||4,892 metres (16,050
||1966 by Nicholas Clinch and
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
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
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
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?