The Rainbow Summits Project


Vinson Massif

vinson photo by drew ludwig“[Antarctica] is as close as you will ever get to another planet without leaving this one.
—Phil Ershler, director, International Mountain Guides

Background Information:

Bathed in perpetual sunlight during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer (December-January), Antarctica’s highest peak is Vinson Massif at 4,892m (16,050ft) above sea level. Located in the Ellsworth Mountains 1,200km (750mi) from the South Pole, the mountain is undoubtedly the most remote of the Seven Summits. Vinson was first ascended in 1963 by a group of 10 scientists who used the traditional west side. The east side was not successfully climbed until 2001.

Climbing Information:

The technical difficulty of Vinson Massif is not high—roughly approximate to that of Mt. Kilimanjaro. However, the tremendously cold temperatures and extreme weather can be a major issue for climbers. Furthermore, because of its location close to the South Pole, the altitude can feel several thousand feet higher. Since it was first summited in 1966, about 1,500 climbers have attempted to climb Vinson Massif.

Fun Facts:

  • Vinson is the coldest of the Seven Summits, with temperatures averaging -30˚ C (-20˚ F) in the summer months.
  • The peak was named after a U.S. Congressman from Georgia named Carl Vinson.
  • The 2001 first ascent of Vinson’s east side was featured in a PBS documentary called “Mountain of Ice.” The expedition included an all star cast of climbers including noted author Jon Krakauer (who wrote Into Thin Air about the 1996 Everest Disaster), famed mountaineer Conrad Anker, and renowned mountain guide Dave Hahn.
  • Non-traditional foods like steak and lobster can be brought on Vinson expeditions, as the food can remain frozen in Antarctica’s subzero temperatures.

Cason’s Climb:

Cason successfully climbed Vinson Massif with Mountain Trip, summiting December 12th, 2012.

Vinson photo by Drew Ludwig

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Mt. Vinson – Day 15

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

A bright, bitterly cold, windless day greeted us on the 17th. Of all the days that we were counting on for good weather, this was probably the second most important (after summit day) because the Ilyushin cannot fly if the … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 13

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

Finally, the day we had been waiting for: our flight back to Union Glacier! We packed up our camp and cached the excess gear for the next group before getting in the Twin Otter for the scenic return flight. Luckily … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 12

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

Inspired by our previous day’s ridge traverse, we decided to spend our last day at VBC doing a fun group activity: sledding. We dragged the sleds (thankfully with no gear inside) up to the top of the steep slope that … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 11

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

After a rest day, we set out to do a ridge traverse close to VBC. We began the hike after breakfast and arrived at the base of the steep slope around 2 hours later. What had looked like a clear … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 9

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

We heard on the radio in the morning that they might try to fly us all off from VBC that evening, so all of the teams at High Camp packed up and began moving down. We were the last to … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 8

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Summit

It turns out that the second time is the charm! With the weather similar to the preceding day, we began to retrace our steps back up to the top of the mountain. As we walked, the wind began to pick … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 7

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

It’s very important to eat a lot when you’re on an expedition. This is especially important before summit day. Summit attempts usually require a lot of energy and endurance and a typical Vinson summit is 8-12 hours round-trip. Your body … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 6

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

We woke up once again to a cold, cloudy sky and packed up our gear and broke down our tents. We grabbed some breakfast then started the move up the fixed lines once more to High Camp. To be honest, … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 5

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

After several days on the move, we were all looking forward to a rest day. Unlike other mountains where rest days involve outdoor activities, snowball fights, or other distractions like that, we all remained in our sleeping bags for most … Continue reading

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Mt. Vinson – Day 4

Date: January 21, 2013 Category: Vinson

The high from VBC to Low Camp is a long, arduous, rolling slog uphill. In stark contrast, the route from Low Camp to High Camp is short – only 2.5km – but includes the steepest section of the entire climb: … Continue reading

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