Christmas at Patriot Hills

Published on 29.12.2008 - The last degree

Not many expeditions send back details of how they spend the time at Patriot Hills waiting for the plane to take them back to Punta. But the businessmen who have now completed the Last Degree tell all...

Waiting! It's tough hanging about, kicking their heels, killing time after reaching their target on the ice, because all they want to do is get back home to their loved ones.

The men who trekked the Last Degree in aid of disadvantaged children reached the South Pole on 16th December. But it wasn't until 21st December, five days later, that they were finally able to climb aboard the Twin Otter to take them back to Patriot Hills.

And there, once again, it was the waiting game. Judging by all the news received from the Antarctic since the beginning of the expedition season, it seems that the weather has been particularly bad this year. It has been colder than other years and one storm has followed the other at breakneck speed, each one worse than the previous one. And if Doug Stoup's men thought they'd be going home any time soon, they had another think coming and had to spend Christmas at Patriot Hills along with almost a hundred other 'clients' waiting impatiently to return to Punta Arenas. "The other day, we really thought that we'd be able to get home quickly," writes one of them. "But the ALE staff told us that the weather was likely to get worse. We had no idea just how bad! The thermometer dropped to minus 25°C and the wind blew at 125 km/h! We thought we'd be able to go out on a few excursions in the vicinity of the base. No way! For a number of days in a row, you couldn't see 5 metres in front of your face!.."

This is what they had to say about their Christmas meal: "It was one of the biggest Christmas dinners that the people at Patriot have had for quite a few years. There were about 85 people clustered around the tables. Folks from all over the world. And the people we met really are a breed apart, with a great sense of adventure and the unknown, and an urge that takes them all over the world. Some had climbed Everest, others were in the process of attempting the Seven Summits, and yet others held this or that record in the polar regions. It was an incredible gathering of people who could all tell you about their marvellous adventures..."

With a break in the weather on 26th December, Doug Stoup's group (and the others) took full advantage and boarded the Ilyushin chartered by ALE for the 5-hour flight back to Punta Arenas.

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