Vinson Massif, Antarctica
600 miles from the South Pole, Mount Vinson was first summited in 1966 by climbers
led by Nicholas Clinch from the American Alpine Club and the National Science Foundation,
it was the last of the 7 Summits to be conquered. It was named after US Senator and
Antarctica supporter, Carl Vinson. It is in Ellsworth Mountains Range. Just getting
there is an adventure involving a 4 hour, 20000 mile plane trip on a Russian IIyushin
76 cargo plane from the tip of South America to the snow camp of Union Glacier Hills.
Once there climbers are ferried via a Twin Otter to base camp. Climbs usually take
place between December and February.
The climb is normally scheduled for about three weeks with the summit taking place
around the middle of the time. However once there, weather can be the worst on the
planet often stopping teams in their tracks for weeks. Similar to Denali, climbers
carry all their personal gear plus a share of the group gear - no porters in Antarctica!
The climb itself is a series of long snow slopes not requiring significant technical
skills or gear however it is harsh with the weather and loads over 70 lbs split between
a pack and a sled. Once you summit, if you summit, you might be stuck for more weeks
waiting for the big IIyushin to return!
About 1200 people have summited Vinson since 1966. There have been no deaths.
A popular option after a summit is to fly to the 89 degree and ski the final 70 miles
to the South Pole.
The second highest mountain in Antarctica is Mount Tyree at 15,919'/4852m and
is 7 miles north of Vinson. Only 7 climbers have made it the top of Tyree! It is
significantly more difficult with it's steep faces. One of the most famous climbs
in mountaineering took place in January 1989 when the legendary American alpinist
Terry ‘Mugs’ Stump, an American climbing legend, soloed the west face without a rope
in a roundtrip time of 12 hours - an amazing feat that still stands out 20 years