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Conquering a new peak.

Byline: Daniel Munden

MR Al Busaidi could be forgiven for sleeping through the four-and-a-half-hour flight from the southern-most city in the world - Chile's Punta Arenas - to Patriot Hills, Antarctica.

Although his adventure was just beginning, his journey up to this point had been anything but simple.

His two bags, full of vital supplies and equipment, had been lost en route to Chile and missing in Sao Paolo, Brazil, for more than 72 hours.

Fortunately, poor weather conditions in the Antarctic meant that there was enough time to locate and forward the bags to Chile, although what was supposed to be a relaxing start to the expedition had proven anything but that.

Midnight sun greeted the expedition when they landed at Patriot Hills' makeshift runway on a Blue Ice glacier, which was followed by an 800metre walk to the main camp.

"The air was heavy with diesel and brown aviation gas, but once we arrived at the camp, it was incredibly clean and crisp," Mr Al Busaidi told the GDN.

"The camp is very well-established and comparatively luxurious, and everything there is either recycled or flown back to Chile for disposal - which means no litter is left behind.

"Even wastewater from washing and toilets is sealed up, frozen and flown back so no footprints are left behind at all," he said.

Due to the expedition's late arrival, caused by the volatile weather, the team went straight to sleep and settled down for their first night in the Antarctic.

The following day, Mr Al Busaidi explained that the team was informed that the weather was fair enough to travel to the base camp at Vinson and they made the 75-minute flight along the Ellsworth Mountains to their final destination.

Upon arrival, the team elected to walk the nine-km stretch from the base camp to low camp which should have taken them only a few hours to complete.

However, as Mr Al Busaidi explained, a combination of the weather, snow and the weight of the rucksacks and equipment slowed him down considerably.

"The climb should have taken us around six hours to complete but we had attempted a three-hour trial walk earlier in the nearby hills which I had really struggled with," he said.

"Our route from the Vinson camp to low camp followed the gradual rise of the Branscomb Glacier and due to the crevasse hazards we travelled roped together at all times.

"In the end, it only took us about four and a half hours to make the journey.

"I was particularly relieved I had no problem keeping up. Today was a very positive day for me," Mr Al Busaidi added.

Copyright 2009 Gulf Daily News

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Jan 28, 2010
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