Antarctic Expedition – Days 17-23: Descent into hell or paradise?
My previous expedition articles:
- Antarctica Expedition: my craziest adventure to date!
- How to follow me in Antarctica
- Antarctic Expedition – Day 7
- Antarctic Expedition – Day 8
- Antarctic Expedition – Day 11: A Huge Antarctic Storm is Coming!
- Antarctic Expedition – Day 12: Our protective wall collapses with the first gust of wind!
- Antarctic Expedition – Days 13 & 14: Small pleasures on an expedition
- Antarctic Expedition – Day 15: We depart for High Camp
- Antarctic Expedition – Day 16: To Summit or Not To Summit?
You’ve probably heard it said before: “It’s sometimes easier to climb up a mountain than to climb down” or “80% of accidents happen during descent.”
Well yes, I can confirm that both of the above are true!
After a short night of sleep at High Camp, we pack up super early, because the goal is to descend directly from High Camp at 3800m to Base Camp at 2100m by only passing through Lower Camp 1 to recuperate and organize our sleds.
I’ve already fallen 8 times since the start of our descent (nothing serious, just bruises and my damaged pride) so the objective of the day is not to fall!
This is especially important since 75% of the descent between High Camp and Lower Camp consists of fixed ropes over an abyss which we’ll descend with nothing but our arms wrapped in the rope to serve as a brake. We’re also carrying our 20+kg backpacks which significantly affects our stability!
Nevertheless, between my vertigo and the slippery ground, I fell 3 times! I can’t say I wasn’t scared! But #noexcuses, I picked myself up and kept on.
We arrive at Lower Camp after an intense and exhausting descent, for the body overall but particularly stressful on my ankle joints. But the view is so beautiful that I project myself into the beauty to transcend the pain, and think only of enjoying the present moment.
No rest at Lower Camp as we’ve got to rearrange our belongings between our sleds and backpacks and head out for the last descent. I assume it’s going to take just 1 hour, but it takes 3.5 (!) replete with pain at every step.
Finally, Base Camp appears! Wohoo! Happiness is just around the corner!
The weather is super overcast and a Twin Otter plane that could have safely returned us to Union Glacier only passes over our head…the weather conditions are bad and it’s impossible to land!
And here’s the real reason this post is titled “Antarctic Expedition – Days 17-23“. Because it looks like we’ll be stuck at Base Camp for 5 days now! With dwindling food supplies and a lack of clear information, our group’s morale is plummeting. Except for me 😉 because, frankly, how can you complain about being stuck in a magical place!
That said, we are stuck, so to stay in shape I commit to circling the camp 6 times daily while dragging a huge bag. We’re also eating a rich and poorly balanced diet: chocolate, pasta, rice, etc. No fruit of course! We find a bag of flour though, so we make calzones, donuts and other delicacies!
Finally! After an interminable wait, we get the good news: the Twin Otters are coming (3 of them)! Wohoo!! We pack up, fold the tents and end up arriving at Union Glacier on December 21, instead of December 15.
Due to the terrible weather conditions, we are stuck at Union Glacier until December 24th at noon (we are 5 days behind schedule). But I was able to take my first shower since December 7th! Pure joy!
I also took the opportunity to visit the Union Glacier expedition doctor for treatment: my skin infection (left foot), my frostbite and huge blisters (right foot). Thanks to the delay I can heal myself. Always the bright side to look at!
What a magical adventure filled with unpredictable moments!
On we go!
Your LeBootCamp Coach
Tags: Antarctic Expedition Antarctica fitness fitness challenge lebootcamp motivation mountain mountain climbing mountaineer mountaineering mt. vinson Valerie Orsoni valerieorsoni