We’ve reached the half-way point in the climbing season on Mount Vinson and it’s hard to believe the third group of guests are already on the mountain! We caught up with ALE Guide, David Hamilton, for a glimpse into the days ahead and what this group of climbers will experience on Vinson.
Vinson Base Camp – December 19, 2014
There are a total of 23 climbers in four separate teams attempting to climb Mt Vinson during the third departure. Nine guests are climbing with ALE guides, while the other 14 guests are climbing with other guide companies who partner with ALE to provide their own Vinson programs.
ALE has seven staff based at Mt Vinson during the third departure running from December 18-29. David Hamilton, Nate Opp, and Angel Armesto are guiding ALE guests. Scott Woolums and Namgya Sherpa are Base Camp Managers, providing communications and logistical support for all the climbers on the mountain. Lhakpa Sherpa and Stuart Robertson are Rangers, who are there to support all climbers on the route, and to advise on ALE environmental and safety procedures.
Our nine ALE guests come from several different countries and have differing levels of mountaineering experience. ALE guides have developed a training and acclimatization program to prepare the group for their summit attempt. The guides also check each guest’s clothing and equipment and advise them layering techniques to cope with the rapidly changing weather conditions that are a normal part of Antarctic life.
On December 19, two ALE guests from India headed to Low Camp with ALE Guide, Nate Opp. The other seven guests completed a training and acclimatization hike on a 2,000ft (610m) hill close to Base Camp which usually takes 3-4 hours. Our four Chinese guests climbed the training hill with ALE Guide, Angel Armesto, who will also be working with them on Mt Vinson. ALE Ranger, Stuart Robertson climbed with our American/Romanian guest. Our two German guests are both proficient skiers and were able to borrow skis and boots from the ALE staff to make the ascent and descent with ALE Guide, David Hamilton. >On return to Base Camp, guests enjoyed a fresh cooked dinner of roasted pork loin and vegetables.
ALE guides assess individual strengths and challenges for each guest, to develop a strategy that maximizes everyone’s chance for a successful ascent. With three guides for nine guests the ALE team has a lot of options as they plan their climbing schedule. Stronger climbers with more mountaineering experience may choose a rapid ascent of Mt Vinson, perhaps followed by ascents of other prominent peaks in the area. Others may prefer a slower ascent with more rest days. Sometimes we will divide the group of climbers into separate rope teams based on experience or inclination, and sometimes this split is made on the basis of language.
ALE Summits this Season
On December 15, two ALE French guests reached Mt Vinson summit. Guided by Todd Passey, the two ALE guests left high camp at 09:15 bright eyed and bushy tailed. They reached the top at 17:00 with light winds and good visibility. The two descended to Vinson Base Camp and flew to Union Glacier on the 16th, and back home a few days later.
The first ALE group to summit this season, reached the top on December 2. The four climbers guided by Tre-C Dumais and Todd Passey reached the summit in two groups at 16.10 and 16.30. ALE Ranger, Zac Poulton, also accompanied them to the top. Weather was clear and sunny with only light winds. Temperature reading on top was -27°F (-33°C) or -45°F (-43°C) with windchill-not a place to hang around!