Mt. VINSON - ANTARCTIC 2005
Polar explorer Peter Valusiak and his friends undertake a journey through the ice continent of our planet...
Polar explorer Peter Valusiak and his friends undertake a journey through the ice continent of our planet... First day of the journey is quiet windless. The insidious sun shines day and night. It is very quiet everywhere. The silence comes from every side, it nearly hurts. And it’s also very cold outside. The chill hearts as well. A real and unbelievable one, minus 30 degrees. Boundless desert wherever they look. Snow and skies. Nothing but two colors: white and blue. But what is the most important, it was clean everywhere: in their heads, under our feet and around them. A nontransferable experience. Lunch break somewhere in the middle of the coldest continent. 24 million square kilometers of ice and them. They decided to go by feet. From the cost to the highest peak of Antarctic. 350 kilometers.
They are somewhere in the middle of their journey. They can take a break after walking through the cracked iceberg. The first in the row is Peter Valusiak, followed by the documentary filmmaker Pavol Barabas who also films the journey and the group of three Czechs: the traveler Rudo Svaricek and two Himalaya explorers Vladimir Nosek and Zdenek Hruby. They are going to switch in exactly in one hour. The marks of the sledge zigzag through mountains and icebergs. They are the first one who ever took this way. Really ever.
Waiting in Patagonia
Short Diary of Palo Barabas
Official Web Page of the Expedition
Photo Gallery of the Expedition
Sport Daily about the Plans of Peter Valusiak
Seven Summits - Láďa Nosek
READ THE INTERVIEW WITH PETER VALUSIAK ON www.bleskovky.sk
Hills and Bergschrunds: Mount Vinson shines on the horizon. The majestic hill, the highest on the Antarctic has been their goal from the very beginning. They are getting close and closer to their goal every day. 30 kilometers. Some days, because of the coldness and the wind the men cannot see anything. The peak of the Vinson appears when the weather clears up a bit. It stays and does not move. Exactly as now: “I can still see it,” says Pavol Barabas. The way to reach it is treacherous: it is full of unobtrusive scratches perfectly masked by snow, ice and wind. Every move made on skis is uncertain and very careful. Suddenly, they can hear a booming cracking and they realize there is a kilometer-long deepness of flowing ice. “I was afraid before leaving for Antarctic. I was not hungry; I had a deep respect for the unknown iceberg. Peter admitted, that he had the same dispirited feelings before going to the North Pole”, describes Palo his feelings. But these feelings just disappeared as soon as they reached the border between life and everything alive.
The Guarded Continent: The five-member crew touched the icy Antarctic at the provisionary base Patriot Hills functioning only a few weeks in a year. The frozen Russian Iljusin owned by a private company that used to transport bunkers landed on the glassy ice. The flight took 7 hours in the bowels of the Chilean Punta Arenas where they spent 11 days waiting for good whether. The departure came closer. They had to pack their things in two hours and be ready anytime to fly off. Canada has the sole trade in this field so there was no other possibility to fly. Antarctic is the continent for everyone and no one at the same time. The world is protecting it from itself. The rules are given and cannot be changed. Business is hard-shell. Would you like to reach the highest peak of the most south continent? You pay and fly. The mountaineers are transferred directly to the main camp and they are discharged in the middle of the hill. The mountaineers are transported by plane back to the tail of South America after the climb. The price? One million Slovak crowns for one person. “Only a trip to the Moon seems to be more expensive. No one of us had so much money to pay. The main goal of our expedition was to achieve a good sport performance. We decided to walk instead through the Ellsworth mountains from the continent border to its highest peak. We became black sheep. We were the first and the only ones who did not pay the full price and decided instead to make a very uncertain journey.” Polar explorer Peter Valusiak wanted to achieve even much more: after reaching the peak walking thought the Antarctic ice and after 40-50 days of walking to arrive on South Pole, than back to Patriot Hills base. 2500 kilometers in just three months. First in history, a fully autonomous solo transit of the South Pole on skis. Without any isle of technique and stock replenishment. He carried everything he needed to survive on a sledge.
Polar Explorer: Peter Valusiak had the plan to make this expedition for many years. He planned and prepared the trip very carefully. He drilled every year very fairly. He used to go into the woods just to pull tires. Up and down. He knew habitude is one of the most important aspects of a good expedition. The Earth of Frantisek Jozef was his first polar love. Inhospitable conditions of the cold north engrossed his interest. But they were shadowed by the discoveries of finds, objects and traces of Nansen from 1903, the pioneer of the North Pole. He returned to the North Pole very soon after. He met there Vladimir Cukov, the Russian explorer who tried to cross the Artic Ocean several times. He taught him how to walk on ice, become familiar with it, to gain energy and power. “Nearly everything happens in our heads,” says Peter who is looking for his own counterpart. He already stood at one. It was with Cukov seven years ago. The North Pole, called the Big Nail by the Eskimos was a good school for him. He learned how to improvise, to solve problems and to survive. As a member of the Slovak-Russian expedition battled 118 days in the captivity of ice he went from Russia through the North Pole to Canada. To go through Antarctic in its whole majestic breadth was an unrealizable dream. Reinhold Messner called it after his unsuccessful trial to reach it the greatest polar problem of the millennium. Without new supplies, without airplane in a proper way. Arctic is a is a frozen ocean that can open any time and any place. It is not a very safe ground under the feet. Antarctic is different: it is full of hills and ruptures. But he already had a new goal on the coldest and highest continent. He had only 78 days to manage it - there are only 78 days in a year where Antarctic is “open” in one year.
White Endlessness: The first days were crucial. The members of the crew just started to get used to it. To the inhospitable conditions, ice surface, to themselves. They learned how to walk in diffuse light, how to orient in “white darkness”. They were looking for interplay, a same language: tempi, economic pace, and discipline. They learned how to avoid breaches, cross the disparities of the conserved ice with formations called zastugy. They had to fight with themselves; everyone did it his own way. They got used to the cruel frost and the inhospitable environment. At the beginning of the journey it was a very experienced polar explorer who led the group, but then the leadership started to change. “Peter oriented us in a very sensitive way. It was evident that Antarctica was his thing and I also think he was very happy there,” says Palo Barabas. The regime was rather stereotyped. The men had to wake up at 6 o’clock. Peter was the first who woke up in the morning. The most difficult activity in the morning was to crawl out of the sleeping bags. The lowest temperature they could measure there was minus 38 degrees and outside it was even 10 more. They had to dry the clothes inside, it would freeze up outside. “I had to learn from my own mistakes. One day for example I let warm breath into my sleeping bag. The steam started to freeze up, a kind of an ice coffin has created. I couldn’t sleep the whole night, I was very cold and I shivered with cold until the morning,” says Palo.
They cooked something every morning, packed the tents, and at 8 o’clock they were ready to go. They walked exactly for one hour, had a 15 minutes break, the leader had changed and then they continued approaching the bottom of Mount Vinson. Four phases in the morning, four in the afternoon. In between they had a 90-minutes lunch break. The net time they walked a day was 8 hours. At 7.30 they built the tent, cooked some meal, dressed the wounds, mended the kits and fell asleep. They were looking forward to get into the tent, but also to the morning to pull the sledges. Every morning they had to start anew, no matter how the weather was. The cruel weather influenced every aspect of their life. Only the pulling of the loads gave them some opportunity to warm up. And these thoughts...No impulses that could occupy their minds. The head was clear. The most important thing was to walk, pull the sledges, take every thought and play with it. “Will we manage it? Is something awaiting us? When will the blisters on feed heal?” These were only some of the thoughts of the men. Very practical things. Everything far away seemed to be unimportant, that couldn’t be caught. 15 thousand kilometers from home. “Where does the famous attraction of Antarctic lie? What brings all these polar explorers there, what brought Amundsen and Scott here, what brings Peter here?”, asks Pavol Barabas. The answers came slowly...
The Home of Storm: Mount Vinson, the coldest hill of our planet. It has two heights. Both of them are right, but no one really knows whether it is 4 897 or 5 140 meters. The problem is it cannot be measured properly. The expedition arrived at the foothill on the 11th day of wandering. They had 350 kilometers in their feet, and there was 60 km of different materials on their sledges. Only the supplies of food and gasoline for cooking decreased. In the ice basin they searched for climb possibilities to the basic camp that is situated in 2300 meters. Through vertical ice cliffs, snow bridges above deep ruptures, through snow blocks as big as houses. Fallings into ruptures were not an exception. They were cold and tired but continued to go higher and higher. The way back disappeared. Our faces and hands started to freeze. Zdenek and Lada who already had experience with the Himalayas led us by a ice hell, and it seems to be a wonder that we found our sledges in the white darkness. It was hard to build the tents, “describes P. Barabas the crucial moments of the expedition. The next day was very stormy; the snowdrift did not want to stop. They were not able to leave their tents. Antarctic can be very cruel, every mistake can be fatal. The next day when the weather has cleared up, the men knew for sure why no one came from the south side through the iceberg Nimitz. Exhaustingly they carried up the sledges and all the other staff. They were not pleased by the news: there are only two days left to climb of the Mount Winson, the plane leaves earlier than planned, agreements can be broken easily here. Two days for a 3000 meters ascent? It’s just too little. If they want to succeed, they have to go immediately. Lada Nosek and Zdenek Hruby the two ice virtuosi are takings risks. They reach the peak after 40 hours. It’s minus 40 degrees, the wind is blowing, and the view is veiled by clouds. Palo and Rudo turn back; they don’t want to miss the plane.
Peter Valusiak is standing on the peak of Antarctic one day earlier than supposed. He wanted to enjoy this moment. He stayed alone. At this time the group of Slovak adventurous was on their way back home. At the meantime Peter’s daughter Terezia was born. “He was extremely happy even he could guess at that moment, that he well be home sooner than supposed, “says Palo who filmed the whole trip with his camera. He is already working on a documentary film.
There is not enough time: The delay before the departure to Antarctic and the bad weather caused the time delay. Peter cannot make it. He still has two other possibilities, but he just doesn’t like them too much. That would not be a sport achievement he had been dreaming for such a long time. The extension of the stay costs 25 thousands dollars pro day to get a plane to leave the South Pole costs 157 thousand dollars. The only possibility is to come back in a year.
Vladimir Nosek admits very bashfully that with the ascent to Vinston Massif he succeeded to stand on the highest peaks of all continents. Also Pavol Parabas just ended the series of documentary films shot on the highest mountains of each continent. His camera is able to capture the untouched parts, even though there is always less and less of them. He found the next piece of the mosaic in Antarctic.
Confined: Peter Valusiak knows what he wants to do the next year. He has a new dream; he changed his plans a little bit. He wants to go from Chile through the South Pole to the other side: New Zealand. He will start with Mount Vinson. He wants to make a trip no one succeeded to finish before. “Only those who are wandering can understand how magic can the idea of the daydreamed places become,” he use to say. Antarctic is a strong experience. Like from a different dimension, a different planet. Silence and cleanliness that cannot be heard elsewhere. Monotonous but still habit-forming. The attraction of Antarctic is magic,” says Palo Barabas. He cannot feel her fingers, but the question about the return to Antarctic attracts him. The result is obvious, even if it’s open. The most inaccessible continent stays captured in their heads.
Juraj Sedlák, Plus 7 dní
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