This morning, a Twin Otter was finally able to fly into Vinson Base Camp to gather the team off the Branscomb Glacier. A short 40 min later they were back in Union Glacier, awaiting the Ilyushin 76 which touched down on the Blue Ice Runway around noon.
We just heard from the team that they had safely landed Punta Arenas where a hot showers and soft beds await. Tomorrow morning, with much regret, the team will dissolve as people catch flights back home.
Thank you to everyone who followed along and engaged with us on social media, and thanks to all of the staff, guides, and team members that have made this expedition such an incredible success!
After a day of descending from high camp the team has returned to Vinson basecamp, their temporary home away from home. It brings a sense of closure to this awesome expedition, but that doesn't mean that it is over!
If there's anything better than having a deep sleep inside a tent (with no wake up call!), it might be getting served pancakes and eggs with syrup and jam. That was the morning routine today for our group of climber's at Vinson high camp.
This is a quick update to let everyone know that the Vinson team made it to high camp. They are all doing well despite being knackered after a long day. They departed low camp around 2 PM and spent around 9 hours on the go, ascending roughly 3,350 ft / 1020m of elevation gain on slopes as steep as 45 degrees. They had a delicious dinner cooked up by Keith and Garrett and they are hitting the sac happy to be one step closer to the summit. Tomorrow they will take a rest day and hopefully (weather permitting) enjoy the outstanding views that high camp has to offer.
Keith on the ascent to high camp
Great news! The weather at Union Glacier and Vinson basecamp cleared enough for both our flights today. This means that both teams are on schedule with the South Pole team back at Punta Arenas and the Vinson team on the mountain. Antarctica has very fickle weather and when things are running on schedule it's a good reason to be thankful - and we are!
After a very celebratory night with many cheers and toasts, everyone finally got some shut-eye though several people would have like more!
We are very proud and excited to announce that both teams reached the Geographic South Pole today at 16:15 local time! Wooo hooo!
Both teams slept in for a lazy morning and broke camp around 11 AM. For the first few marches they could see each other and by the last push before the station boundaries they were together. From there they phoned in their position to the base camp manager, Hannah, who warmly greeted them and told them to "come right on in." As they approached the Pole the many miles of tugging a sled over the vast Antarctic plateau melted away and all that was before them was the red and white striped Pole that marks 90 degrees South. Well, almost 90 degrees South. Most people don't know that there are two "poles" at the South Pole. There is the Ceremonial South Pole with the red and white stripes and reflective globe, surrounded by flags. This is the Pole that is most often photographed. There is also the actual US Geological Survey marker that denotes exactly 90 degrees South. This "Pole" is around 10 meters from the Ceremonial Pole. Don't worry, they'll have plenty of time at each pole before they leave!
After many hugs, high fives, photos and phone calls home the teams, who had put in a long day by now, retreated to the temporary basecamp for visiting explorers. When we talked with them the camp manager, Hannah, who is an old friend to many of us, was preparing them a hearty dinner. This will be a celebratory dinner. Not only did they reach the South Pole, but they can relax and enjoy themselves without having to get up bright and early to ski tomorrow! We heard a rumor that Michael pulled out his very coveted Shackleton Whiskey, which everyone is drooling over. We also heard that Graeme had carried with him a very special medal that the monarch of Italy presented to Ernest Shackleton! So it is not a far stretch to say that The Boss himself is with them tonight.
They have planned a station tour at 9 AM Chile time tomorrow morning. That's the middle of the night NZ time. This is intentional timing to reduce the impact of our 15 person strong team on the people who live and work at the station. Then they'll return to the Pole for a photo session when they expect to have more favorable lighting. In the later afternoon if all goes as planned they will fly back to the Union Glacier Basecamp.
We have a wonderful audio dispatch from the dinner tent that captures the mood of the evening and we hope to post more photos of their day soon. So check back again!