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 Bernard Voyer: Vinson 2001

 

After standing at the Earth's three poles—the North Pole, the South Pole and Mount  Everest—Bernard Voyer has taken on a new challenge: A world tour via the highest mountain on each continent.

Starting November 8, 2001, Bernard Voyer will complete the last stop on his World Tour of the highest mountains, by climbing Mount Vinson (4897 meters), the highest peak in the Antarctic, with climbing partner Nathalie Tremblay.

Update 11/20/2001: Good news today! The first flight has reached Antarctica. The first was a DC-3, a Canadian plane, with a crew of just the pilot, copilot, a radio operator and a mechanic. Just four people. This DC-3 left Punta Arenas three days ago, landed on the Antarctic Peninsula at a British scientific base on the Antarctic point. After that, they weathered a few good storms, but very early this morning, the DC-3 was finally able to take off for Patriot Hills, the arrival point for the expedition to the Antarctic continent.

So this DC-3 was able to take off this morning - a flight of a few hours. It was able to fly over and land on the ice, since no landing strip has been prepared. This is what you could call a natural strip, with no preparation. This was the first plane to land at Patriot Hills this year. They landed in midday. They noted the natural condition of the ice and managed their first radio communication. We should now be able to fly out Thursday evening November 22 or very early Friday morning the 23rd, destination Antarctica.

We will be using a Russian plane know as an Ilyushin-76. This is an absolutely huge plane with four jet engines. Empty, it weighs 90 tones. For the flight from Punta Arenas to Patriot Hills, it will burn 35 tones of fuel one-way and could carry 50 tones of cargo (what we could call our baggage). The plane has a cruising speed of 800 km/hour. The distance from Punta Arenas to Patriot Hills is about 3,000 km and the flight takes roughly 4 hours and 15 or 20 minutes at an altitude of 9,000 to 10,000 meters. The captain's name is Vladimir. The crew of six Russians consists of highly trained specialists with extensive experience in landing on this icy terrain. In the past I have met crews on flights in Siberia and to the ice pack north of Siberia, toward the North Pole, and they are some of the best flight crews in Arctic or Antarctic conditions.

This plane will land with wheels rather than the skis on the DC-3, on a strip built on a mountainside, on a windswept natural field of moving ice. At Patriot Hills today, there is a 90 km/h wind, the ice is shifting and rugged, but we think the huge Ilyushin-76 will be able to bring in all the equipment, the communications staff for Patriot Hills, all safety personnel and members of the various expeditions pursuing various projects in Antarctica. Mountain climbers, skiers and other types of tourists or photojournalists must fly on this Ilyushin-76.

So we now have a green light if the good weather holds and there is no shift in the weather, and provided the wind in Antarctica dies down a little on Thursday evening or Friday morning. We're very hopeful. We met some mountain climbers who have already been waiting one month in Punta Arenas for the first flights. We should point out that the weather has been very bad in Antarctica this year. Six years ago, in 1995, Thierry Petry and I were able to land at Patriot Hills on November 5th for our expedition to the South Pole. This year, we should arrive on November 22 or 23.

Bernard Voyer

Update 11/22/01: Punta Arenas, Chile. We have just learned that the weather is still bad in Antarctica. The weather conditions that were supposed to improve are not improving. Thus, no flights are planned before Saturday.

We hope to be able to take the Ilyushin Saturday morning and fly to Antarctica. The Antarctic is exerting a strong pull on us. We hope it will be all we expect and that it will at least be nice enough while we are there so we can complete the expedition safely and quickly. Thus, we are very, very anxious to leave. We are hiking a great deal to stay in shape. We hope to send you some news soon and tell you that we are finally in Antarctica.

Nathalie Tremblay and Bernard Voyer

<<<< Dispatches >>>>

Check his web site for more up to date dispatches in French.

For more on Bernard on EverestNews.com including his interview after Everest see here.

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