Alpine Ascents Vinson Expedition Itinerary
For Travel Arrangements call Charles Mulvehill at Scan East West Travel: 1-800-727-2157 or 206-623 2157. email@example.com
Travel to Antarctica
Our expedition begins in the Chilean town of Punta Arenas. After arrival and night of lodging (not included) we join our partners (local flight service) in an extensive briefing before flying to the Antarctic continent. In recent years we have seen less delay with flights but generally have free time to tour the city.
Often considered the most interesting city in Patagonia; this port town hosts handsome turn of the century architecture, financed by the bustling wool industry of a bygone era. Along with being one of the most prominent Antarctic starting points, it is endowed with a large commercial fishing port. Walking tours of the city lead you past the great mansions which currently house the Club De La Union and the Sociedad Menendez Behety (now Citibank) found around the Plaza Munoz Gamero. Punta is also known for its fine dining and exquisite wines. Time permitting, one should visit the Museo Regional De Magellan's, the original Punta Arenas mansion, and take a tour of the Penguin rookery to view the colony of Magellan Penguins.
Note: Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, most nationalities will be asked to pay a $160 entrance fee.
Flying to Antarctica
The flight time from Punta Arenas to the Union Glacier landing strip is approximately 4.5 hours, depending on the winds. The initial part of our flight passes over Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost point in South America. The section of ocean we fly over has been notorious throughout modern history for its wild storms, violent winds and heavy seas. Waves higher than 100 feet have been encountered in the Drake Passage by several ships, and many early seamen lost their lives to these waters in the quest to find new lands.
At approximately 60 degrees latitude, we reach the winter limits of frozen seas. This area of ocean is called the Antarctic Convergence and is rich in plankton and other tiny creatures that form the bottom of the food chain for Antarctica's rich bird and wildlife colonies. This area is governed by the Antarctic Treaty.
At 66 degrees latitude, we cross the Antarctic Circle. Along this circle the sun never sets at the austral summer solstice and never rises at the austral winter solstice. Further South, these Antarctic days and nights lengthen as you get closer to the South Pole where the sun rises and sets only once a year.
Continuing South, we fly over tabular icebergs and the ice shelves from which they calve. Some of these bergs can be the size of a small country and become a method of transport and a home for penguins and seals. The icy continent appears at Charcot Island close to Alexander Island at 71 degrees latitude. The ice sheet continues to stretch inland until in the distance appear the spectacular Ellsworth Mountains, the highest range in Antarctica. Passing over the Ellsworth Range, our runway comes into sight. The wheeled aircraft lands on an area of blue ice which is 3,300ft (1,000m) above sea level. The blue ice remains clear of snow due to the Katabatic winds which tunnel down from the mountains with great force.
Union Glacier Camp
This is a one-of-a-kind, private camp is 1,800 miles from the nearest city. Union Glacier provides a warm welcome to the frozen landscape. We have access to a heated and insulated Dining Hall where we cook and eat all meals. It is also a great place to hang out, read a book, or talk with other explorers. Union Glacier is comprised of large "weatherport tents" providing very comfortable dining and resting areas. Should we need to spend some days at UG, we will sleep in tents and if possible explore the surrounding regions (guided only). If the weather is good we may only stop briefly at Union Glacier en route to Vinson Base Camp. Union Glacier camps also contain a small library and medical facility.
Day to Day Itinerary
Please note these are approximate days to be adjusted to the actual arrival date in Antarctica and climbing schedule.
Day 1: Depart Country of Origin.
Day 2: Upon your arrival at the airport in Punta Arenas you are met by a staff member who provides you with information on Punta Arenas escort you to your hotel. We schedule a time to check your Antarctic clothing and ensure that nothing has been inadvertently forgotten. We have a thorough discussion about Leave No Trace Principles and preservation of the pristine Antarctic Wilderness.
Day 3: In the morning you are invited to join us for an Antarctic slide show and lecture conducted by ALE. The lecture includes information on your flight South, the current weather situation and what to expect on your arrival in Antarctica. We will also be weighing gear as all gear that will fly to the glacier will be checked in at this time. There is time for questions and meeting your fellow travelers. After that, you are free to explore the city.
Day 4: As soon as the weather is suitable, you are called at your hotel and advised your departure time. You are given as much time as possible (normally 2 hours) before being picked up from your hotel by bus. Please make sure your bill has been settled and any "city" clothing is left at the hotel. After completing customs and immigration formalities at the airport, we proceed to the aircraft and for a photo session before climbing on board. After a safety briefing by the flight crew, we fly South about 5 hours to the expansive Union Glacier. Upon arrival at Union Glacier, you are given an overview of the camp ( time permitting) , followed by a tour and orientation of the camp and the surrounding area. If the weather permits, we transfer all our equipment from the Ilyushin 76 aircraft to the Twin Otter and fly to Vinson base camp, a 1 hour flight. The pilot is in constant contact with the base for updates on the current winds and weather. There have been occasions when the weather has deteriorated since our departure from Union Glacier, and we have been forced to return to Union Glacier and await better flying conditions. Once landed at Vinson base on the Branscomb Glacier (7,000 feet), we review the climbing route and rearrange the loads ready for the journey.
Days 5 - 15: During these days we attempt to reach the summit. Our success rate is excellent, nonetheless, you should be aware that even though Vinson is not considered a technically difficult peak, the mountain is high, temperatures are well below freezing and the area is extremely remote. There may be other groups on the mountain at the same time and we are in contact with base camp, by radio, throughout the duration of the trip. The guide prepares food for the group each day and climbers are asked to assist in setting up camp in the evening. It is our goal to guide you safely to the top of the mountain. Base Camp (7,000ft) is located on the lower part of the Branscomb Glacier (west side of the Ellsworth Mountains). After dividing our gear between backpacks and sleds, we ascend the Branscomb Glacier for 6 miles to low camp (9,000ft). From low camp we ascend to the foot of a large headwall and and up the headwall on moderate snow slopes to a broad col between Vinson and Shinn to establish high camp at (12,400 ft.) From high camp we have incredible views and rest to acclimatize prior to attempting the summit. Summit day is a long journey that includes a 12-hour round-trip climb and a 3,000ft gain in elevation. The final summit ridge is a spectacular rock and ice traverse. The views from the top are simply unforgettable!
Day 16: Once back in base camp and a full aircraft load is ready, the guide informs Union Glacier and an aircraft is dispatched from Union Glacier to collect you. Please note that we must wait until we have a complete load before flying back to Union Glacier from Vinson base.
Day 17: Weather permitting, the aircraft from Punta Arenas arrives in Union Glacier with a new collection of avid explorers and takes off with your group for the final leg of your Antarctic journey.
Day 18, 19 and 20: Extra days for inclement weather
Day 21: Depart for Country of Origin
Note: Every effort will be made to follow the above itinerary, but it is subject to change at the discretion of our staff based on weather and local conditions. Some departures may be slightly longer or shorter based on flight schedules to Antarctica. If you are interested in extending your trip to include the South Pole Ski Tour, your trip will be extended by 15 days. Please contact us for more information.Return to Top of Page