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with Stefan Nestler

Whiteout at Mount Vinson

Mount Vinson

Christmas with the family beneath the Christmas tree – this might not happen for about 40 mountaineers in Antarctica. For about a week now, several teams have been stuck in the base camp at the foot of the 4,852-metre-high Mount Vinson, the highest mountain of the continent. Severe storm with speeds of around 100 kilometers per hour and heavy snowfall have been preventing aircrafts from taking off or landing there for days. “We rationed the food for one warm meal a day,” writes Manuel Möller, with whom I was on an expedition to the 7,129-meter-high Kokodak Dome in 2014, where we succeeded the first ascent. Manuel had actually wanted to be home again on 21 December: “We are now prepared for still spending Christmas here.”

Turned around 150 meters below the summit

The Vinson Massif

Jürgen Landmann, who like Manuel belongs to the five-member team of the German expedition operator Amical alpin, writes on Facebook about a possible “mini good weather window” on 27 December: “Let’s hope that we get away from here then!” According to him, the team had to turn around 150 meters below the highest point during their summit attempt. One of the climbers suffered frostbite on her nose and cheek during the ascent, Manuel adds, “but things are looking better again”.  The team had good weather only on two out of ten days on the mountain, he says.

Mood in base camp still calm

“The season here is completely crazy,” writes Manuel. “The rangers said they’d never seen so much bad weather before. Yesterday there was 15 centimeters of fresh snow. Normally it snows here one centimeter a year.” The atmosphere in the base camp is calm despite the delay, says Manuel, adding that there is enough food for another two weeks, and petrol is still available too. “So there is no immediate danger of starving or dying of thirst,” reassures Manuel. “Nevertheless it is somehow stupid, since it is not foreseeable when the conditions will improve.” So keep your fingers crossed!


22. December 2018 | 19:38