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Summit Team Building

What type of Equipment is Required for an Antarctic Expedition? Part 3

This is a continuation of the clothing and gear requirements for an Antarctic expedition.

Once we have arrived at the South Pole we will be picked up by plane and flown over to Mount Vinson which is approximately 1000km away. Here we will switch out our South pole ski gear for our mountaineering gear. Some items will serve dual purpose, but many will be swapped out for new items. For the purposes of Vinson I will also break the clothing and gear into three categories.

Clothing: The clothing for a mountaineering expedition to Mount Vinson is not dramatically different that what we have used for the South Pole ski expedition. We will use a similar layering system, the same combination of hats, gloves, and socks. I will switch out my shell jacket for a climbing specific jacket and use different boots for climbing. The boots I will use are my Olympus Mons 8000m boots. These are the same boots you would use on Everest and may be a little more that what is needed for Vinson, but they are warm and light and it is better to have too much than too little. The other advantage we will have is that between expeditions we will have the opportunity to go to Union Glacier camp for a shower, a hot meal and a change of clothing. This is a luxury in the expedition world.

Climbing: For climbing we need to have all the essential safety gear to get us up and down the mountain. We will wear a climbing harness and we will be roped together at all times when outside of the immediate vicinity of camp. We are on a glacier and crevasses lurk everywhere and a fall into one could prove deadly. When we travel between camps we will always be roped together. For the head wall between low and high camps we will be roped together, but we will also be connected to a fixed rope for added security. The 1200m face of the head wall is secured with a long rope connected to the slope every 200m. As we ascent this slope we have a tether from our harness to an ascension device that clips to the fixed rope. This device will slide up the rope, but will lock off in the event of a fall protecting the climber and the team. We will have crampons on our boots to provide traction in the snow and ice and will carry an ice axe for assistance in climbing and to use to stop a fall if necessary. As the guide I will carry an additional assortment of safety gear from slings, carabineers, snow pickets, pullies, ice screws and more. I need to be prepared to rescue one of my team members should they fall into a crevasse of down a slope.

Camping: For camping we will all the same items, but we will switch out our tents for mountain specific tents that can remain strong even in heavy snow loads and shifting wind patterns. We will switch from our Hilleberg tents to a North Face VE25 which is a mountaineering standard. At Base Camp we will have a large dome tent to use for meals and team meetings and we may even take this with us to Low Camp. At Base Camp we will also have a table and chairs which is luxurious after the simplicity of the South Pole trip. All tents will be secured with multiple lines to the ground as the mountain winds can be extremely strong and gusty and you cannot afford to have a tent blow away or become damaged in a storm. Otherwise we will use the same sleeping and cooking system, but our food will be much better than on the South Pole trip (I will discuss this in a future blog).

Navigation: Navigation on the mountain is quite simple. You basically follow the path of least resistance. Each year the route is established by the first teams in to find the safest path with the fewest crevasse and avalanche hazards. Each group after will follow this path making any necessary changes due to changes in the conditions. As the guide I will also have a map, compass and GPS just on case we get caught in a white out storm. Mostly we walk up hill and then down hill avoiding the really hard and dangerous stuff.

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