Mount Vinson: 16,067 feet

The highest peak in Antarctica lies within the Ellsworth mountain range a mere 600 miles from the South Pole. The icy continent is a landscape of extremes, with night-time low temperatures often reaching negative 40F and a summertime sun that never sets. Antarctica is one of the last truly wild places on earth, and climbers who venture to “The Ice” will leave with a feeling that they were just part of something very, very special.

Our Vinson climbing team meets at the southern tip of Chile in the bustling port town of Punta Arenas. We will spend two days checking equipment and weighing our collective gear and supplies in preparation for the 6 hour flight to The Ice. Flying to Antarctica aboard a Russian Ilyushin IL-76 cargo jet and landing on the blue ice runway at Union Glacier is an experience you will never forget. From the Union Glacier we board a Twin Otter on skis for the flight to Vinson Base Camp. It takes an impressive amount of logistical support to get people and gear to the bottom of the world.

The route up Mt Vinson involves glacier travel and moderately steep snow climbing. We generally put in two camps above base camp before going for the top. The summit ridge provides some interesting climbing as you wind through rocks, ice and snow on your way to the top of Antarctica. The views from the summit on a clear day are breathtaking, as you gaze across an ocean of ice which extends all the way to the horizon.

Vinson climbers should prepare themselves physically to be able to carry moderately heavy loads over the course of 6-8 hour days. Antarctica is a very cold place and proper equipment is essential. Our Vinson expedition guides are very adept in taking care of climbers in Arctic and Antarctic conditions; however, climbers must ultimately be familiar with how to look after themselves in a very cold environment.

The Mountain Trip Difference

We pride ourselves on providing the highest level of personal attention to our Vinson climbers from your first contact with our office until after you return home from your expedition. Our office staff is comprised of Vinson veterans, who can answer your questions based on personal experience. We provide the very highest standard of client care at every stage of your trip, and base all of our decision making on, “What is best for you?”

Our expedition guides are very experienced with the rigors of Antarctic climbing and we provide them with the very best in food and supplies to ensure that you have the greatest possible experience at every stage of your journey. Mountain Trip sets the standard for quality on Mount Vinson. We use the finest Antarctic tents, and have been the only guide service to equip our Vinson Base Camp with a large comfortable dome tent for weathering out storm days.

Vinson climbing expeditions take about 14 days; however, flight delays in Antarctica are quite common due to the ever changing weather. Mountain climbers must keep some flexibility in their return schedules to allow for delays.

We are currently accepting bookings for the 2015/16 season. Based on booking trends over the past few years, and the limited availability of seats on the IL-76, we strongly encourage prospective climbers to book well in advance of their desired departure. Early booking also gives us priority for flights to Vinson base camp. Booking in April for a December expedition is good idea, if your dates are not flexible.

DAY 1 ARRIVAL DAY IN PUNTA ARENAS.  Team members should plan to arrive in Punta Arenas on this date. Depending on when everyone arrives, we might have our team meeting and equipment check at our hotel this afternoon. There are very few gear shops in P.A, so be sure that you brought everything on the equipment list and that everything is in good condition and of the highest quality. We’ll discuss the following days’ events in detail and probably still have some time to explore the interesting port city. That evening, we’ll all go out for a welcome dinner in one of the several great restaurants.

DAY 2: TEAM MEETING OR CONTINGENCY DAY. We have seen enough delayed luggage on flights into Punta Arenas to have learned that it is worth arriving a day early for an expensive and time sensitive trip like this one.  We often have time to go on a sightseeing tour on this day, but we might spend it doing gear checks and conducting our team meeting, depending on when team members arrive on the day before.

DAY 3: GROUP MEETING. All climbers flying to Antarctica must attend a pre-flight orientation with ALE. Later in the day we will weigh all of our equipment and food and ALE will stow it all on the Ilyushin.

DAY 4: FLY TO THE ICE. Weather permitting, we make the 4.5 hour flight to the blue ice runway on the Union Glacier. From there, weather permitting, we will fly to base camp at 7,000 feet in a Twin Otter. At base camp we will have an on-glacier safety talk and prepare our sleds with loads for our ascent.

DAY 5: MOVING UP GLACIER. We have a couple of options as to where we can camp on the Branscomb Glacier. This decision as to which camp to use first will be based on weather conditions and on how the team is feeling on our first day on the trail. One camp is at the major bend in the glacier (about 9,600’) and the other is located at the base of the steep ridge and face leading to high camp at about 10,000 feet.

For the sake of this itinerary, we’ll assume that we placed camp at the 10,000′ site.

DAY 6: CARRY TO HIGH CAMP. We’ll carry loads up to high camp at 12,500 feet and return to Camp 1 for the night. This gives us a chance to “carry high and sleep low,” helping us stock the camp with supplies and enable our bodies to better acclimatize to the upper mountain.

DAY 7: REST/ACCLIMATIZATION DAY. The day of carrying loads up the steep face is a long and tiring one, so most climbers will want to rest for a day before moving up to high camp on our summit bid.

DAY 8: THE RIDGE TO HIGH CAMP. The route up to high camp climbs a steep face next to a rocky ridge for 3,000 feet (900m). The views back down the Branscomb Glacier can be astounding, so don’t forget to look back over your shoulder on your way up. This stretch follows fixed lines for most of its length, so be prepared to use an ascender with mittened hands.

DAY 9: OPTIONAL REST AND ACCLIMATIZATION DAY. We’ve just made a big gain in elevation, so many climbers will benefit from taking a rest day before making a bid for the summit

DAY 10: SUMMIT DAY! From high camp it is about a three mile traverse with 3,600 feet of elevation gain to the summit. The summit ridge offers fun climbing with sensational views of Ellsworth Range and the Ronne Ice Shelf. After summiting, we’ll spend the night back at high camp before descending down the steep face the next day.


DAY 12-13: CONTINGENCY DAYS. You’ve flown a long way and spent a lot of money to get here, these days are insurance so that you get the best possible shot at summiting. We’ll have plenty of delicious meals to keep us busy and the sledding and hiking out of Vinson base camp are fantastic.


DAY 15: FLY HOME This is quite optimistic, and climbers should heed our recommendations for booking return flights.

****This is a very rough outline of how the schedule might proceed. There are many options for moving, camping, rest days, etc. and we might easily be delayed by weather at the beginning, middle or end of the trip. Please keep an open mind and stay flexible!

Refunds and Cancellations

Mountain Trip recognizes how difficult and disappointing it can be for climbers who must cancel expeditions which they have planned for a long time. Team members must also recognize that, due to the nature of planning expeditions and dealing with governmental permits and regulations, Mountain Trip also accrues significant expenses in the months prior to expedition departure dates. We must therefore adhere to a strict refund policy for all climbers. Trip cancellation and travel insurance is generally available for all expeditions. U.S. and Canadian residents should contact us for more information regarding travel insurance. Our refund and cancellation policy is outlined below.

• Our Mount Vinson expeditions require a $7000 deposit to secure a spot on the team. Your submission of a deposit constitutes your acceptance of this Fee Schedule, Refund and Cancellation Policy.

• All deposits for Mount Vinson expeditions include a non-refundable $1500 administration fee (Trip Cancellation Insurance is available to protect the administration fee, if not the entire cost of your climb – US and Canadian residents can contact Mountain Trip for information on such a policy).

• Final payments for expeditions must be received 120 days prior to the Team Meeting Day.

• Failure to pay expedition fees by the date they are due constitutes cancellation of your spot on the team and forfeiture of your deposit.

• Any cancellation 120+ days before your Meeting Day will be refunded in full, less the administration fee.

• If you cancel 120-90 days before your Meeting Day, you are eligible for a refund of 50% of any monies paid, less the deposit.

• No refunds will be provided for cancellations occurring within the last 89 days prior to an expedition.

• All requests for refunds must be made in writing and received in our Colorado office.

• If you register for a climb within 90 days of the Team Meeting Date, expedition fees will be due in full to secure your spot on the team.

• Mountain Trip reserves the right to cancel an expedition prior to the departure date for any reason. In such an event, all monies collected by Mountain Trip from team members for that expedition shall be promptly refunded. This is the extent of our financial liability.


Inclusions and Exclusions

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Unlimited pre-trip access to our office resources

• US trained, Mountain Trip guide(s)

• Airport transfers

• Up to three nights accommodation in Punta Arenas (shared room)

• Welcome dinner in Punta Arenas

• Scheduled R/T flights between Punta Arenas and Union Glacier, Antarctica

• Scheduled R/T flights between Union Glacier to Vinson BC

• 125 lbs (56 Kg) of weight per climber (including group food and gear) is included with our flights

• All group equipment for the expedition, including: tents, kitchen, ropes, snow pickets, sleds, satellite phone for emergency use and for calling in dispatches, GPS tracking device for the team

• Custom expedition dispatch blog for your climb, complete with audio posts from the mountain

• Assistance arranging for post-climb activities such as wine tours, rafting, etc.


Not Included in the Trip Fee:

• Flights to and from Chile

• Visa fee in Chile

• Personal clothing and equipment

• Meals beyond the welcome dinner in Punta Arenas (breakfasts are included with your hotel room)

• Additional nights’ accommodation in Punta Arenas, in the event your flight to Antarctica is delayed or you arrive earlier than the Meeting Date

• Excess weight fee for Antarctic flights

• Base Camp showers, services and beverages beyond those provided in our meal program

• Travel and/or rescue insurance – Please note that Medical Evacuation Insurance is required for trips to Antarctica.

• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the mountain due to illness or other problems

• Costs incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Mountain Trip

• Customary gratuities for guides and local staff

• Costs as a result of force majeure


General Agreement Concerning Services to be Provided And Responsibilities of Team Members

When registering for an expedition with Mountain Trip we want to help make sure you understand the services we are providing and the services you are responsible for.

Transportation is incidental

The main purpose of becoming a team member is to join us on an expedition in the mountains. As such any transportation we provide or that you may contract for on your own is incidental to the trip. We suggest that you make sure you have time built into your itinerary for delays.

Transportation to and from your destination

We will designate a specific Meeting Day for your expedition. Transportation to the meeting point on your Meeting Day is to be provided by you. You must arrive in time to be ready to participate in a team meeting at the appointed time on the Meeting Day for your expedition. Expedition climbing is very dynamic and we will provide you with a recommendation as to when you should book your flights to and from your destination. We suggest you book a ticket that allows you to change your flight with little effort or cost.

Lodging off the mountain

Mountain Trip will provide lodging per the Inclusions and Exclusions section above. Any additional lodging is your responsibility. Don’t worry about booking a room after your expedition. We generally don’t know how long we’ll be in the mountains, and we can help arrange lodging when we return to “civilization.”

Responsibilities of Team Members

You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being, including making all necessary preparations to ensure good health and physical conditioning. You are responsible for understanding the conditions that may exist on the climb and choosing a climb that is appropriate for your abilities and interests. You are responsible for having knowledge of all pre-departure information and for assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for your climb.

While on the expedition, team members are responsible to maintain basic levels of hygiene and to conduct themselves respectfully with other team members and members of the local population. If a guide feels that a team member is putting other members’ health or safety at risk, the guide has the discretion to remove a team member from an expedition.

Use our office staff and your lead guide as pre-trip resources to ensure that all your questions are answered. Travel insurance may help recoup expenses if you need to leave an expedition due to an illness and Medical Evacuation Insurance is required for this particular expedition.

Airline Responsibility Passenger/Airline contracts are in effect while team members are on board any aircraft contracted for use in the expedition.

Share Button