South-Pole Punta-Arenas

Fierce Winds, Ultra-Cold Temperatures

Adventures in Antarctica

57 days, 750 mi, Nov 2006 - Jan 2007

2006-11-02 page 1 of 8

Preparations
Antarctica

Day 1, Punta Arenas

After a year and a half of preparations, we went to Antarctica. Starting from very near the coast, we skied 57 days to the South Pole. Jenny returned home, and I joined an expedition to climb the highest peak in Antarctica, at 16,067 feet. Then I went to Argentina and climbed to 22,025 feet on Aconcagua. Altogether I was away from home for nearly four months. The story starts here.
We are standing against the backdrop of the city of Punta Arenas, Chile, on the coast of Magellan Straits.

We left home early Wednesday morning. Or at least we tried to. Despite our well-laid plans, the shuttle was late picking us up. We thought of a few options for getting ourselves and our eight ponderous bags to the airport, but none of them were viable. When the shuttle company finally arrived and delivered us to the airport, we were two hours late. We had missed our flight.

Fortunately we got seats on the next flight, and from there it was nonstop hustling to make all of our connections.

We were in the air for 18 hours. For much of that I had my face pressed up against the window, watching the landscape and coastlines slip by, and wondering what it would be like to hike through some of those lands. Finally we touched down just after noon. The air temperature was much lower than what we are used to.

We had to hire two taxis to shuttle our gear to our hotel, then we set off on foot to explore the city of Punta Arenas. It felt good to stretch our legs after so much sitting. Within an hour of walking and climbing the steep streets we had started to acclimatize to the temperature.

The local grocery store was extremely well stocked and we spent a couple hours there looking at the unfamiliar and interesting varieties of food, both packaged and fresh.

This was a trial run, so we bought one of each of the foods we wanted to taste, to see if we liked it. If we did, we would buy large quantities of it for the expedition.

We had never been in Chile before and we are finding the people very friendly and helpful.

The Condor de Plata hotel is more like a pensionado, with very modest accommodations. Nevertheless it is a favorite with expedition parties. Besides the friendly proprietors, we met three of our own kind and they were very friendly too.

Hannah McKeand had been on much the same trip two years ago, and she is here to do a repeat trip. We asked her an endless stream of questions about the gear and the route, etc. Her enthusiasm was on par with ours, and we quickly became friends. She had her gear spread out on the floor of her small room, there was almost no room for visitors, but there was much to look at.

In addition, we met Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald who are planning a similar trip. We got on very well with them, too. They said they had eighteen bags of luggage, so we didn't feel too bad having "only" eight.

Before leaving home, when the shuttle driver showed up late and we missed our flight, we figured things would likely get much better, and so far this has proven the case. We are having a great time in a really interesting place.


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On our way to the South Pole, 2007/01/04. Photo by Jenny
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