Vinson Challenge

is climbing the highest mountain in Antarctica in support of the CINI and Marie Curie charities...


About Mount Vinson

Aerial view of the Ellsworth Mountains and the Vinson Massif. Credit: BC Alexander
At 4,892 metres (16,067 feet), Mount Vinson is the highest peak in Antarctica and one of mountaineering's coveted 'Seven Summits' (the highest mountains on each of the seven continents). It is part of the stunning Vinson Massif (above), a 21km (13 mile) long and 13km (8 mile) wide range lying on the southern section of the main ridge of the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains. Located some 1,200km (750 miles) from the South Pole, the range stands at the end of the Ronne Ice Shelf, near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula (see map below).
What's in a name...?

It was long suspected that there was a high mountain in this area, and it was even given the provisional name 'Vinson'. But it was not until 1958 that the peak was first sighted by a US Navy aircraft. It was originally climbed in
December 1966 by a combined team from the American Alpine Club and the National Science Foundation, led by Nicholas Clinch. It was not conquered for a second time until 1979.

Reaching Mount Vinson is a major exercise in itself, and starts with a 4.5 hour flight from Punta Arenas in Chile in a wheeled cargo/passenger aircraft. The aircraft lands near Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions' main runway camp in the Southern Ellsworth Mountains. The rare, naturally occurring blue-ice runway remains clear of snow due to strong katabatic winds that funnel down from the mountains.

Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions LLC (ALE) provides the logistics support, safety back-up and guiding needed for climbing groups on the Vinson Massif and Antarctica's other high peaks, as well as expeditions to the South Pole and elsewhere in the interior. ALE personnel have long and significant experience of Antarctica and have conducted several ground-breaking projects over the years. The business has had a substantial involvement in the development of sustainable tourism on the continent, based on a strong environmental ethic, and promotes a culture of environmental awareness. ALE believes that all its clients should leave Antarctica with a greater understanding and appreciation of this unique continent's natural virtues.

Weather permitting, there follows a 1 hour 15 minute flight in a smaller, ski-equipped aircraft to Vinson Base Camp, located at 2,200m altitude on the Branscomb Glacier. The first 1–2 days are spent close to the camp, with an ascent of one of the nearby peaks as part of the acclimatisation process. Due to the extreme southerly latitude and consequent thinning of the atmosphere, even at Base Camp the climbers are already experiencing a physiological altitude of nearly 3,000m (10,000 feet)!

Mount Vinson is arguably the coldest and most remote of the Seven Summits – requiring good mountaineering and glacier travel skills, and excellent judgement. The standard route usually takes between five and nine days, depending on weather conditions. Knowing how to deal with extreme cold and the problems of altitude, while carrying a heavy 25kg pack and using crampons on 45-degree slopes, is considered essential. In bad weather, Mount Vinson is one of the most challenging and hazardous environments in the world, due to the combination of low temperatures, high winds and high altitude.

Please click the 'Climb' tab above for more information about the ascent of Mount Vinson.

Interactive map

Please click the yellow squares in the graphic to learn more.    Main image courtesy of BC Alexander.