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Mt. Vinson


Elevation 4,892 metres (16,050 ft)
Location Antarctica
Range Sentinel Range
Coordinates 78°31'31.74"S 85°37'1.73"W
First ascent 1966 by Nicholas Clinch and party
Our route snow/ice climb

On Saturday, December 11, 2010 Adam, Laura and I (Dan Mallory) left from Toronto for the long flight to Santiago, Chile. After a short stop, we continued on to Punta Arenas, Chile.

We spent a few days there getting last minute items and waiting for confirmation of our flight into Antarctica. On December 16, we received a telephone call from our outfitter, Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE), telling us that a bus would be around to pick us up in about one hour. We rushed to get ready since there was a very short window of flying opportunity for flights to Antarctica. Our flight into the interior of Antarctica on a big Russian Ilyushin cargo plane was almost 4,000 km. The cockpit was open and if you turned around you could see the back of the plane and all the gear that they were transporting. They provided us with ear plugs for our ears because of the noise. After a 4 1/2 hour flight, we landed on a sheet of blue ice in Antarctica near the ALE base camp called Union Glacier.

Since the weather was clear we only had a couple hours of layover before we boarded a small Twin Otter plane for our flight to Mount Vinson Base Camp. The Mount Vinson Base Camp is situated on the Branscomb Glacier surrounded by the mountains of the Ellsworth mountain range with a spectacular view down the glacier. We spent the following day climbing higher on the glacier to partially acclimatize but also to review the technique. We needed to be prepared for a self arrest and crevasse rescue should someone fall through a crevasse. We would be carrying or pulling sleds with part of our gear up the glacier at higher elevations so this was reviewed as well. A day later, we set off for Low Camp passing below scary ice falls which at any time could drop large chunks of ice (seracs) on us. We arrived at Low Camp without any mishap. One day later, we set off for High Camp having to ascend to the 1 km extremely steep headwall with full packs. This section was tremendously difficult and exhausting and particularly hard on the Achilles tendons having to lift heavy loads that distance. At the top of the headwall, we encountered strong winds and cold temperatures and were getting cold and weak. We finally arrived at High Camp in howling winds, blowing snow and freezing temperatures.

We spent a couple of days there in the blizzard-like conditions. After getting a weather report that the winds were to increase upwards to 80 or 90 km an hour and the temperature contained to plummet, we made the tough decision to go back down the headwall where hopefully there would be better weather.

Arriving at Low Camp, we realized that it was the right decision since we could see the very strong winds from the top of the mountain where we had just been. There were no winds and lots of sunshine at Low Camp.

The day before Christmas, we build a Christmas tree out of blocks of circular frozen snow and took a picture of Laura standing on the top representing the Christmas tree angel.

On Christmas day, the strong winds and blowing snow that had been at High Camp had descended to Low Camp and we were in a real Antarctica storm. Some of the tents were being blown away and the snow walls that were built to protect the tents had to be reinforced.

A day later, the winds had subsided and the day had cleared and we set off up the headwall again to High Camp.

We rested at High Camp for a day before setting off at 8:30 a.m. on December 27 for the long climb up the glacier, along the summit ridge and on to the summit for a magnificent 360° view of all the snow and ice covered peaks surrounding Mount Vinson.

After a number of photos we descended to High Camp, rested for a day, descended to Low Camp where we spent another rest day and then headed down to Vinson Base Camp. There we caught a Twin Otter ride back to you Union Glacier and a Ilyushin plane on to Punta Arenas.

This successful summiting of Mount Vinson represented the final summit of Dan's quest to reach the top of the highest mountain on each of the seven summits with one or more members of his immediate family. This was Laura’s fourth summit of the seven summits and Adam’s third summit.
What will our next challenge be?