After breakfast yesterday, the expedition team was split into three PODS. These are the smaller teams that they will be climbing Vinson in and are each lead by two members of the Mountain Professionals guiding team. Sticking with the theme of Antarctica, we named the pods after penguins that are native to the continent – Rock hoppers, Gentoos, and Chinstraps. Splitting into their groups right away, the pods conducted their initial gear checks in their rooms, followed by a trial run of setting up the expedition tents at the ALE offices. ALE is Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions – the travel company taking them down to Antarctica. The afternoon was spent gathering last minute snacks and missing gear items.
Last night, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Dreams Hotel restaurant – our only group meal in Punta Arenas. As a follow up to the soldier team telling their personal stories at training camp in Canmore, the spotlight was on the civilians last night, who share their backgrounds and why this trip was so important to them. The room was full of emotion and intrigue – a truly memorable evening for everyone. In addition, I passed out sealed envelopes to each participant, with special notes that had been sent in from friends and family. The participants are able to open the envelope at any time, but have been advised to save it for a special moment!
This morning began with a weigh-in with ALE for each person’s expedition duffle bag. They are weighed and taken to the airport in advance, so that the plane is packed and ready to go when the weather in clear. Everyone passed the weigh-in and loaded their bags into a truck. As luck would have it, Michael Tait, who had been missing one bag after the flight to Chile, received his missing bag just as the truck was loading up. Phew!  The afternoon was spent relaxing, checking out Punta Arenas and taking care of last minute details.
This evening, we had a meeting at ALE to go over the final details of the flight and climb in Antarctica. Participants were able to ask their final questions and pick up their boarding passes.  Tomorrow’s pick-up time at the hotel is 7:00 am. Participants will be heading to the airport at that time and boarding the plane to Antarctica. As weather conditions can change at any time, I have been told that they cannot be sure that they are going to Antarctica until they have LANDED in Antarctica. Everyone cross your fingers!
Wishing you all a restful weekend – more to come with what I’m sure will be another eventful day tomorrow! The team will be mostly out of regular contact at that point, but I will do my best to provide regular updates over the next couple of weeks.