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).
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.
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.
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