The Rainbow Summits Project

Mt. Vinson Expedition – Day 3

It felt odd that we were actually at VBC less than 12 hours after we left South America. In any case, we weren’t going to question what was undoubtedly good luck from the weather gods. So, after a restful 10 hours of sleep, we awoke with the shade still covering the camp. The temperatures in Antarctica averaged -30˚ consistently, but in those 4-6 hours where camp was in the shade, it would shoot down past -40˚ – not a time when you want to be out of the sleeping bag. We had a hearty breakfast of bacon and pancakes before packing up all of our gear and loading it into our packs and our duffel bags.

Like the first day of Denali, the first day of climbing on Vinson involves not only carrying a heavy pack but also dragging a loaded sled for a total of about 9km (5.5miles). After passing several teams coming down from High Camp, we made it to camp in late afternoon and set up our tents behind an existing ice wall. One of the benefits of the weather in this region of Antarctica is that there is very little precipitation (snow), and because it is so extremely cold the ice remains pretty solid and doesn’t melt out as much. This means that it’s common to reuse camp sites for an entire season with little additional maintenance.

Starting the move up to Low Camp from Vinson Base Camp (VBC)

Vinson (and Union Glacier for that matter) are on Chilean time, so technically we went to bed around midnight. But in reality, there are different “time zones” depending on where you are on the mountain. When you’re climbing Vinson, you plan all of your day around when and where the shade is (because it’s so much colder in the shade than in the sun). So, at Low Camp, the shade envelops the camp (“sunset”) around 2am and then retreats around 11am (“sunrise”). Thus, one will plan to wake up around 10 or 11 am and go to bed around midnight. By contrast, at VBC, “sunset” occurs around midnight and then “sunrise” happens at 7am, so you’ll go to sleep and wake up earlier. That said, unlike real time zones, there’s no jet lag when switching between these Vinson time zones.

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