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Pole to Pole

Day 138: Punta Arenas to Patriot Hills

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe Patriot Hills base is a collection of modern lightweight tents of varying sizes and colours - mostly red and white - made from Coldura, a reinforced nylon fabric. Patti has one to herself but five of us and Rudy will share. There is one tent which operates as kitchen, dining-room, drying-room, radio-room, office, library and general meeting-place. As far as I can see there is no such thing as a washing or bathing tent and the lavatory is a wooden frame over a plastic bag, with a low snow wall on three sides offering a degree of protection from the wind and the public gaze. It is easy to tell when it is occupied, and by whom, from the head above the wall.

I'm laying out my sleeping-bag when I hear the low roar of an aircraft, and get my head out of the tent just in time to see the DC-6 swoop less than thirty feet above the camp and away towards the mountains. Bruce is on his way back home and with him our only practical means of escape.

In the mess tent Scott, the doctor, and Sue from New Zealand have cooked up a hot, thick and nourishing meat and veg soup for everyone, after which the climbers - Japanese, Australian and New Zealanders - are ferried by single-engined Otter aircraft to the Mount Vinson Massif, one and a half hours away. Every bit of good, settled weather must be taken advantage of.

Peter Hillary is in the second wave of climbers to leave. He and his party will not be back for two weeks. I ask him if, as the son of Sir Edmund, he could ever have been anything other than a mountaineer.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 138
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 309

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