Back in the Union Glacier the youngsters, who take care of the camp were walking around in heavy puffy jackets, heavy boots, sunglasses and listening music. Cloudless sunny day. It gave an impression we are on the top of the ski lift somewhere in Alps. And us? We took off heavy cloths, be just with middle layers, because despite -10 °C air temperature, we felt like on the beach.
Antarctica was visited last season by 56 thousand of tourists, but most of them just on the boats, which took them on the coast to see penguins. Just less than 1% of them are able to get inside deeper inside the land. Most of them make their base in Union Glacier camp. This summer was here 496 tourists. 170 came to climb Mt. Vinson, 75 went for “last degree” expedition same as us, 60 fly to South pole by plane, 55 came to run marathon and 50 to see emperor’s penguins. Rest of them were mostly individuals or small groups to do various activities.
Last stress was with the last plain from Antarctica. Again, the Kazakhstan Illusin, the one we came in. Brian and Keith continued their trip to Mt. Vinson and we stayed in the camp with Dean, praying that the wind speed on runway will not go over 30 knots. So far it was about 24-27. We also met one Czech guy Karel, who told us that before we landed, the weather was so bad over last five days, that no none could fly anywhere. But this time the luck once again stood with us and 14th January I could make pictures of the plane landing on the runway. We waved for the last time the Ellsworth mountains and fly back to Punta Arenas.
On the hotel we treat ourselves with long hot shower and rested till second day, which was our backup (looking back to plan only one day backup was amateur, and we were just lucky that all four planes went as schedule). At the evening we mat Dean for last time, who treated two young climbers Mollie Hughes and Anja Blacha, who both 29 years old (Mollie just 15 days younger) has rich experience with expeditions. Both were on the expedition to cross half of the Antarctica on separate trips. Mollie went over 58 days pulling 105kg sledges. She is the youngest woman to ascend both sides of Mt. Everest. Anja has ascended besides Everest also K2 and Broad peak. Suddenly our trip didn’t look so special. But this meeting has widened our horizons. It was very pleasant dinner with interesting people. Outside the restaurant in meanwhile was going on some riot, who was later dispersed by tear gas, which taste is the last thing I remember from Chile. Then we packed and set off for a long trip home.
Five days later, when I got back to Manila, there was a little surprise waiting for me. Meiting insisted to go to dinner together and I went despite how tired I was. It was a surprise party with my colleagues in one Spanish restaurant to celebrate our success and my 36th birthday. It was very super nice. Colleagues were shooting at me many questions, which was difficult to answer without proper context. I will mention one for all. They asked me, whether sometime during the trip I was at the end of my strengths and I wanted to give up. The answer is, that one doesn’t think this way. We knew it will be difficult and we know we want to finish it. We didn’t think about whether it is or it is not comfortable. Different situation would be for example if I would break a leg or be sick. That would be a situation, which would be serious enough to consider evacuation, but if everything OK only difficult, then you just tight your belt and continue, continue, continue…
24. April 2020 in time of deep quarantine from COVID-19 pandemic, came a positive message:
Dear Zdenek Chvoj
We are thrilled to inform you that your application for Oldest person to ski to both Poles has been successful and you are now the Guinness World Records Title Holder!
And here you can watch a video from the expedition
Here also few articles in Czech medias: