The Rainbow Summits Project

Mt. Vinson – Day 7

It’s very important to eat a lot when you’re on an expedition. This is especially important before summit day. Summit attempts usually require a lot of energy and endurance and a typical Vinson summit is 8-12 hours round-trip. Your body needs fuel, and if you don’t give your body the fuel it needs, it will shut down. You’ll see why this is important (and pertinent…) very soon.

We set off and, just as the report had predicted, the weather was beautiful. In fact, when we first started I was wearing only a thin long underwear layer on top and bottom. Soon, however, the wind picked up a couple knots and I put on more layers.

The first two hours of the climb are pretty mellow. You ascend a hill right out of camp and then slowly traverse the valley towards the base of the summit peak. When we finally reached the halfway point, I noticed that one of my teammates was shivering. We stopped and he put on his heaviest layers – thick, 800 fill down jacket and pants. We ate and drank a little but he was still cold. We decided we would push on for another half hour and reassess then. A half hour later, my teammate was still cold and began to shiver uncontrollably. At this point, we made the decision to turn around and abort our summit attempt.

One of my teammates bundled up in his 800-fill down parka.

Turning around on summit day is a painful experience. There is usually a chance (in this case,  a very good chance) that you will get another shot at the summit, but there is also always a chance that you won’t. However any feelings of frustration or disappointment pale in comparison to the absolute recognition that a teammate’s health, and potentially his life, is vastly more important than any summit. My teammate was beginning to suffer the symptoms of hypothermia, likely due to not eating and drinking enough in the preceding 24 hours. It was the safe and smart decision to turn around.

We got back in the early evening and ate a hearty dinner before having a team meeting. We decided unanimously that we would attempt the summit again the following day, and with that we went to bed early.

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