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Antarctic Christmas Gift is a New Mixed Line on Vinson

The new mixed route ascending the west face of Mt. Vinson (4892m), Antarctica. Climbed by Maria Paz “Pachi” Ibarra (Chile) and Jarmila Tyrril (Slovakia) on December 20, the line was the first established by an all-female team on Vinson. [Photo] Damien Gildea

Alpinist correspondent Damien Gildea is in Antarctica again, on his ninth trip to the continent, and the Omega Foundation team’s early reports are buzzing with excitement. (Read about the Foundation’s 2006-7 expedition in the December 12, January 16 and January 30 NewsWires.) Most notably the team survived a particularly nasty storm and established a new 1200-meter mixed route on Antarctica’s tallest peak, Mt. Vinson (4892m).

Tyrril works up the 1200-meter west face of Mt. Vinson. With Ibarra she climbed the headwall in five hours and spent another five reaching the main summit via the normal route. [Photo] Maria Paz “Pachi” Ibarra

The new route was climbed on December 20 by Maria Paz “Pachi” Ibarra (Chile) and Jarmila Tyrril (Slovakia) on the northern end of Vinson’s west face. They began the line at 7 p.m. (taking advantage of twenty-four-hour sunlight), reached the top of the headwall around midnight, and continued along the ridge via the normal route to access the main summit at 5 a.m. in a whiteout. They returned to low camp at 10:20 a.m. The route is the first on Vinson established by an all-female team; Tyrril’s ascent was the first by a Slovakian woman.

A week prior, 12 kilometers out from Vinson base camp, a heinous storm broke poles on both tents, forcing the team to take drastic measures. “We were trying to hold up half the tent against the blast, as well as support the pole remains, so I had a pole running up my spine and against my head for eight hours, constantly thumping me with the wind,” Gildea reported. “But if the tent inners broke, our only hope would be to huddle in the remains, in our sleeping bags, and let the storm blow and snow around and over us, hoping to out-suffer it.” During a lull Tyrril skied to retrieve a backup tent. They waited out the storm for two days before setting off to acclimatize on Vinson.

An Antarctic Christmas tree built from skis, bamboo wands, climbing hardware–and even some holiday paraphernalia. [Photo] Damien Gildea

In the days since the Vinson ascent the team has moved their equipment toward the next objective, Mt. Epperly. Festively. “Today, Christmas Eve, Camilo and Pachi erected a Christmas tree out of skis, bamboo wands, climbing hardware, assorted bits and pieces and some special Christmas stuff they’d packed ages ago. That was the activity for the day, while we watched the weather finally clear over the big peaks with just some strong winds remaining up high. Hopefully Christmas Day will bring the gift of more blue sky–the first for weeks–and low winds.”

As the action continues, Alpinist will provide further updates from Antarctica.

Source: Damien Gildea