Peak season arrives
On Christmas day, Dan Mallory threw on some warm clothes, scrambled out of his tent and stood out in huge wind gusts at the end of the world.
"I loved it," said the Barrie insurance broker, just hours after stepping off the plane at Pearson International Airport. "I was out there by myself just revelling in this howling snowstorm, this power of nature."
'There' is low camp on Mount Vinson in Antarctica. With him were his daughter, Laura, and son, Adam. The trio, along with Mallory's other son, Alan, accomplished an unparalleled feat three years ago as the first family to successfully climb Mount Everest.
The latest venture to reach the summit of the highest peak in Antarctica -- which they accomplished Dec. 27 -- places the senior Mallory with select company as one of fewer than 300 people worldwide to have conquered the Seven Summits.
And there's a good chance that his children might follow in his footsteps, having already managed some of the more difficult and more expensive climbs with their dad.
"Looking back, even though we did not have the best weather that we could have, I am glad that we did run into a few challenges," said Laura Mallory in an e-mail from her brother Alan's home in Santiago, Chile, where she is vacationing after the climb. "It gave us something to overcome and I think because we had to wait and gain the respect of the mountain that, when we conquered it, it was more rewarding than if we had just summited after a week.
I have now conquered four out of the Seven Summits," she wrote. "Who knows what the future will bring, but this is definitely not the end of my climbing career and the Seven Summits are a goal of mine."
Even though the senior Mallory has just spent the night en route, going first to his office to check e-mails, he doesn't look a bit tuckered.
After sleeping three people in a two-man tent in at the edge of a remote mountain in sub-zero temperatures with 60-to 80-kilo-metre winds, a night on a comfortable plane seat can seem downright luxurious, he said. But even then, on the mountain, after gruelling climbs that left his legs burning, sleep came easily -- 10, 12 hours a night.
Progress toward the summit of Mount Vinson seemed to go smoothly and easily. And, with their mandatory guide, they sat at high camp, waiting for the weather to break to allow them to make their bid for the summit. But the forecast promised the weather would get worse and the consensus was to go back to low camp to wait out the huge winds.
"I wasn't in agreement with that," said Dan, his sun-kissed face now sporting a full beard.
Not only was he outvoted, but the 59-year-old Barrie native chatted with some of the others at high camp. Among them was a Sherpa guide who has successfully climbed Everest 10 times, his latest bid, just this past year, was without oxygen.
"I kind of respected his decision," said Mallory, breaking into a smile.
Down they went, to low camp, where they built ice walls around their tent and engaged others to build a Christmas tree out of ice blocks with a seven-foot diameter base. There they spent Christmas, working their way back up to high camp on Boxing Day and climbing the rest of the way to the top the following day.
"Getting to the top, being such a clean mountain," said Adam during a phonecall from his Toronto home. "It's nice that way."
Unlike Everest, everything that goes onto the mountain must come off, including excrement. There are even designated pee holes. One outfitter is designated to the mountain and guides through the outfitter are mandatory for anyone heading that way. Those controls ensure that the mountain is kept clean of litter and debris.
This is Adam's third of the seven summits. He figures he's got plenty of time to do more climbing later.
"The next thing I'm going to be focusing on is the six-day adventure race this summer," a team activity with his dad. "I'll probably take a few years off, a couple of years between mountains.
"I think I'd like to do the Seven Summits."