Five South Africans the first to summit Antarctic peak

2015-01-14 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Three Durbanites are among five South African mountaineers who were the first to summit an unnamed peak in Antarctica’s Ellsworth mountain range.

Durban businessperson Iain Buchan and his two sons, Zack and Barney and Unlimited executives Steph Bester and Martin Schultheis wrote on their blog that they next get to name the peak.

The Buchans had decided on the sub-zero adventure after they trekked to the South Pole two years ago. Veteran Arctic explorer Peter Berning and Ken Watt accompanied them as guides.

While their relatively low, unnamed 1 859 metre peak could fit twice into Mount Vinson — Antarctica’s highest peak — which the crew had climbed earlier, it still required a tough climb of 700 metres to get to “their” top.

Buchan said in his blog the climb got really technical at the end.

“As we were crossing a blue ice section, the seven of us all roped up together — the five of us and the two guides — Peter Berning, who was at the end, slipped on the ice and three of the three guys at the back went down. They were hanging on the ice but the four of us at the top held everything ­together and it was fine. So whilst there was no real danger, the heart beat did increase dramatically.”

Buchan said they were very lucky with the weather. “When we went up to the summit of Mount Vinson, the temperature was -25°C but the 25-knot wind knocked this even lower to around -50°C, which is the maximum of human endurance. For the last three days, nobody has been able to summit Vinson. We are realising now just how fortunate we were to make the summit of Vinson and it’s just incredible that the weather held for us again today.

“We have had a slight breeze and the temperature is about -20°C.”

They climbed up to 12 hours per day, carrying packs of 25 kilograms each, over five layers of specialised thermal clothing to survive these temperatures.

After spending almost a month in these sub-zero temperatures, the men are on their way back to sunny South Africa and will land on Monday.

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