AMHERST – David Christie has climbed higher mountains, but he knows he’s in for a challenge when he departs for the South Pole and an assault on Antarctica’s highest summit.
A retired Amherst lawyer, the 65-year-old Lorneville resident departed Boxing Day on an expedition to climb the Vinson Massif.
“It’s going to be a challenge and an adventure,” Christie said. “Getting to the summit would be nice, but it’s not mandatory. Getting home is. If there’s any kind of medical emergency or equipment problem you’re at the mercy of the a plane that can only fly when the weather is good. You’re a long way from help if something goes wrong.”
Located 1,200 kilometres from the South Pole, the Vinson Massif is one of the world’s Seven Summits and rises to 16,050 feet. The height is not the issue, Christie said, it’s the conditions the expedition is going to face.
“It’s technically a very difficult climb. I’ve climbed much higher but the extreme cold and the technical requirements of the climb will make it very difficult. I’m a little more apprehensive about this climb than any of the others I have done,” Christie said. “Minus 40 temperatures are very common and that’s without wind. If the wind comes up it’s a no go. You have to hunker down and wait it out.
After arriving at the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas, the group will assemble and prepare to leave for Antarctica and camp on the Union Glacier that is the jumping off point for expeditions to the South Pole and the mountain.
He expects to spend a couple of days on the glacier to acclimatize to the artic climate before flying to the launch location at the base of the massif. He’s not sure how long the actual climb will take, mainly because of the reliance on weather conditions, but he’s expecting he will be on the mountain for several days.
The group will be climbing in 24-hour daylight using fixed lines, campons, snow axes, climbing harnesses and ascenders. He will also be wearing layered clothing and must make sure none of his skin is exposed, relying on a balaclava and goggles to protect his face.
“This is going to be a one-shot deal, if I don’t make it I won’t be going back,” he said. “Age is working against me.”