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South Pole Last Degree & Vinson Massif Expedition

13 days with PolarExplorers   Rating: Budget

Click for Dates and Prices Day 1: Punta Arenas, Chile
Upon arriving in Punta Arenas you'll shuttle to your hotel and have time to unpack and get comfortable. A PolarExplorer guide will contact you and establish a time to review your kit to ensure that you have all the necessary items. Punta Arenas has a few outdoor stores and it is possible that you may be able to find any last minute necessities in town.

Day 2: Punta Arenas, Chile
A pre-flight briefing and reception in the late morning will provide an opportunity to meet other people on your team. You'll also have an opportunity to review the upcoming itinerary and ask remaining questions about the coming days. In the afternoon your luggage will be weighed and collected for the flight to Antarctica. The rest of the afternoon can be spent exploring Punta Arenas and the surrounding areas.

Day 3: Punta Arenas, Chile or Antarctica
From Punta Arenas you will travel by charter aircraft across the historic Drake Passage to the Antactica and the Union Glacier basecamp. Total flight time is approximately 5 hours. This flight is very weather dependent. It is not uncommon to be grounded in Punta Arenas due to the weather, or have to return to Punta Arenas if conditions near Union Glacier deteriorate. Weather permitting, we will land on the ice runway at Union Glacier and make our way to the basecamp. After setting up our camp, we'll have a chance to explore this unique basecamp and meet the staff who call it home for the season. There is a possibility that we will set off immediately for Vinson Massif. Make sure to have your camera handy! This is an incredible flight with outstanding views of the Sentinel Range as we approach Vinson.

Day 4: Vinson Basecamp
Upon reaching Vinson basecamp we will set up camp and make ourselves at home, giving ourselves time to acclimatize. Vinson basecamp is positioned on the west side of Vinson, on the Branscomb Glacier. It lies at about 7,000 feet (2,133 m). At basecamp we will reorganize our gear, review the route, and make last minute preparations for our ascent.

Day 5-12: Vinson Massif
For the next seven days we'll ascend & descend the Vinson Massif. Though we rate the climb as "moderately difficult", the extreme temperatures (-10°F to -40°F), and the likelihood of strong winds combine to make this a potentially very difficult climb. Given the remote location of the mountain, caution is the order of the day! The route we will take to the summit is as follows:

Basecamp to camp I
Following the Branscomb Glacier we’ll make our way up a gradual incline to approximately 9,100 ft (2770 m). The 6 mile ascent will be made with sleds and backpacks. (There is a possibility that we will have a double load carry on this leg.)

Camp I to camp II
Our route continues up the Branscomb Glacier to the headwall that guards the col of Vinson and its neighbor Mt. Shinn. We’ll make camp at the base of the headwall, at approximately 10,200 ft (3100m). In the shadow of the mountain this camp can be chilly, even in the 24-hour sunlight of the Austral summer. We’ll stay hydrated and pack on the calories with plenty of hot drinks and warm soups.

Camp II to camp III
Leaving our sleds behind, we’ll ascend the headwall. The headwall reaches a pitch of 40°-45°, with a serac towards the top. The ascent is made on fixed lines. Beyond the serac, the incline becomes more gradual. Camp three will be made in the broad col beneath Vinson Massif’s summit, at approximately 12,200 ft (3700 m). We may spend two nights at camp III to acclimatize to the altitude (which can feel much higher than 12,200 feet, due to the thin atmosphere of the high latitudes).

Summit Day
From Camp III we’ll begin our push for the summit by ascending the gradual valley for approximately 3 miles. From here we’ll head to the East Ridge for the final ascent to Vinson’s summit. From the summit, views are outstanding. Mt. Shinn and Mt. Gardner stand out like proud brothers to Vinson, and the Antarctic plateau extends out as far as the eye can see. We’ll have a summit celebration and then begin our descent back to camp III. Temperatures and wind can combine to make the summit a very inhospitable place (-100° F temperatures can be common if conditions are right). Therefore, the length of our summit celebration will be dictated by conditions to ensure a safe descent.

Day 13: Vinson Basecamp - Punta Arenas, Chile
Back at Vinson basecamp, we'll ready ourselves for our flight back to Union Glacier and onwards to Punta Arenas.

All This Included
Ski to the South Pole and climb one of the Seven Summits in the same month. This combo of expeditions is a must-do for any serious adventurer and especially those on the Explorers Grand Slam track. It's also the most efficient and economical way to experience these two Antarctic treasures in one visit to the white continent.

Our South Pole / Vinson Combo starts with the Last Degree Expedition, skiing from S 89° to S 90°, the Geographic South Pole. Even though the South Pole rests at 2,895 meters (9,500 feet) it has a physiological altitude of around 3,650 meters (12,000 feet). This means that you'll be well acclimatized when you finish the last degree and head to Vinson which rises 4,897 meters (16,067 feet) above sea level, and offers outstanding views of Mt. Gardiner, Mt. Shinn and the expanse of Antarctica. Arriving at Vinson with this level of acclimatization and cold weather experience makes for a makes for a safer, quicker and all around more efficient & enjoyable Vinson expedition.
  • All group equipment
  • Sled, guide(s), permits
  • Communication & safety gear
  • All accommodations & meals while in Antarctica
Expedition tents
  • The itinerary above is subject to change. When traveling to remote regions, your expedition staff must allow the ice, weather and other factors to determine the itinerary.
  • Vinson is not considered a very technically demanding mountain, but what it lacks in technical difficulty it more than makes up for with extreme conditions and a very remote location. As a team member you should be ready to handle basic mountain / glacial travel, roped team travel, fixed line ascension, self arrest, and crevasse rescue, all while managing your layers and physical needs. You should be able to carry 30 kilo (65 lbs). This expedition will likely encounter extremely cold & windy conditions, and living in such conditions 24 hours a day can be very challenging. This expedition demands that you stay well-fed and hydrated. You need to be proactive about keeping yourself healthy and free of injury. Every ounce of training and preparation will help to make the expedition more enjoyable and safer.
  • Your level of skill and physical conditioning must be high as you may encounter adverse conditions that will test your abilities. You’ll spend both days and nights in some of the most extreme conditions the planet has to offer. You will test all your limits. Trip specific preparation is required, and you must obtain the consent of the trip leader to participate.
  • PolarExplorers strongly encourages all Vinson Massif participants to join them on a ski expedition to the South Pole during the 2 weeks prior to the Vinson expedition. Skiing to the South Pole is an exceptional adventure/achievement, but more importantly it provides the best acclimatization for a Vinson ascent. If you participate in our South Pole Ski Expedition, you will be picked up at the South Pole and flown back to Union Glacier. At Union Glacier we will resupply our fuel and food, pick up some additional equipment and fly to Vinson basecamp.
  • Travel in the Polar regions requires flexibility. Delays are often the rule rather than the exception. PolarExplorers recommends that you get the most flexible air tickets that allow for changes.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For PolarExplorers terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.