December 3 – Waiting to fly to the ice

Listen to Audio of Wally's Call (.wav)

Hello to everyone watching as well as the dispatch page at Berg This is Wally Berg on December 3 calling from Punta Arenas, Chile at the very tip of the continent of South America.

Will Cross, working with the Panasonic toughbookThis will be the first dispatch for the Berg Adventures Vinson 2003 team. Our team consists, besides me, of Gus Pope from Cayman. Gus and I last climbed together on Elbrus in 2002. And also Will Cross. Will is here on his latest adventure with a lot of polar and altitude experience behind in recent years. A couple of things being just last year he was here in Punta and took off down to Antarctica and completed the Ultimate Walk to Cure Diabetes (see Will's web site at He walked all the way from Patriot Hills, where we’ll be in just a few hours we hope, to the geographic south pole on foot. Just the year before, on the Novolog Ultimate Walk to Cure Diabetes, the other side of our globe, Will walked on foot to the geographic north pole.

We’ve been dealing with a familiar scene. Many of you probably followed the last time I was down here, in 1999 and 2000, with the Omega Foundation Expedition to Embree Glacier – you probably followed that on Mountainzone. And you know hanging out in Punta Arenas is part of this experience.

Gus Pope in Punta ArenasPunta is a lovely port city town full of sailors, tourists, some polar and Patagonia tourists, and really friendly collection of locals.

We hang out here waiting to be deployed down to the ice. As I speak the big Ilyusion Russian jet is sitting out at the airport. In fact, the entire flights that’ll be going down for the next trip to Antarctica, went out to the airport yesterday thinking we’d get a go. But Mike Sharp, the Station Manager down at Patriot Hills, down at 81 degrees south in Antarctica, and his meteorologist Jacko, sent us information indicating the winds were too high yesterday.

We stayed on call for most of the day yesterday. Finally at 9 pm last night we went to bed and we’re back watching the winds today.

At 12 noon today, Jacko reported 24 knot gusts and gusting to 32 knots. That’s still a bit too high. The Ilyushin will take about four and a half hours to fly from Punta Arenas down to the ice and we need to get down there with the winds considerably lower than that to land that big jet on the blue ice runway.

But while we were hanging in Punta before the first flight to Antarctica got off, and as many of you know, the first flight did get off for the season, we got to hang out with some old, good friends of mine. In particular, Rosie Stencer from the UK who will be doing this year an unsupported solo crossing from Hercules Inlet all the way to the South Pole.

We also got reconnected with Pen Hadow, an old friend of mine from previous polar seasons and Simon Murray who will be doing their own project down there. You’ll be hearing more about that, also heading to the pole.

It’s also great to run across the season’s collection of adventurers before they head down to the ice. And that’s been enjoyable for us so far in Punta.

I’ll continue to keep you posted now about the updates we get on the weather. It’s a pretty wild situation, living in a hotel, having your polar clothes ready, your big boots, everything set to get on a plane and deploy down to Antarctica, but at the same time being relaxed at Punta Arenas.

We’re on call, ready to go, relaxed. Gus and Will and myself are enjoying Punta for the time being but the next time we call, perhaps we’ll be on the ice. If it takes a bit longer, I’ll keep you updated on the reports from Jacko and Mike down at Patriot Hills and let you know what our prospects are of getting out of here.

Remember that there’s 24 hours of light down there and here at Punta right now there’s virtually 19 hours of light every day. So we can fly at virtually any time the winds cooperate down in Antarctica.

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This BAI expedition
is sponsored by:

AlpineAire Foods

Panasonic Toughbooks