Expedición Monte Tyree - Antartica

Dec 24

Dispatch #14

Published at 17:45
Dispatch created from email
Hi All,

Sorry for the long absence but we've been all over the place. On the 13th a huge storm hit the Vinson area and badly damaged both our tents down at our camp beneath Epperly. Many tents on Vinson were also destroyed and much drama ensued.

It hit us around 2am on the 14th, when Camilo came over to say their tent had a huge hole and they might have to come in with us.
Not five minutes later a loud crack around my head meant that a gust had come down, busted two poles and ripped our tent fly open just the same. Jarmila and I put all our clothing and boots on and got ready to run - where? - then spent the next eight hours huddled under one thin sheet of nylon that was cracking back and forth in the gale, looking to break. Camilo and Pachi were in a similar situation just metres away, on their backs with their feet up against the pounding nylon. We were basically relying on that one sheet of nylon to hold, but didn't know for how long. The storm was forecast to last at least another day and I wasn't sure either tent, or us, would last. Not only were some of the gusts terrifying, but blocks of ice were being blasted around, peppering our tent with hits like golf balls, but one about a grapefruit hit me square in the head through the nylon, and you never knew they were coming until they'd already hit you. Normally such things alone would be a worry, but in this situation they were just another little piece of shit in the fan. We were trying to hold up half the tent against the blast, as well as support the pole remains, so I had a pole running up my spine and against my head for eight hours, constantly thumping me with the wind. But if the tent inners broke, our only hope would be to huddle in the remains, in our sleeping bags, and let the storm blow and snow around and over us, hoping to out-suffer it. If it lasted too long, we'd just die right there.

A worse option was to try and walk to Vinson BC, but really that was just an extended death sentence given the untracked 12km distance and the current conditions. Unlike the climbers up on Vinson, we couldn't just follow the ropes down to a lower camp or struggle back down the track to the safety of base-camp - we were too far away and on our own. So we had eight hours to sit and suffer and wonder if this was our time. It wasn't scary like a sudden accident. It was more a nerve-wracking wait, wondering what death by hypothermia would be like. More than once I looked across at the first-aid kit and wondered if swallowing all the strong painkillers at once would do the job.

Around 1030 am on Friday the 14th, almost too early to be true, the storm abated for a few hours and I got out to check the damage and stabilise what I could of the mess - the pic attached just shows the basic hole but doesn't really show the damage. Jarmila skied down to our cache and got the backup tent, a two-person Bibler. By the time she got back the storm had kicked off again so we huddled in an increasingly flattening tent for a few more hours. Again it let off for a few hours and we hurried to set up the Bibler in the wind and pile in. Camilo and Pachi decided to repair their tent with the remains of ours but needed to come inside the Bibler with us for a few hours after midnight to sew it all up. Very cosy ; -) But they did a great job and spent the next night in it too.

So late on the 16th we packed up and headed off on skis, with two sleds, to Vinson BC where ALE could resupply us with two new tents (thanks guys!). We arrived tired and cold around 3am on the 17th and all piled into one tent to sleep another ten hours.

But in addition to getting new tents, the second part of this plan was to spend some time higher on Vinson to get the acclimatisation for Epperly that we hadn't been able to manage lower down at our previous camp. So late on the 17th we packed up again and headed up to Vinson Low Camp.

Images:
- The hole in the tent.
- Damo and JT in the tent, self-portrait during the storm. This photo is ridiculous. God knows why we're smiling. Must have been trying to mask the pit of sick fear in my stomach.

More to come . . .
  • Name: Campamento Epperly
  • Elevation: 2352 m
  • Latitude: 78° 2812South
  • Longitude: 85° 5834West

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