Moving Up in the Land of Ice and Water

category: dispatch, mountainworld news, first ascent

Our team is here at Low Camp on Mount Vinson, and all is well. But, one thing keeps popping into my head: water. Here in the land of ice, we're surrounded by water – miles upon miles upon miles of clean water. It just happens to be in the form of ice. As in life, water is essential for climbing, especially in a "desert" like Antarctica. And, like most of the developing world, we have to work pretty hard to get it. Ice and snow have to be chipped from the glacier, heated in pots over stoves burning white gas, and melted into the clear water that sustains our lives. Waste and sanitation are also huge considerations here: go to the bathroom in the wrong place, and it could be in your supper the following day. Not good. As a result, the administrators here in Antarctica go to great pains to get everyone to respect and preserve this unusual place, keeping it as pristine as it was when we found it. As many of you may know, I have long been supporter of Water For People (, not simply because my wife, Wende, works there. I support the work of Water For People for two main reasons:

1. Water and sanitation are the two most fundamental components of development. Over two billion people worldwide lack access to hygienic functioning toilets, and nearly a billion don't have reliable access to safe water. Without water and sanitation, people suffer and die from water-related illness, and all subsequent development – schools, roads, electricity, etc. – becomes moot.

2. Second, Water For People is not about a quick fix. Rather, the organization is about long-term solutions – and through monitoring with an app called FLOW (check it out – Water For People ensures that every investment lasts three, six and 10 years down the line. They work in a grassroots fashion with local partners and communities on the ground and insist that everybody contribute, both financially and philosophically, towards their own solutions. It’s not charity, but true development. The impact is deep and over time lives and communities are transformed, all because of water and toilets.

So, tonight, as I sit in my tent atop a thousand feet of clean, crisp ice-water, and sip from my water bottle, I'll be thinking of all the people around the world who are not as lucky as me. I'll be thinking of the impact Water For People makes in their areas of operation. And, I'll be taking the Water For People banner -hopefully – to the Top of the Bottom of the World in an effort to raise awareness about what’s being done to mitigate the water crisis faced by the world today.

With luck, there will be more mountains to come, all in the name of water. Please stay tuned, and join me. 

Also, please feel free to follow the videos, photos and stories from our climb at

Thanks for your support!

-Jake Norton

WFP banner.jpg

  1. Rahul
    RahulJanuary 8,11

    Nice article. Specially I like the point that its not charity but development in true sense. As long as the externalities are not internalized and no development can happen in its truest spirit.

  2. Aiya
    AiyaJanuary 9,11

    Way to go! Keep up the good work! Aiya.

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