Mount Vinson & South Pole FAQ
What is the skill level of this climb?
Those wishing to embark on this unique journey should possess prior climbing skills and be prepared for harsh conditions of extreme cold and, at times, ferocious winds. Climbers must be in strong physical condition and be able to carry 65 pounds. Mountaineering skills required include self-arrest, glacier travel and crevasse rescue. Climbers should have successfully completed at least a week long training course as well completed some other climbs such as glaciated peaks in Washington State or Alaska.
In addition climbers need to be well skilled at personal maintenance and hygiene . This is more than just having the right gear, but a sense of ones working body, ability to detect cold and other issues, and be willing to communicate your level of health with your guide.
What is the physical conditioning level needed for this climb?
Vinson at 16,067’ is an extreme, high altitude climb. You should be comfortable climbing 8 hours per day. Summit day is the most demanding portion of the climb, typically involving 8 hours for the ascent and 6-7 hours for the descent. Be prepared to carry a 65-pound pack but weight may be substantially lighter when we use sleds. Generally you carry 30 pounds in a backpack and 20 pounds on a sled.
Any tips on how a climber can maximize their chances of success?
Along with the required climbing skills, review cardio training on the Vinson training guide. We strongly recommend following the advice of our guides to acclimatize properly. We have nearly 100% success on this climb.
Who is the guiding team composed of (How many guides? Climber to guide ratio?)
Your expedition leader will be one of our Senior Mountain Guides. They will have along as many assistant guides as necessary to ensure a low climber to guide ratio. Usually 5:1 or less. This years guides include Vernon Tejas, Michael Horst and Garret Madison
What is the best season to climb / which dates will have the most chance for success?
Late November until the end of January is prime season.
Will I be sharing a tent or lodging with other climbers?
Yes, we generally use 2-person tents and sometimes 3-person tents at high camp
How much will my pack weigh?
Be prepared to carry a 55-pound pack but weight may be substantially lighter when we use sleds. Generally you carry 30 pounds in a backpack and 20 pounds on a sled.
What gear will I need?
Please review the gear list.
How does your gear rental system work?
Those requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form with payment by credit card. All rental gear will be mailed to the climber prior to the climb. Climbers are expected to clean all rental gear and return it to us by mail following the expedition.
Any further advice on gear and using your gear list?
While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the gear list may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The gear lists are created by the guides to assist in having climbers be prepared to summit in any conditions.
While it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do offer a wide variety of equipment in our Gear Shop, that has been hand-picked by our staff of mountaineering experts. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes. Plastic boots are required for this climb.
How is drinking water treated?
All water is boiled or treated.
What will the meals on the expedition be like?
Meals in the mountains consist of a diet rich in carbohydrates because our bodies do not process fat and protein efficiently at higher elevations and to compensate the increase in caloric need that high altitude climbing involves. This trip features a classic mix of climbing food and prepared meals. As we ship and purchase all our own food, meals tend to be surprisingly good.
Can I bring some food from home?
You may bring power bars, Gu, Power Gel, cereal bars or similar high energy foods, powder Gatorade is also recommended to fight dehydration.
All meals will be provided on this expedition.
Are there any innoculation requirements?
No requirements at this time
What is the best air route to my destination?
Climbers generally fly via Santiago, Chile onward to Punta Arenas, Chile. Climbers that arrive early or depart late will incur in an additional airport pick up fee.
When should I book my flight? Do I need to use your Travel Agent?
Fares are generally less expensive when booked early. You may use our Travel Agent (Charles Mulvehill 1-800-727-2157) or book flights yourself. Please note that flights booked online are often difficult to change. Please send us a copy of your flight schedule as early as possible as this allows us to book pick ups and hotels.
What time should I arrive and leave and where do I meet the guides?
An Alpine staff member or representative will pick you up at the Airport in Punta Arenas Look for a large Alpine Ascents sign.
What if I arrive early or depart late? Can you arrange extra night lodging? Is there a single room option for this expedition?
We are happy to make arrangements such as personalized tours, extra hotels rooms, airport pick ups and arrange for private rooms. Please indicate that you would like a private room on your application and we will contact you with information on single room supplement costs (for hotels only). Climbers pay for their hotel rooms until departure to the Antarctic continent.
Are there any entry or Visa requirements?
None at this time. There is a $150 entrance fee to Punta Arenas, Chile.
Is there any communication while we are on the mountain?
Guides will carry satellite phones but these are generally not for personal use.
Where can I get more information on history, books, and additional activities in the region?
Check the reading list on the Vinson page of the web site.
Can I contact the others on the climb? How about the guide?
You can always call our offices and we will have our Vinson lead guide contact you. 30 days prior to departure, we will mail a list of the other team members to you.
How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?
Difficult to say as we can be delayed before flying to Antarctica. Fortunately one can use credit cards for meals and hotel rooms.
How much should I tip my guide and staff?
As there are only lead guides (as opposed to trips with local support) tipping is at the discretion of the climber but please feel free to contact us for guidelines.
How do I register for this expedition?
You may call our offices with a credit card or mail/fax an application with a check or credit card number or register online.
What paperwork do I need to send in?
Each climber should submit an application and flight information.
When is the money due for this expedition? What kind of payment do you except?
We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, personal checks and Alpine Ascents gift certificates. To reserve a space the deposit is $5,000.00 and balances are due 120 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of trip.
What is your cancellation policy? What is your refund policy?
What is your cancellation policy? What is your refund policy?
Land Costs Include
All flights to and from the mountain from Punta Arenas
All flights to and from the South Pole (for the South Pole ski tour)
Support services while in the Antarctic
All meals while in the Antarctic
Lodging in the Antarctic
All group climbing gear
Guide services and fees
Land Costs Do Not Include
Meals and hotels in Punta Arenas
International round-trip airfare
Excess baggage charges and airport taxes
$150 entrance fee, Punta Arenas
Trip cancellation insurance
Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond Alpine Ascents International’s control
All prices and dates subject to change.
Vinson Cancellation/Refund Policy
Note: Alpine Ascents International highly recommends trip cancellation insurance for all expeditions. Due to the nature and heavy costs of government and operator permits, Alpine Ascents International must adhere to a stringent refund policy.
Each deposit includes a $1,000 non-refundable registration fee (per the flight service policy).
Full refunds, less registration fee, will be provided 120-days prior to expedition start date.
No refunds will be provided 119-days prior to expedition start date.
All refund requests must be made in writing and be received in our office within the 120-day period, as stated above.
Alpine Ascents International highly recommends trip cancellation insurance for all expeditions. We offer a plan in conjunction with Travelex.
Note: Alpine Ascents reserves the right to waive any fees. As we offer personalized service, we will attempt to accommodate changes and cancellations when necessary, waiving certain fees when feasible.
Trip Cancellation Insurance
We highly recommend purchasing trip cancellation insurance. Alpine Ascents International offers a plan in conjunction with Travelex. If you are signing up online or over the phone our location number is #47-0553. Detailed policy information will be sent upon receipt of your completed application.
What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?
Leaving the trip early is difficult giving the remoteness of the continent. All climbers will be directed towards purchasing evac insurance should such a situation arise.