Antarctic Expedition – Day 16: To Summit or Not To Summit?
My previous expedition articles:
After a few hours of sleep (4!) we get out of our tent at High Camp and discover that:
📌 the weather is good enough to go up. That is to say: it’s very cold and there’s a beautiful sky, but no wind
📌 I left my GPS tracker outside in the freezing night and it couldn’t withstand -40°C. I’m pretty upset about because it means that my family, my friends and you are going to worry 😭
The decision is made: no acclimatization day at 3800m at High Camp but rather head straight for the summit.
For me, it’s a double big moment: bracing for the climb of course, but also, after my last 2 failed attempts on Denali, will I be able to break the spell and reverse the trend?!
With light bags (down clothing for the summit, ski goggles, a few snacks and drinks), crampons attached to our footwear and ice axes in position, we head out.
We start with two hours of a steady climb and then it gets a little steeper, coupled with fields of crevasses hidden under unbelievably beautiful ice sheets.
We make only two stops, as our guide likes to go up fast. To be honest, this method is not my style. I prefer more frequent and shorter stops than infrequent long ones. Apparently all girls are like me ;).
It’s there. In front of us. Ready. Well, almost! There’s still a nice circular climb followed by a steep ascent that literally has me crying my heart out, I am so exhausted. Between the urge to stop and throw in the towel and to give it my all and reach the top, the peak wins 👊
Step by step, frozen tear after frozen tear in my face mask, I finally arrive at the foot of the famous “summit ridge”. It’s narrow, stony and snowy, and no, we’re not there yet and the freezing wind has picked up so we put on our warmest down jackets.
I can’t really take it anymore, but the urge to be on this summit that is reaching out to me, for which I have been training for months, which has been denied us by storm for days, is the strongest of all!
I also want to make my son and my family proud, and all my friends who have been following me closely, including you…my entire community of love.
Ice ax after ice ax, battered by the icy and violent wind, I approach the Holy Grail! That’s it, my crampons make contact and I’m on this tiny bit of snow…visually insignificant, but huge by its fame and location!
I am the first Corsican and coach to reach this summit—the highest in Antarctica—which less than 900 crazy & amazing dreamers have reached to date!
In 2 minutes, it’s guaranteed frostbite. So we take one photo and that’s it. I take the photos of Birkan and Dawson with my thin gloves and I’m already freaking out because I no longer feel my fingers! I ask Dawson to take mine and end up with a single photo with Vanessa. Enough, we are frozen and we must get out of this ice!
We’ve got very few photos of this crazy day because we are roped up and hardly ever stop. Ryan doesn’t give a damn about pictures, it’s too cold and we’re not on a set with a photographer following us, so it’s tricky. I admit it’s frustrating to me to not have more, especially being someone who’s always taking everyone’s picture and loving to share my special moments with others, but hey…
I still haven’t grasped the magnitude of it all, but I know that during the really difficult times, I kept telling myself “you are unstoppable“—the very phrase on my LiliWarrior t-shirt which has been with me for 10 days! And thanks to its special eco-friendly fabric, even after days of intense efforts, it’s perfectly dry & odor-free!
Back to High Camp for a much needed sleep! During the descent, I fall EIGHT TIMES! Yes, 8! Exhaustion surely! No big sores because I fall with a measure of grace 😂
I fall asleep saying to myself, “wow, I did it, that’s crazy!” 🤩
🩹 Burnt lips that were almost healed yesterday? With the extreme cold and wind, it started again 🙁
🤕 I lost half of my hair and I’m sad about it, but Vanessa tells me it’s an offering to the mountain. Fair enough, she’s right!
🩹 The onset of my skin infection has grown, but I don’t have my special skin antibiotics with me, so it’ll have to wait for our return to Camp 1.
🤕 A little more pain under the pad of my right foot, I’ll put on a moleskin padding tomorrow
🩹 Bruises everywhere from all my falls of the day
We have to face the facts! Going on an expedition to Antarctica to climb its highest peak and then ski to the South Pole is not going to be a country walk! No comfort for several weeks. There is no place to warm up when the thermometer shows -40°C, the wind is blowing hard enough to scare you, the snow is hiding your tracks or a wild blizzard has you stuck at Camp 1.
And above all, there’s no going back! That’s right, there’s no kind rescuer who can weather a storm to come and get you in the event of a problem. So, it’s about accepting the present moment, refusing to surrender when your blisters bleed, the slope is steep, the backpack tears your shoulders or fear seizes you. It’s telling yourself, “I am stronger than I think and YES, I can do it!”
It’s telling yourself, “no one can do this for me”. In our culture, we are so afraid of pain, that the slightest 42-letter ailment (yes, doctors like to scare us with long & frightening technical terms) paralyzes us. So when the pain gets real out here, it’s about telling myself, “damn it I haven’t trained like this for months only to give up!” (and even if I want to, I can’t!). In short, THE SWEET TASTE OF VICTORY IS PREFERABLE TO THE BITTER TASTE OF DEFEAT!
Wahoo! Honestly? I’m super proud of myself, because damn it, I have had moments of despair but in the end, The Force that lies deep within us was my best companion!
Believe in your dreams, believe in yourself!
Your LeBootCamp Coach