vinson, union glacier, antarctica, ALE

Hopping from foot to foot at the mountains door

On Vinson we first take an Iluyshin 76, then a ski-equipped Twin Otter over to Vinson. 

The Ilyushin 76. A remarkable plane to visit a remarkable place.

As we hop from foot to foot, eager to get onto the mountain, the wind howls, it rains or snows, the clouds come in and fade away. On the tight schedules that so many of us live on, this could be one of the biggest challenges, just waiting. Climbers aren’t known for their ability to chill. 

What to do? Food, and perhaps drink. Who needs an excuse for a great local meal – a bit of research and a boring evening could turn into something unforgettable.

Or just visit the classics, Fire and Ice in Kathmandu, another round at the Fairview Inn in Talkeetna, Alaska, or just wander back from the Straits of Magellan to the deep leather seats at the Schackleton Bar in Punta Arenas, Chile. 

There is of course, the unexpected. Freeport Mine below Carstenz, in an attempt to look after its’ employees has carved a rather challenging (at least for me) golf course out of the jungle in Indonesia.

alex hillary, dingo, carstenz base camp
A dingo tempted by sausages at Carstenz Base Camp, an almost pet to be adopted to pass the time. Photo: Alex Hillary

When your helicopter for the day is cancelled, a short drive should still allow for a quick 9 holes and dinner at the Country Club – who would of known. And perhaps the clouds lift on the morrow, and if not, just go back and play a game or two of chess on the monster board in the atrium.

Sometimes forgotten by high speed travelers, the gate-way to Antarctica in southern Chile, sits in Patagonia. And a quick and easy car rental will get you the 1/2 a day drive north to the spectacular Torres de Paine. With a few days to spare you can take in the famed W or O treks and brave a bit of the Patagonian wind to prepare you for Antarctica.

On the food front, the famed Lomito’s is still serving up a tasty Humburguesa con Queso, which with a tall Austral Calafate Cerveza,can easily while away a few hours.

Matt and Jenny headed south on last years Antarctic flight for a honeymoon ascent of Mt Vinson.

For a mix of sours in the cocktail range, head halfway up the hill to Yegua Loca beside the lookout for the classic Pisco, Calafate, or Matte mixed into a tall thin glass and served with a good hint of foam. This may not be the healthiest option but tis fun.

There is very tasty bread and pastries at a number of patisseries dotted around and it is rare to not find a coffee shop with a good espresso machine every block or two.

One must, zen like on the approach to the 7 summits, embrace the wait.