Success on Mount Sidley (Antarctica). #6 on my challenge to climb all Volcanic 7 Summits in one year at 70.
After 30 hours of flights from Montreal to Punta Arenas, Chile – then a Russian cargo plane (Iluysian) across the Antarctic Ocean to Union Glacier. Next a Canadian built Twin Otter prop for 5 hours across West Antarctica (a fuel cache re-supply half way) to the Executive Committee Range and rarely visited Mount Sidley. An extraordinarily beautiful shaped quarter -moon volcano rising majestically above the endless flat ice plateau of the Antarctic Continent. Pilot extraordinaire Russ Hepburn, Co-pilot Tyron So and engineer Kevin Bouwsema landed the small craft directly in the snow sastrugi-crusted crater. In all my years of climbing on multiple expeditions I have only had 1 woman teammate, but this time I was the only male plus Nate Opp as our guide. My three teammates all very accomplished climbers from Australia; Kate Sarah who has already done the 7 Summits and now just completed the Volcanic 7 Summits on Sidley. She is only the 13th person in the world to have climbed all 7 Volcanoes. Cheryl and Nikki Bart – mother/ daughter team have also climbed all 7 Summits together. Great teammates and great goal oriented mountaineers.
Mount Sidley has only been climbed about 35 times. It is so remote to reach (even for Antarctica) and there is little chance of support if something goes wrong. So the sense of wonder to be in such a serene yet grave world is truly captivating. It touches on the abstract to anyone living in a civilized environ. The sun circles the sky in the 24 hour summer solstice day and the extreme temperatures rise and fall at will. The fog smears the deadpan landscape much of the time in this huge region.
First after arriving, we built base camp, next day carried a cache to high camp and after a bad weather day moved up and established high camp and prepared for summit day. On the 14th January the fog lifted enough to push for the summit in eerie cloud fog conditions. There are huge snow mushrooms on the summit ridge that I am not sure if anyone knows exactly why they form. Up there in the low visibility you feel you are in some super-natural world. We were able to summit in the late afternoon.
I am now only one mountain – Ojos del Salado – away from completing the Volcanic 7 Summits. I will be starting this climb in about 10 days. It is the highest volcano in South America and the highest volcano in the world at 6893m (22,615 feet) straddling the border between Chile and Argentina.
I hope to inspire both young and old to Dare to Reach all they can be. It takes making hard decisions to begin a personal challenge, to persevere, to suffer and to risk failure. However such formidable rewards to body, mind and soul are immeasurable. The deep realization of achievement reaches deep within and lasts a lifetime.
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