Take it to the Top: Ten Great Alpine Adventures

Antarctica: Climbing the Ice Continent
  |  Gorp.com

Antarctica's highest peak, the Vinson Massif (Mt. Vinson), remains one of the world's ultimate climbing destinations. It is estimated that fewer than 130 persons have reached the top of Mt. Vinson, the most remote of the Seven Summits.
Climbing Mt. Vinson is an arduous and expensive quest. Even though the mountain is not terribly steep—there is a moderate glacier ramp most of the way up—many top climbers consider Mt. Vinson to be a tougher summit than Mt. McKinley, due to the rugged Antarctic environment. The weather is unpredictable and incredibly harsh when it turns bad—100 mph winds and temperatures 40 degrees below zero are possible even in the Antarctic's "good" season.

If bagging Mt. Vinson is not glory enough, there are still virgin (and near virgin) peaks left in Antarctica. Many of the summits surrounding Mt. Vinson in the Ellesworth Range have never been scaled. And 13,000-foot Mt. Jackson, the highest peak on the Antarctic Peninsula, has never been climbed by a commercial group, despite being relatively non-technical. (Access is very difficult, and the weather is notoriously unstable.) The second highest peak in Antarctica, 15,895-foot Mt. Tyree, has only been conquered twice. Only 165 feet lower than Mt. Vinson, Tyree is much steeper and much more dangerous. With the ascent requiring an 8,000-foot technical attack of the West Face, and then a traverse across razor-edged ridges exposed to high winds, Mt. Tyree is for experts only. However, Pat Morrow, who runs trips in the region, believes the northeast ridge offers a far less technical approach, but no team has yet attempted this route. You could be among the first.
Practically Speaking
The vast expense of transporting a climbing team to the heart of Antarctica makes Mt. Vinson one of the costliest propositions in mountaineering. Only a couple of companies sponsor climbs, and they can go upwards of $20,000 for a two-week trek. Be sure to look into their track record; the best have success because they know the perverse weather conditions and multiple challenges that can make or break a climb.


Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 1 Aug 2000 | Last Updated: 20 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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