The Vinson Massif is a peak in the Sentinel Range overlooking the Ronne Ice Shelf and is situated in the heart of the Ellsworth Mountains, 700 nautical miles from the South Pole, Antarctica. Discovered in 1935 by the American explorer Lincoln Ellsworth, it is, at 16,050 feet (4,892 metres) above sea level, the highest mountain on the continent. Vinson Massif is 21km long and 13km wide.
The mountain was first climbed by an American expedition during the summer of 1966/67 - the first ascender was Nicholas Clinch. It was only ascended a second time in 1979. Both expeditions were supported by government programmes.
In December of 1992, Adventure Consultants founders Rob Hall and Gary Ball ran their first commercial expedition to Antarctica and prior to this, Rob and Gary climbed Vinson Massif in 1990, and Rob earlier in 1989.
The climb involves extensive glacier travel on easy and moderate slopes, punctuated by two camps. The Base Camp is situated on the Branscomb Glacier at approximately 2,100m / 6,889ft. Located at the camp is an insulated steel-framed tent, which is manned by Antarctic Logistics staff for flight following.
We begin the adventure in Punta Arenas at the southern point of Chile. Here we board a polar-capable aircraft and fly to a blue-ice runway and tent camp at Union Glacier on the Antarctic continent.
As weather allows, we move by Twin Otter aircraft to the Base Camp on Vinson Massif and begin the ascent, which is usually completed over five or six days. Expedition members often comment on how this ascent fulfills the desire to experience the breath-taking majesty of the interior of the Antarctic.