After breakfast Thursday January 7th, the expedition team was split into three PODS. These are the smaller teams that we will be climbing Vinson in and each POD has 2 members of the guiding team. Sticking with the theme of Antarctica, we named the pods after penguins that are native to the continent – Rock hoppers, Gentoos, and Chinstraps. My POD is the Rockhoppers. Splitting into our groups right away, we conducted our initial gear checks of our POD team in their rooms, followed by a trial run of setting up the expedition tents at the ALE offices. ALE is Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions – the travel company taking us down to Antarctica. The afternoon was spent gathering last minute snacks and missing gear items.
Last night, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Dreams Hotel restaurant – our only group meal in Punta Arenas. As a follow up to the soldier team telling their personal stories at training camp in Canmore, the spotlight was on the civilians last night, who shared their backgrounds and why this trip was so important to them. The room was full of emotion and intrigue – a truly memorable evening for everyone.
Yesterday morning we had a weigh-in with ALE for each person’s expedition duffle bag. They are weighed and taken to the airport in advance, so that the plane is packed and ready to go when the weather in clear. Everyone passed the weigh-in and loaded their bags into a truck. The afternoon was spent relaxing, checking out Punta Arenas and taking care of last minute details.
In the evening, we had a meeting at ALE to go over the final details of the flight and climb in Antarctica. Participants were able to ask their final questions and pick up their boarding passes. The pick-up time at the hotel on Saturday is 7:00 am. Participants will be heading to the airport at that time and boarding the plane to Antarctica. As weather conditions can change at any time, I know that we cannot be sure that we are going to Antarctica until we have LANDED in Antarctica. Everyone cross your fingers!
Saturday update : The entire expedition team has landed safely in Antarctica. Now the fun and the real work can begin!