The Seven Summit Expedition team is planning an unusual way of ringing in the New Year.
Last Jan. 1, five climbers from Indonesia’s oldest outdoor activity organization, Wanadri, reached the peak of Aconcagua, South America’s highest mountain at 6,962 meters. This time they plan to welcome 2012 from the slopes of Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
Vinson Massif (4,897 meters) is the sixth mountain on the team’s list of seven — the highest on each continent. They began their journey with an ascent of Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 meters) in Papua in April 2010. Since then, they have conquered Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro (5,892 meters) Mt. Elbrus (5,642 meters) in Russia, Aconcagua and Alaska’s Mt. McKinley, which is also known as Denali (6,194 meters).
Their last stop, scheduled for April of this coming year, will be Mt. Everest — at 8,848 meters, the world’s highest.
Ardeshir Yaftebbi, 29, leads the Wanadri team, which left Indonesia on Dec. 21 and is scheduled to arrive today at Union Glacier in Antarctica.
The team also includes Martin Rimbawan, 25, Fajri Al Luthfi, 25, Nurhuda, 23, and Iwan Irawan, 38.
Vinson Massif may be one of the smallest of the seven summits, but it’s one of the most difficult to climb. The average temperature of minus 40 degrees Celsius and winds of up to 300 kilometers per hour will create some of the most inhospitable conditions imaginable for tropical climbers like them.
“It is also one of the most remote locations on earth,” Ardeshir said on Tuesday. “It is costing us the most just to get there. As of February 2010, only 700 climbers had even attempted it.”
But he said the team was ready and had trained intensively since returning from Alaska.
“We have been through exercises and many simulations,” he said. “Superb physical endurance is the key for this.”
From Union Glacier, the team will board a plane to Vinson Massif Camp, which sits 2,130 meters above sea level. They will begin hiking along the Branscomb Glacier route to the first base camp on Friday and will be assisted by Alpine Ascent International, a guide service.
Ardeshir said he hoped the team would reach the peak between Jan. 3 and 10.
“The hardest part will be the last 7.5-kilometer climb to the peak because the only possible evacuation — if anything happens — is by land,” he said. “No plane can reach the area.”
“However, we believe that we can raise the Merah Putih flag up there,” he added.
A team of climbers from Parahyangan University were the first Indonesians to conquer Vinson Massif, on Dec. 14, 2010.
They then became the first Indonesian team to conquer all seven of the world’s highest summits when they reached the top of McKinley on July 7 this year.