Mount Vinson (4892 m / 16,049 ft)
Sentinel Range, Ellsworth Mountains - Antarctica
Philippe at Patriot Hills, Antarctica (© P. Gatta)
is coldest, driest and
windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents.
Some 98% of Antarctica
is covered by ice, which averages at least 1.6 kilometers
(1.0 mi) in thickness and can reach up the 4.5 km (2.8 mi). The continent has
approximately 90% of the world's ice (and thereby approximately 70% of the
world's fresh water). If all of this ice were melted, sea levels would rise
about 200 feet (60m).
is about 1.3 times larger than Europe (14 million km² / 5.4
million sq mi). It has no permanent residents, but approximately 4,000 people in
summer to about 1,000 in winter are conducting scientific research.
is the coldest place on Earth. It is a frozen desert with little
precipitation; the South Pole itself receives less than 10 cm (4 inches) per
year, on average. Temperatures reach a minimum of between -80 °C and -90 °C
(-112 °F and -130 °F) in the interior in winter and vary between -30 °C and +5
°C (-22 °F and 41 °F) in summer.
The lowest temperature on Earth of −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) was measured at Vostok
The strong Katabatic winds off the polar plateau often blow at storm force and
can reach 300km/h (187 mph).
Map of Antarctica
Photo of Antarctica (NASA)
(or Vinson Massif) is the highest
mountain of Antarctica
and reaches 4892 m (16,049 ft). It is located in the
Ellsworth Mountains Range
, only 1,200km (750 mi) away from the South Pole
Temperatures in the Ellsworth Mountains
average around -30 °C (-20 °F). The best
months for expeditions are December through February.
The massif has been discovered in 1957 and the top reached for the first time in
1966. As of today around 1,000 climbers (only 17 French) have succeeded Mt.
Vinson, much less than Mt.
Mt. Vinson is part of the 7 Summits
Dec 12-15: Nice - Punta Arenas
Flight from France and expedition preparation at Punta Arenas
Dec 16-18: stuck at Punta Arenas
Stuck at Punta Arenas
, bad weather at Patriot Hills
Views from Patriot Hills (© P. Gatta)
Dec 19: Punta Arenas - Patriot Hills
Flight from Punta Arenas
to Patriot Hills
(Antarctica) with a Russian cargo
is the Adventure Network International's base camp since 1987.
Located at an elevation of 1000 m (3,280 ft) by 80º19' latitude South and 81º16' of longitude
West, this camp is 3000 km (1,875 mi) away from the closest city and only 1075 km
(670 mi) from the South Pole
. It is the starting point of most Antarctica
expeditions. We arrived at Patriot Hills around 17h.
IIyushin 76 at Patriot Hills (© P. Gatta)
Dec 20-22: stuck at Patriot Hills
Stuck at Patriot Hills
in bad weather.
Patriot Hills (© P. Gatta)
Dec 23: Patriot Hills - Vinson Base Camp (2100 m) - Half Camp (2500 m)
4.5km, +400m, 3h.
Good weather, we finally could fly to Vinson base camp. We took the 3rd of the 6 planes
and took off at 17h. The flight was absolutely fantastic. The sky was clear
except some clouds on the Vinson Massif
itself. We landed at Vinson
(BC, 2100m) at 18h where we got a briefing from ALE staff. We sorted out the
gear and food for the upper camp, loaded it on the sleds and buried everything
else in a cache. At 21h we left BC in 2 rope teams of 3 and reached half camp 3h
later in the clouds. By the time we pitched the tents, melted snow and ate it
Flight from Patriot Hills (© P. Gatta)
Dec 24: Half Camp (2500 m) - Low Camp (2750 m)
4.5km, +250m, 4h30.
We were in the clouds when we woke up with a temperature -20ºC. It improved as
we walked up the Branscom glacier
and finally got warm. Taking our time, we
reached Low camp at 19h30. We pitched our 3 tents and built snow walls to
protect them from the wind. Taking advantage of 24h of sunlight, we went to
Low Camp (© P. Gatta)
Dec 25: bad weather at Low Camp (2750m)
After a long hesitation due to the bad weather, we finally decided to stay
at LC rather than doing the load carry to the high camp. We lost another day
after the long wait at Punta Arenas
and Patriot Hills
Dec 26: Low Camp (2750 m) - High Camp (3710 m)
4km, +1000m, 8h30.
In the morning the weather was like the day before. After a few more
discussions, we decided to change our plan and go to High camp in one push
instead of doing a load carry and a do a 2nd climb the day after. We saved one
day but had to carry everything at once in 25kg rucksack.
Like every other teams this year we also decided to climb via the new route to
avoid the crevasses and ice falls of the headwall. It took us several hours to
take the tents down, make a cache to leave some gear, food and one of the 3
tents. We finally left LC at 15h by -25ºC and in the clouds. Not for long, we
went above the sea of clouds at 3100m and enjoyed great views over Shinn
We climbed the ridge in 6h and continued the climb on the glacier toward the HC.
A cold wind started to blow. We reached HC at 23h30 and had to pitch the tent,
build wall and cook in windy and cold conditions (-17ºC in the tent). It was
2h30 when we went in hour sleeping bag.
Philippe on the ridge, Mt. Gardner in the
background (© P. Gatta)
Dec 27: rest day at High Camp
High Camp and Mt. Gardner (© P. Gatta)
Dec 28: High Camp (3710 m) - Mt Vinson Summit (4892 m) - High Camp (3710 m)
14km, +1230m / -1230m, 12h30.
We woke up at 7am, started boiling water, eating and preparing for the summit
bid. We finally left the HC at 9h45 under a great weather: -25ºC, clear sky and
We passed 4200m at noon, the wind started to raise and temperature dropped a
little. We put on the down pant, hand warmer and big mittens. As planned we
headed toward the gully instead of the normal route. Unfortunately the snow /
ice was harder than excepted and without proper gear (2 ice axes each, ice
screw...), we decided turn back and join Vinson's normal route. We lost almost
2h and some energy but more concerning, the clouds started building up toward
and around us.
We finally reached the summit of Vinson
at 19h in poor visibility, clouds and -30ºC
(without considering the wind). 2h30 later we were back at High camp.
On Mt.Vinson summit ridge (© P. Gatta)
Mt.Vinson summit (© P. Gatta)
Dec 29: High Camp (3710 m) - Mt Vinson Base Camp (2500 m)
14km, -1760m, 5h.
We heard in the morning from BC that the Twin Otters were expected at 18h. We
put the tents down, cleared the camp and left again with 25kg rucksack at noon.
The weather conditions were better than in the last 3 days, it would have been
perfect for a summit day. We reached Low Camp at 14h20 and got an update
about the flights; the conditions at Patriot Hills were so bad that no plane
could fly out or in. So we took our time to gather the food and gear left there
and we put everything on the sleds. We were the last Team on the Mountain. We
roped up in two teams of 3. The weather was still good until half camp where we
entered into the clouds. We finally arrived at BC at 18h20. The weather hadn’t
improved at PH and all flights were canceled that day. Like all other teams, we
pitched our tents to spend one more night in the Vinson Massif
. It was midnight
when we could finally sleep.
Twin Otters at Mt.Vinson Base Camp (© P. Gatta)
Dec 30: Vinson Base Camp (2500 m) - Patriot Hills - Punta Arenas
The weather improved in the morning and could fly to Patriot Hills
to Punta Arenas
Base camp, Mt.Vinson behind (© P. Gatta)
Dec 31 - Jan 1: return to France
Satellite image of Vinson Massif (NASA)
Expedition members followed the rules defined in the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. No
trash and garbage have been left during the expedition, everything has been
brought back to the base camp and then to Chili..
7 Summits Challenge
The Mt. Vinson
is part of the 7 Summits Challenge
which consists in climbing the highest mountain of
each of the 7 continents.