mt vinson sample itinerary...
We will be using the logistical support of Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) during the course of our expedition.
Arrival in Punta Arenas
Arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile 2 days prior to your scheduled departure date for Antarctica and make your way to your hotel to settle in. We will contact ANI staff to arrange a convenient time to meet and give us information on Punta Arenas and surroundings.
The following day is busy with flight preparations. In the morning, we are invited to join ANI for an Antarctic presentation followed by refreshments. The presentation will include information on our flight south, the current weather situation and what to expect on our arrival in Antarctica. This will be the trip of a lifetime and we want to ensure that you are well prepared to enjoy it to the fullest. There will be time to ask any questions you may have and get to know our fellow travellers.
After the presentation we will agree a time to check our Antarctic clothing to ensure nothing has been inadvertently forgotten and then collect our checked baggage for loading on to the aircraft ready for departure the following day. Please ensure that your baggage complies with international air transport regulations. No hazardous goods such as fuels may be packed in your checked bags.
You are going to the interior of Antarctica, one of the most difficult places in the world to fly to. Every effort will be made to keep to the scheduled departure date, but please note that all flights are dependent on weather, aircraft serviceability, and local conditions. Days of delay are part of the Antarctic travel experience and should be expected. ANI's Punta Arenas staff will keep you informed of any schedule changes.
Please also note that in exceptional circumstances, if logistics permit and weather is exceptional, we may depart the evening PRIOR to our scheduled departure date.
No two Antarctic adventures are exactly the same. This is part of the magic and excitement of Antarctic travel. The itinerary below is intended to outline general program objectives and highlight typical activities and experiences. Exact timeline, activities, and program details will vary from trip to trip.
Day 1 - Departure for Antarctica
In the morning, we will call you at your hotel to advise you of current conditions in Antarctica. If the weather is suitable for our flight to Union Glacier, you will be given just under an hour to prepare before being picked up at your hotel by bus.
At the airport we will pass through security, including x-ray of all hand luggage. As on regular scheduled flights, no sharp objects may be carried on board in your hand luggage or on your person. We then complete immigration formalities and proceed to the aircraft, allowing time for photos before climbing on board. After a safety briefing by the flight crew we will fly south.
The flight time from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier is approximately 4.5 hours. The initial part of our flight passes over Tierra Del Fuego, or “Land of Fire”, so named by Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan).
South of Tierra del Fuego lies the open water of the Drake Passage, well known for its violent storms. At approximately 60° South latitude we reach an area of ocean called the Antarctic Convergence. This area is rich in plankton and other tiny creatures that form the base of the food chain for Antarctica’s rich bird and wildlife colonies. We are now entering the area governed by the Antarctic Treaty.
At 66° South we cross the Antarctic Circle. Along this circle the sun never sets at the austral summer solstice and never rises at the austral winter solstice. Further south, Antarctic days and nights lengthen until at the South Pole the sun rises and sets only once a year.
Continuing our flight south and if cloud conditions co-operate, below us we may see tabular icebergs and the ice shelves from which they calve. Our first sight of the icy continent is Charcot Island close to Alexander Island, at 71° South. These islands lie in the Bellingshausen Sea, west of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The ice sheet continues to stretch inland until in the distance appear the spectacular Ellsworth Mountains, the highest range in Antarctica. We fly south along the Ellsworths to near their southernmost tip, to Union Glacier, where our runway comes into sight. The wheeled aircraft lands on an area of blue ice that is approximately 750m/2,450 ft above sea level. The blue ice remains clear of snow due to katabatic winds that funnel down from the mountains with great force.
On arrival you will be warmly welcomed and directed to a heated terminal facility in order to wait for transportation for the 8km/5 miles journey to Union Glacier Basecamp. Be sure to stay away from the active loading zone at the back of the aircraft, as well as off the ice runway which can be very slippy, especially in high winds. On arrival at Union Glacier Basecamp, you will meet the ANI staff who will settle you down to a meal in the dining tent. Then, if weather and logistics permit, you will transfer to a smaller, ski-equipped aircraft for the flight to Vinson Basecamp, where you will meet your guide if they haven't travelled in with you already. If conditions are not suitable for the flight, you will be shown to your temporary accommodation at Union Glacier Basecamp.
The flight to Vinson Basecamp from Union Glacier Basecamp takes approximately 45 minutes. Our route follows the spine of the Ellsworth Mountains, with impressive views of the peaks and broad valley glaciers that form the Heritage and Sentinel Ranges. Throughout the flight, the pilot maintains regular contact with Vinson Basecamp to get weather updates. On occasion, weather (especially local low cloud conditions at Vinson Basecamp) may deteriorate while we are en route, in which case we will return to Union Glacier Basecamp to await better flying conditions. Given good conditions, we land at Vinson Basecamp, located at 2100m/6,900 ft on the Branscomb Glacier. Here you will be welcomed by your guide and settled comfortably into your accommodation. This first day provides an opportunity for your guide to review the experience and expectations of each team member, as well as give you a thorough briefing on the upcoming ascent.
Days 2-3 - Vinson Basecamp (2100m - 6,900 ft)
Our first 1-2 days will be spent near Vinson Basecamp with an ascent of one of the peaks in the area. This will give us a chance to acclimatize and practice climbing as a team so that we are strong and efficient when we tackle the main summit. We will review rope techniques, movement on snow, and become familiar with Antarctic climbing conditions. It is worth noting that due to the extreme southern latitude of Mt Vinson and consequent thinning of the atmosphere, there is less oxygen available to our bodies than there would be at the same elevation on a peak which lies closer to the Equator in the Himalayas, Andes, or Alps. At Vinson Basecamp, our bodies are already experiencing a physiological altitude of nearly 3000m/10,000 ft.
Basecamp meals are based on fresh, whole foods and eaten in our dining tent. These will be prepared by your guide and/or Vinson base camp staff.
Prior to heading up the mountain, we will do a final clothing and equipment review to ensure that we have all the essentials, then arrange loads and sleds ready for the journey.
We will ascend Mt Vinson using the 'Normal route'. This usually takes from 5-9 days, depending on weather conditions and how quickly team members acclimatize. Most groups set two intermediate camps on the mountain, prior to attempting the summit. The rate of ascent and daily climbing plan will be set by your guide to reflect mountain realities and group strengths and will be geared toward the safety and success of the climb. Our success rate for supporting clients to the summit of Mt Vinson is excellent and it is our goal to guide you safely to the top; however if your guide deems that it is in your best interest not to continue, you must accept this decision.
Our climb will be a team effort. Each climber will carry his or her own personal equipment, as well as a share of group gear, food and fuel. At the end of each day, team members will help pitch camp.
All climbers on Mt Vinson are required to follow a stringent environmental policy. Unlike other peaks in the mid-latitudes, the snow on Mt Vinson does not melt away in the summer to give a fresh start each season. Any signs of our passing that we leave behind remain for years to come. For this reason, nothing may be left on the mountain. All garbage, solid human waste, equipment and extra food must be returned to Vinson Basecamp. From there, garbage and waste is transported back to Union Glacier and onward to Chile for disposal. Urine and grey water are concentrated in designated sites on the mountain. Hopefully, you will be pleasantly surprised at how clean the mountain is compared to others around the world and we will encourage you to help us to support this effort.
Vinson Basecamp to Low Camp (2750m - 9,000 ft)
650m/2,100 ft of elevation gain, 9km/5.5 miles of distance, 4-6 hours of travel, gradually rising glacier with crevassing.
Our route from Vinson Basecamp to Low Camp follows the gradual rise of the Branscomb Glacier. We leave Vinson Basecamp heading east, then after 4.5 km/2.75 miles we swing to the north under the West Face of the mountain. The gentle climb is ideal for pulling sleds allowing us to lighten the loads in our packs. Due to crevasse hazard, we will travel roped together today - and throughout our time on the mountain.
We typically leave base camp in the early afternoon to take advantage of the sun and warmest part of the day. Although we have 24 hour daylight and the sun never sets, temperatures plummet whenever we are in the shadow of the mountain. Depending on conditions, we may overnight at Low Camp or cache equipment and return to Vinson Basecamp.
The following day will be spent acclimatizing at Low Camp, re-ascending from Vinson Base, or continuing our climb up the mountain.
Low Camp to High Camp (3700m - 12,150ft)
950m/3,150 ft of elevation gain, 3km/1.8 miles of distance, 6-8 hours of travel, fixed ropes on snow slopes up to 45° with some rocky sections and areas of blue ice. Requires mechanical ascender.
If the weather is good we ascend to High Camp, depending on forecast weather, conditions and fitness this may be a 'load carry' or we may stay overnight at High Camp. Our route takes us up the broad mixed spur at the northern end of the Branscomb Ridge. We ascend fixed ropes on snow slopes up to 45° with some rocky sections and areas of blue ice.
High camp is more basic than camps below. We cook simple, dehydrated meals and eat them in our tents or outside if the weather is calm. Our next day is spent resting and acclimatizing at High Camp. This gives everyone the best chance of summiting the following day.
High Camp to Vinson Summit (4892m - 16,150ft)
Return trip from High Camp 1200m/4,000 ft of elevation gain, 14km/9 miles distance, 9-12 hours of travel, gradually rising valley with 40º slopes and rocky ridge on the summit pyramid.
Summit day is our longest day of travel. We will make our attempt on the best weather day possible as summit temperatures can typically be as low as -35ºC without windchill and the final section of the route to the summit is exposed and subject to increased winds. The majority of the route is along the Vinson Summit glacier, with a short steeper snow and ice slope and spectacular, rocky, summit ridge. Views from the summit are unforgettable. Mts. Gardner, Tyree, Epperly and Shinn dominate the foreground, surrounded by a multitude of impressive peaks that rise from the vast ice sheet below. Here at the top of Antarctica, the true scale and majesty of the continent are overwhelming apparent. We’ll take some time to savour the experience, record our achievement, and take photos, before retracing our steps to High Camp.
Descent to Vinson Basecamp and Return to Union Glacier Basecamp
The descent to Vinson Base is usually achieved in one day from High Camp, re-tracing our route down the fixed ropes and along the Branscomb Glacier. Once back in Vinson Base we will wait for a full load of passengers to return to Union Glacier. We may fly the evening we arrive, or we may spend several days at base camp. Flights back to Union Glacier Basecamp are subject to weather, aircraft availability, and passenger numbers. At both Vinson Basecamp and at Union Glacier Basecamp, it is important to remember that the remoteness and inaccessibility of Mt Vinson are what make the mountain unique. Weather and delays are part of the experience.
At Union Glacier Basecamp, you will enjoy meals prepared by the ANI professional cooks and served in their dining tent. There will be opportunities to meet and trade stories with other adventurers and if conditions allow, to climb and explore the scenic peaks around the Union Glacier area.
Return to Punta Arenas
Weather permitting, the aircraft from Punta Arenas will arrive at Union Glacier on the scheduled departure day with a new collection of avid explorers and will take off with your group for the final leg of your Antarctic journey. Once the flight is confirmed, the ANI client service staff in Punta Arenas will make hotel reservations on your behalf.
In Punta Arenas we will be met at the airport by ANI staff who will arrange for transfer to your hotel. They will assist wherever possible with any questions you may have.
Please note that you are travelling to the interior of Antarctica, the most isolated and windiest continent on earth. Every effort will be made to follow the above itinerary but it is offered subject to change at the discretion of your Guide or ANI staff based on weather, aircraft serviceability, and local conditions. You will be accommodated and looked after in Union Glacier Basecamp during any flight delays to Punta Arenas.
Days of delay are a normal part of Antarctic travel. DO NOT plan anything important for a minimum of two weeks after your scheduled return. Give yourself time to enjoy this unique experience without the stress of pending commitments.
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