Caroline George and First Ascent team prepare for summit push of Vinson Massif, Antarctica

Mount Shinn - the third highest peak in Antarctica - rises outside of High Camp on Mount Vinson, with the jagged summit of Epperly visible just behind. Photo by Jake Norton.

Commentary by Jake Norton

It never seems like much until you have it on your back.

I thought I had pared down my kit pretty well, bringing only what was essential to fill my belly, keep me warm, allow me to take pictures, edit them, and transmit them back home. It really didn’t seem like a lot. But, when that “little bit” got on my back this morning, my body told me otherwise. I’m pretty sure everyone on our team was in the same boat.

With heavy packs, we huffed up the fixed lines once more. Yesterday we had some nice cloud cover keeping us cool, and today, although the sun was back to its blazing self, the temperatures were significantly cooler. Overheating was not too much of an issue.

We all moved uphill well today, keeping a plodding pace that was not too fast, not too slow, but would get us there in good time, with gas still in the proverbial tank. The old tourtoise and the hare idea.

It paid off, with everyone arriving under clear skies with a gentle wind at High Camp, 12,250 feet.

It’s one of the most stunning camps I’ve ever been to, with enchanting vistas in every direction. Shinn stands mightily off to the side, the jagged summit of Mount Epperly rising just behind it. Go just a bit out of camp, and the world drops off some 3,000 feet to Low Camp, and the massive expanse of Antarctic white spreads like an ocean as far as the eye can see.

And, of course, just above us looms the summit of Vinson, still some 4.5 miles off.

It’s off to bed early tonight to catch a few zzz’s in between shivers – the forecast calls for temperatures around -30 Celcius tonight. Then, once the sunlight hits the tents and makes life bearable, we’ll suit up and begin moving uphill.

With luck, by midday tomorrow we’ll be on top of the bottom of the world. It was 45 years ago that Eddie Bauer helped get the first people to the summit of Vinson, and it’ll be quite a thrill to return there, with Eddie Bauer and the flag Bill Long unfurled so long ago.

Send us good thoughts, and hope the weather gods are kind to us.

Disclaimer: The photo and written material all belong to First Ascent and Eddie Bauer.

~ by Genevieve Hathaway on January 11, 2011.

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