If you have read the About Me section of this website, you will know that completing the circuit of the Volcanic Seven Summits has been an ambition of mine and that a trip to climb the final volcano, Mount Sidley in Antarctica, is planned for January 2017.
In my next blog I will provide some detail on the Volcanic Seven Summits and a bit of history about climbs of Mount Sidley and the other volcanoes. A later blog will provide some insight into life on the ice and the sort of gear I am taking.
In this blog I will describe a little of what I will be facing in January.
Mount Sidley is one of the most remote and rarely climbed peaks on Earth. It sits in an ice desert many, many miles from anywhere really. It has a harsh environment. To reach it requires a flight from the southernmost tip of Chile which lands on an ice runway at an outpost known as Union Glacier and then a flight onward by ski plane.
Here a base camp is set up and the pilots wait with the plane whilst the climbing team attempt the summit. We have seven days to achieve this. In perfect weather the climb could probably be achieved in three days. But the area is regularly hit by strong winds and snow storms. This weather can pin you down in your tent for days. Expected temperatures will be between -15C and -30C.
So the camp needs to be made robust. This is done by building ice walls around the tents to provide some protection from the wind and flying snow and ice in addition to the usual placing of anchors to hold the tents up.
A high camp also needs to be set up. It is over 2,200m (7,210ft) from base camp to summit. This cannot be done in a day. So we will ski, pulling pulks (sleds) from base camp to high camp at around 3,000m (9,850ft) to take up gear and food. These will be cached and we will return to base.
This is typical of acclimatisation – climb high, sleep low. There is then a return to high camp which is then set up. This could not be done before in case a storm came through and damaged tents. The summit can then be attempted.
Occasionally a second, higher camp may be placed depending upon the route taken. Of course, at that time of the year, there will be 24 hour daylight. So a summit attempt could be made at “night” if weather conditions so dictated.
Above the first high camp travel is on crampons and is likely to be roped in case there are crevasses.
Who else is going? The simple answer is that I do not really know. Logistics are organised by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, a company that is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am expecting that they will provide a guide. An experienced Austrian polar guide called Christoph Hobenreich has put together a team of three Austrians who will also be there. So the team numbers six.
I continue my preparations in terms of trying to ensure that I am fit and resilient enough to make the trip a success. Time will tell if I have been successful!
The location of Mount Sidley is within that part of Antarctica known as Marie Byrd Land. Marie Byrd Land covers an area of 1.6 million square kilometres – that is three times the size of France. The region is rarely visited. Just a few scientific expeditions plus three commercial climbing trips have been there. It is probably the largest “no man’s land” on Earth.