A vast whiteness, the like of which I had never seen before.
It wasn’t the first time I had met both cold and mountain but it was the first time I had encountered such an incredible sense of remoteness. It’s a tough environment and one that doesn’t care for one’s personal travel plans. At least that’s how it appeared to me in 2008.
We had to wait a few days for a good weather window to fly to Patriot Hills and land on the blue ice runway. From there, we flew onto the Branscombe Glacier, where we were lulled into a false sense of security thanks to a few days of clear, warm days during which we hauled our sleds to the headwall. Leaving them there we pushed on to high camp. And Antarctica came to visit. The weather changed to such an extent that when we summited Vinson it was so cold (-40°C) that the autofocus on my camera seized up.
Back at base camp we had to wait five days before the Antarctic would let us fly back to Patriot Hills. The weather wasn’t finished with us. It kept us on that coldest of all continents until 28 December. Two weeks longer than planned. I missed Christmas with my family, the hardest blow the ice could have dealt. It has taken me a while to live that one down!