Puntas Arenas -November 14
At 6am I was just starting to stir from a pretty good night’s sleep when I heard the jiggling of a key in a door. At first I thought it was in a dream, then I realized it was not a dream. I thought it must be coming from one of the other rooms, but then realized it was too loud and it must be my room. I was about to get an unexpected visitor. Suddenly the door swung open and in walked Ron. I was not expecting him until 8:30 or later, but I guess his flights had gone smoothly and he got into Punta Arenas earlier than expected.
I have not seen Ron since Everest in 2008 and it was good to see him. We chatted for about an hour catching up until the people in the next room started to pound on the wall. Apparently the walls are paper thin and they were not real excited to listen to us chat at 6am. I suggested to Ron that perhaps he should lie down and get some rest and he responded that he was too wound up to sleep. Five minutes later he was out like a light.
I however, could not fall back asleep and read for a while and wrote my blog. I then made my way downstairs for breakfast. Our hotel is $87 a night and includes breakfast. It is not the fanciest or cleanest of places, but it does the job.
Breakfast was a selection of eggs, toast, cereal, yogurt, fruit, and crepes. Just as I sat down Ryan walked in and joined me. We ate and chatted for a while and then Ron came down to join us after a 2 hour nap.
We walked over to Ryan’s hotel to look at the maps and to discuss packing logistics and safety protocol on the mountain. At 11:00 Ryan went to a meeting at ALE (Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions). They will provide out flight and all the logistics for our trip.
We met Ryan for lunch at Lomito’s and reviewed the locations of the safety stashes of equipment at the various camps. We also went through the Antarctica environmental police.
Antarctica is a very clean place and the managing countries have imposed strict policies to keep it that way. Everything that goes in also comes out. All trash must be removed and severe fines are handed out if anyone is caught ditching garbage. Each person is supplied with three waste bags for solid human waste. All urine and grey water is contained to specific deposit locations at the various camps. This is the only place it is allowed. If you have to go pee as you are climbing the route you are required to use your pee bottle and dump it at the specified location at the camp. Ryan said that at the South Pole even urine is removed once it is frozen.
After lunch, Ron and I spent some time packing and then Ryan came over with the ski skins which we fitted to our skis. These will be used to give us traction as we pull our sleds and for skiing up hill. As I was putting the skins on my skis I realized that I had not removed the coating of wax I had put on before I left home. I tuned and waxed 10 pair of skis before I left and in all the business I obviously missed this final important stage with my expedition skis. So I took out my Air Canada member card and proceeded to scrape all the wax off. Although this was not the perfect tool for the job it worked just fine.
After some packing time Ron and I wandered around town for a while checking out the tourist shops and looking for post cards. Punta Arenas has many of the old world Spanish features like the ornate Spanish colonial buildings and the large park areas and the main square in the middle of town. The town seems to be fairly prosperous, but there is a big gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. There are a few obviously poor street people, but most seem to be doing ok. There are, however, quite a few very large homes and many BMW’s and Mercedes Benz’s driving the streets.
Stray, but friendly, dogs roam the streets in small packs and play in the parks. The temperature was 11c most of the day and we had off and on rain. The wind seems to be pretty constant with the only real change being how strong it is blowing.
Dinner at 7:30 was at La Luna and it was quite good. La Luna is a step up from Lomito’s in quality and price. Every patron was a tourist and most seemed to be of the wealthier kind. There is quite a mix of people in town from climbers, and skiers, and hikers, and bird watchers and cruise liners. Ryan and I had steak and fries and Ron had seafood pasta. It was all quite good, but not in our price bracket for every meal. We will hunt for a pizza joint for tomorrow’s dinner I think.
I am back in the hotel now and about to go off to bed. Tomorrow morning we go to a meeting at ALE. Everyone who is waiting to fly out is required to go to this meeting to review baggage logistics, flight logistics, safety regulations, and environmental regulations.
Several groups have been waiting for 10-14 days to fly out as all flights have been cancelled due to bad weather in Antarctica. There appears to be a clear spell moving in and we hope to fly out Thursday or Friday of this week. That will put us 1-2 days behind, but at least we are not 2 weeks behind like some of the south pole people currently are.
Summit Life! Scott out.