Chris made it safely back to Chile and was able to load us a few snapshots of his expedition! He has roughly 48 hours in Chile before he will begin his long journey home, which will include 26 1/2 hours of just flying time. He should arrive in Alaska on Tuesday, January 14!
We will be sharing more photos soon, and plan to have another celebration once Chris gets decompressed (or at least me!). If you are interested in attending and hearing Chris’ detailed story with a slide show, please contact us through the Contact Form below, so that we can make the arrangements. And finally, Chris will be interviewed for the Channel 11 news. We will post the date and time as it becomes available.
As if Mt. Vinson wasn’t enough, Chris jumped at the opportunity to climb Mt. Shinn while waiting for their departure to Base Camp. Mt. Shinn is roughly 15,300 ft and is a part of the Seven Thirds (the third highest peaks on each continent).
As soon as I know Chris is back down to Base Camp, hopefully, in the next 24 hours, I will make a quick blog update and maybe we will have photos by then!
I did borrow a photo from his guide service (www.adventure-network.com) with views of Union Glacier from December 2013; the month Chris arrived.
Chris just called and was on the summit of Vinson Massif (Mt. Vinson). We only talked briefly, as he said it was pretty cold and you could hear the wind ripping through the sat phone. He did say he had some pretty amazing views, planned to snap a few pictures quickly, and make his way back down, out of the wind. He won’t be able to share any of these photos until he gets back to Union Glacier or even Punta Arenas, Chile, but before Chris left and throughout this trek, we have been working together on this very post. I wanted to capture for you all the mindset and mental strength he has when making these big pushes to the summit, the training before and how this has all changed his daily life. Mental strength is key and where our discussions always begin. When he decides to be successful at these climbs…
Surprisingly, Chris doesn’t decide he is going to be successful by making the summit. Chris decides he is going to be successful in small steps, to create great opportunity for success. He decides what he wants to accomplish and he pushes his limits. He pushes a little farther each time until he reaches his goal, and then he sets a new goal. While training, he decided how hard he was going to push, how fast his time should be, what his heart rate needs to be above. He decided his limits and then he pushed through them. This cycle is constant with him. During the ascent on this mountain, he said while in a whiteout (ground storm) all he could see was his ski tips. He just pushed one forward and then the next. Then again until he reached Camp 1.
Chris decides his goal and he doesn’t let up. Even when it was -10 degrees and pitch black outside, he decided it was “Gut check time”. Sounds cliché? Too athletic?
Chris exudes this mental strength in everything he accomplishes and he is as real as it gets. He sees everything as an opportunity; a new face, a new mountain, a new adventure – it all gets the same attitude. “Who do I want to be? Where is my opportunity to succeed? Can I create benefit for others? How am I going to make it happen?”
Once he is inspired; it is game on! That feeling of motivation is all he can focus on to make his improvement. He holds that motivation daily and he uses it to stay empowered to make those first steps, next steps, and final steps. Feeling the motivation and acting on it – is the success. Failure for him is only when he doesn’t try; to be motivated and to not take action. He breaks it down as small as he needs it to be for success.
Chris makes sacrifices. His goals become a priority. He eats healthy. He takes the stairs. He goes to bed earlier. He picks positive influences around himself. He puts energy into healthy relationships and conversations. He has a schedule, and he rarely makes adjustments. Chris decides what it will cost him to be successful and then he eliminates wasteful activities, wasteful foods, wasteful influences. He then puts it all into motion and gives it 100% effort. He decides who he wants to be.
We all find this inspiring, because we all want to be healthier, happier, more successful in our own goals. Chris knows he can’t take care of other people if he didn’t take care of himself. He decides the type of person he wants to be in every aspect of his life; as a partner, as friend, as a son, as an employee. He takes it all very seriously, but he hasn’t lost who he is either. He is jovial, caring and even a prankster. He is real. Deciding who you are, who you want to be and taking that first step is the key. None of this came overnight. Chris continues to grow into the man he wants to be and he follows his heart and Faith. He has stated several times that he feels “closer to God when alone in the mountain valleys” and looking to the summit.
I look to the mountains; where will my help come from? Psalm 121
I am proud of who Chris is becoming. He has done this all with class; he is not boastful or pretentious, and the only reason we share this at all, is because people find it inspiring. We all are inspired. I am, everyday, by his effort, his energy and his dedication. My heart just swells in his success, whether it be mountains or teaching Tilly a new trick. We can all make a difference. Find your inspiration, find your motivation and take the first steps.
Pictures to follow soon.
Vinson Base Camp
Chris really enjoyed base camp and the first trek out. The group did skills testing up Ski Hill, a nearby slope, as a way to sort out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Chris was pretty excited to be able to ski down and actually got in two runs. He has consistently been impressed with the strength of the group. The ages in the group run from age 32 to the late 40′s and early 50′s, with Chris being the youngest. They all did get a nice steak dinner and some Chilean wine; it was such a treat and only possible because they flew into base camp. It’s fun to think Chris is getting to really enjoy this trek since it is the last of the Seven. (Certainly not his last climb; climbing is in his veins now)
Luckily, Chris was able to ski to Camp 1. It might be the last of his skiing, but he enjoyed it. He did have to carry all of his gear on his back, which makes for a very heavy pack. The others towed their extra gear in sleds, dispersing their weight off their hips. The weather has come in a bit and so they are going to ring in the New Year tucked in the camp, resting up for Camp 2. There is a full day of rest and if the weather clears up enough, they will push on. Chris is expecting a summit window between Friday and Sunday, but they have weather contingency days still remaining if needed.
Camp 1 is roughly at 9,140 feet in a Valley with a GPS location of: Lat-78.500916 Lon-085.811600
Photos from Chris’ sat phone and of Base Camp, courtesy of ANI (www.facebook.com/adventurenetwork)
Travel Day 1
Chris left Alaska at 5 am December 26th, with big smiles and his typical giddiness. Packing for this trek was amazingly simple. Chris had all the cold weather gear needed. Many other climbing friends, who have already climbed Vinson, have described it as similar to Denali. Some even said they were colder in Alaska than Antarctica. But don’t worry – he did take his coldest gear and was set for an arctic expedition. Not so surprising, but Chris has managed to become such an efficient packer, that his luggage weighed 49.5 pounds. He called me minutes after dropping him off to say he had made it through security and his bags were all set with a nearly perfect weight.
Meanwhile, Tilly and I were missing Chris already. Some of these trips feel easy and some are just harder than others – strictly speaking for his “girls” at home. Tilly told me she was bummed. She pouted all the way home after the airport. She knew…the luggage was a dead give away. It smells too much like hiking and she knew she wasn’t going. Chris joked all week he was going to take her. Maybe she believed him…
The rest of his travel to the southern tip of Chile was uneventful and long. He arrived in Punta Arenas, which translates into Sandy Point. It is the most southern populated city in the world, with about 154,000 people. Chris was immediately amazed at the terrain being so similar to a flatter Kodiak Island; with rocky and sandy shores, short, stubby trees, and long wispy grasses. The wind whips right off the Magellan Straits- the only protection from the ocean and Antarctica. The daylight this time of year is very similar to Alaska’s June-July: bright! Chris loved the light as it felt a bit like home.
Gear Check and Orientation
The operation of his Expedition team, Adventure Network International, (ANI – http://www.adventure-network.com) is top-notch! He has been very impressed with the logistics and the thoroughness of the entire group. We had a little inkling of such when Chris completed the application process and it included a 20-page resume for him. Chris was able to meet his teammates, which are actually not from the US as he had previously been informed. There are two men from the UK, one man from Auckland and one man from France. The poor French guy is the only non-English speaking guy, but while he doesn’t speak English as his first language, Chris has noted he is pretty tough and personable. He lost 7 fingers and 7 toes in an avalanche in the Himalayas. All of Chris’ team is made up of pretty tough and hardy guys, with most completing the Seven Summits this trip.
Chris also was impressed with the orientation from the guide services. The outfit is just all around great.
He was also able to take in the views of the town and enjoy a nice dinner before taking off for Union Glacier, Antarctica.
Ilyushin Il-76 to Union Glacier and a chat with Vern Tejas
I cannot explain what it is about this guy and planes! He was pretty excited to fly into Union Glacier on a commercial freighter, Ilyuhin Il-76 (pronounced like Aleutian). I cannot even begin to relay the “specs”. All I know is it had a big back door for the “ice vehicles” and everyone headed to Union Glacier (climbers, researchers, scientists, support staff) were on board with no windows for 4 .5 hours. During the flight, he spent time catching up with Vern Tejas, a well-known climbing legend.
Chris did say the landing on the ice runway was incredible. It is extremely long and takes a very long time for the plane to stop. The glacier camp itself is pretty big and pretty plush. There is a weather station and several different groups there; research groups, other climbing groups and tons of support groups.
While at Union Glacier camp, Chris spent time talking with Scott Woolums. Woolums was Chris’ first climbing guide on Denali in 1999. It was sort of like coming around full circle; Chris was just 19 when he met Woolums and now Chris is finishing the “7″ nearly 10 years later.
Phone call: “I forgot something…something big.”
Chris stayed only one night at Union Glacier. He had an excellent meal and a good night’s sleep in a huge double walled sleep tent. Since Chris was the 5th person to sign-on for the trek, he seems to be getting everything to himself. He also found out here that he might be the only one with skis. They were trying to set him up with a guide who also has skis, as the conditions were perfect. It is about here that I received the following call:
Chris: “um…Honey, I forgot something big…real big”
Me: “Oh no! What?”
Chris: “I can’t believe it! I should have know better. I forgot something real big! Big, big!”
Chris: “My snowmachine…I need my snowmachine here. It awesome – I could go so many places….”
Twin Otter to Base Camp
The next call from Chris was at base camp. He had flown in via Twin Otter on skis and loved every minute of it. The weather was beautiful, a few patches of fog, but he could see for miles. He also ran into his friend from Everest, Lhakpa Gelu, that was previously discussed in the post Kathmandu to Lukla. This was becoming quit the social event!
Vinson Base Camp is roughly 95 miles from Union Glacier and at an elevation of 7,020 ft above sea level. For more infer on base camp, check out the guide info page: http://www.adventure-network.com/vinson-base-camp. From here Chris will rest and then began the ascent.
For those asking about the TV interview, “On Point with Bill Walker”, I hope to have a link soon. Thanks!