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First Ascent Team Returns to Vinson Basecamp
Posted on January 12, 2011

Story and photos by Jake Norton

The great climber and author Greg Child once wrote: “Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the top is the answer to the question of why we climb.”

Climbing, and the reason we do it, is an elusive thing. There is no straighforward, definitive answer, and I’ve struggled with it since I began climbing in 1986. I guess to some extent it’s relative to each person. For some, it may be the overall challenge. Others are motivated perhaps by a specific summit or group thereof. To each his or her own.

For me, as I labored under a heavy pack today, dragging a laden sled behind me, the question arose as it often does: Why am I doing this? Why am I thousands of miles from my children, my wife, my home, and my friends, struggling in tough conditions with aching feet and a sunburned nose? Why?

It was as if the mountain heard my query. As I moved, a gentle breeze brought a layer of Antarctic ice fog up the glacial valley. The sun above was muted, and a giant, irridescent sundog formed above me. The frigid snow crunched beneath my feet, and massive walls of rock, snow, and ice rose in every direction. It was absolutely silent, and yet deafening in its majesty.

Yes, this is why I climb. These moments of solitude that are wholly grounding, humbling, and innately inspiring. They rarely come to me on top of a mountain, and are never predictable. But, they always come, they always inspire, and they never cease to make all the pain, cold, suffering, and challenge worth it.

I now sit in my tent at Vinson Basecamp, the sun peeking through a thick fog above. The team is all happy and fulfilled, laughter and conversation filtering around.

It’s been a great handful of days on Mount Vinson. Tomorrow, or the next day, Ed, Cindy, David, and Ben will fly off on a Twin Otter, and the rest of us—Peter Seth, Caroline, Kent, and I—will stay on to do some skiing and climbing.

More adventures await.

Audio dispatch by Peter Whittaker

Author: - Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

  1. Ben Mengden

    This is a beautiful story by Jake!
    And an excellent audio feed from Peter as well.
    I am so many miles away and it is nice to have a window into what you guys do.
    Wishing the team all the best and more moments of majesty and beauty.

  2. Tiffany

    Congrats on the summit! It’s nice to know that whether it is a weekend warrior in the Olympics or a professional mountaineer at the bottom of the world, we all share the same thoughts. Thanks for sharing. Be safe in your travels and get in some excellent skiing!


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