizon in every direction.

View towards East Antarctic Ice Shelf

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