Located deep within the frozen Antarctic continent in the Ellsworth Mountains, Vinson was the last of the Seven Summits to be discovered and climbed, in 1957. The normal route to the summit is a technically moderate climb with a few steep 40° sections. However, Vinson should not be underestimated, as the combination of isolation and potentially extreme conditions, means you need considerable mountaineering experience to take part. As an overall experience, climbing Vinson can be likened to the top 3,000m of a major 8,000m Himalayan peak, with the cold and commitment, but without the altitude.
The expedition begins with a flight in a Russian jet-powered Ilyushin-76 from Punta Arenas in Chile, to a blue ice runway at Union Glacier. From Union Glacier you take a Twin Otter aircraft to base camp on the Branscomb Glacier, to the south of the Ellsworth Mountains. From base camp you follow the glacier easily to a headwall two hours from Camp 1. Steeper climbing through this leads to high camp on a col between Vinson and Mount Shinn, a prominent mountain to the north. Summit day is long, climbing fixed lines above the col to reach the summit pyramid of Vinson, which can be traverses from right to left.
Day 1-2 : Fly to Punta Arenas, Chile. Hotel night on day two.
Day 3 : Make final preparations, including equipment check and orientation with ALE, for the flight to Union Glacier. We will also have time to explore the interesting port city of Punta Arenas. Hotel overnight.
Day 4-5 : Weather permitting, we make the 4.5 hour flight to Union Glacier and continue to base camp located on the Branscomb Glacier. The flight from Patriot Hills to base camp will be on a Twin Otter. Once at base camp we organize our camp and prepare for our ascent.
Day 6 : Move to Camp 1. Depending on how the team is feeling on our first day on the trail, we will camp at a major bend in the glacier, at 9,600 feet (2920 meters) or at a camp around the corner from a moderately steep headwall at 10,000 feet (3048 meters).
Day 7 : Based on the progress from Day 6, we will either proceed to the camp at 10,000 feet (3048 meters) or carry loads to high camp at 12,400 feet (3780 meters).
Day 8 : From camp we move up the steep headwall that rises above camp. Moderate slopes lead to the broad col between Vinson and Mount Shinn where we establish high camp at 12,400 feet (3780 meters). Due to the thinning of the atmosphere at Polar Regions, the elevation here will feel higher and may result in some mountain sickness among team members.
Day 9-13 ( Summit Day ) : From high camp we traverse about 3 miles and gain about 3,600 feet (1100 meters) on our way to the summit. From the summit we are greeted with outstanding views of the Ellsworth Range, the Ronne Ice Shelf and the vast horizons of the icy continent. We spend the night again at high camp. There are four reserve days built into the itinerary in the event of bad weather.
Day 14-15 : Return to base camp. Fly to Union Glacier. Reserve day.
Day 16 : Weather permitting, return to Punta Arenas.
Day 17 : Retrun Home