South African Adventurers Set to Conquer Antarctic Peak
Words & pics courtesy The Unlimited
To conquer a mountain that has never been climbed in conditions that are brutally cold – is it sheer madness or is it inspirational? Whatever your view, in January 2015 it will become a reality for a group of five South Africans when they set out for Antarctica to make history by climbing both Mount Vinson – the highest peak on the frozen continent – as well as an unnamed peak that has never been climbed.
The Twin Peaks Expedition is the brainchild of the founders of the financial services company The Unlimited; Iain, Zack and Barney Buchan. The father and sons team will be joined by veteran arctic explorer Dr Peter Berning and Ken Watt. The five adventurers will first tackle Mount Vinson, the coldest and most remote of the world-renowned Seven Summits, then take on a virgin peak in Antarctica’s Ellsworth Mountains.
The daunting quest to tackle two Antarctica summits was born during the team’s successful journey to the South Pole two years ago. Iain Buchan explains: “During our trek, we knew that we had to return to Antarctica. It is a cruel and harsh environment but within that sits a pristine beauty unlike anywhere on Earth. Trekking to the South Pole is a trial that pushes your mind and body to its limits, but Mount Vinson is the ultimate test. So we have taken up the challenge and decided that whilst we are there, we will really push ourselves by adding an unclimbed peak into the mix too!”
It is this mindset of pushing boundaries that became the foundation on which The Unlimited has been built. Twenty years later, it is a highly successful direct marketing business that is invested in developing leaders. “We have always been a ‘show and not tell’ business and hence, we will be forging new pathways on the most extreme continent on Earth. On our trek to the South Pole we learnt that leadership really comes to the fore in such extreme circumstances. When you take yourself out of your comfort zone, that’s when you really stretch and grow. That’s why we are going back – to force our own personal growth to the next level,” Buchan explains.
In an icy wilderness such as Antarctica, people underestimate the mental strength that is required – there are no trees, no animals, just endless white ice, average temperatures of -30°C and 24 hours of daylight. Your physical preparation is the only thing you can control.
The Unlimited Twin Peaks Expedition team have therefore taken their fitness very seriously. Through a tough training regime, they are all stronger than ever before. Buchan says: “This is not a trip where you can build fitness as you climb so the whole team has been training 4 to 5 times a week, pulling 20kg tyres, kettle bell training in the gym and climbing mountains whenever possible. Peter and myself have not been as fit are we are now since we played rugby for UCT in the 1970s! Even with this level of preparation though, we still expect both summits to be a huge challenge for everyone in the team.”
At 4 892m, Mount Vinson should not be a difficult peak to climb; but the combination of its remoteness, high winds and extremely low temperatures make the peak an incredibly tough climb. Even colder than Mount Everest, the average temperature for Mount Vinson can plummet to around -50°C and these biting wind-chill temperatures are the greatest threat to climbers.
“Depending on conditions, the Mount Vinson climb can take anywhere from four days to two weeks. Climbing is slow as the terrain is pocketed with lethal crevasses, so we will have to be roped together all the time. Frequent breaks are essential as we will also be dragging 20kg sledges with our equipment and sufficient provisions for the 14 days,” says Buchan. “The second peak is expected to take around four days but it will be a very different climb as the terrain is completely unknown, virgin territory.”
According to Steph Bester, CEO of The Unlimited, the company has put its weight behind the expedition as it dovetails with the business ethos. “This amazing attempt is extreme enough for us to put our name to – we believe in doing the extraordinary and these adventurers will achieve just that as The Unlimited Twin Peaks Expedition will push the limits of ordinary human endurance,” stated Bester.
The Unlimited Twin Peaks Expedition will start on Friday, 26 December 2014 when the team will travel from South Africa to Puntas Arenas in southern Chile. After a compulsory briefing on Antarctica, they will take a six-hour flight to the frozen continent followed by an immediate transfer to the Vinson Base Camp. After a couple of days acclimatising, weather permitting, they will start their ascent on 5 January 2015.
To follow the amazing journey of The Unlimited Twin Peaks Expedition and the regular updates from the team, visit www.theunlimited.co.za/twinpeaks.