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Exploring Icy Mt. Shinn
Wednesday, December 08, 1999: Daily Stats

Mark Newcomb
The Team's Call from Antarctica
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Hi Mountain Zone, this is Mark Newcomb calling in with the 1999 Antarctic Ski and Snowboard Expedition. The descent yesterday was terrific. We had some great powder skiing and some great late-night sunlight. This morning, after 10 hours in my -40-degree sleeping bag, I poked my head out the tent door to find that the persistent mid-layer of ice fog that has shrouded the peaks the past few days had dissipated. While still rubbing the sleep from my eyes, the inspiration struck to give Mt. Shinn a try. Shinn is Vinson's northern neighbor, towering over the broad plateau on which our Camp III is situated. In many ways, Shinn is more spectacular and alluring than Mt. Vinson. Shinn rises in an abrupt, snowy pyramid aproned by spectacular seracs, dominating the immediate vicinity, and it's only a couple-hundred feet lower than Vinson. Vinson, on the other hand, hunkers way back out of site, requiring a multi-hour slog just to get to the base of its summit pyramid.

Well, Koch and Coombs were equally inspired. I beat them to the punch, however, and broke trail up an interesting little couloir that threaded a break in the seracs. A few hours later, I stood on the summit enjoying a spectacular view of Mt. Vinson to the south and the intimidating, steep and craggy Mt. Tyree to the north.

The skiing on the descent was not as good as Mt. Vinson, since Shinn seemed to be more affected by the wind, but it was a continuous and contained and exciting descent, nonetheless. Koch and Coombs summited a couple hours later and are presently carving their own turns on Shinn's icy slopes. This will be our third night at Camp III and we're all ready to descend to lower and warmer climbs.

Temps here hover between -20 and -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Everything frosts over and freezes. Even inside our tent, the temperature doesn't rise above five or 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A thick layer of frost coats the inside of the tent, sifting down over everything whenever one of us bumps the side of the tent. We joke that it's better man-made snow than we've ever seen at any ski area.

It also looks like another storm may be brewing on the horizon, which might prevent planes from flying and trap us at Vinson's Base Camp. It's an eerie reminder of just how remote this place is. We are a long way from home and none of us is interested in getting stuck in Antarctica for any great length of time. We're sure our loved ones back home feel the same way. While Coombs and Koch are negotiating the final crevasses near the edge of the serac, getting close to finishing their run, they are proceeding slowly, moving only 50-100 feet at a time. Perhaps they're being cautious, perhaps they're just enjoying their turns, perhaps their legs are very tired — probably all of the above. From here they look like flies on the wall. They'll soon be down, and I'll fire up the stove and make some hot brew for them. That's all for now, thanks from Antarctica.

— Mark Newcomb, Correspondent


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