Standing 16,050 feet (4892 meters) in height, Mt. Vinson is the tallest peak in Antarctica, making it a popular destination for climbers who have set their sights on bagging the Seven Summits. Each year, beginning in early December, a small window of opportunity opens that gives hearty mountaineers a chance to climb the remote and challenging peak. Earlier this week that window officially opened for the first time in 2012, allowing access to the summit of the mountain for the first tie this year.
While Vinson’s height is certainly something for climber to consider, the mountain typically does not challenge them with altitude issues. It also isn’t an especially difficult climb from a technical standpoint either requiring only rudimentary rope skills to reach the top. But what it lacks in those traditional mountaineering challenges it more than makes up for in other ways. For instance, the bone-chilling Antarctic weather can sap the spirits of even the toughest climbers. With temperatures hovering around -20°F in December and persistent high winds buffeting the upper slopes, the weather is a constant concern on Vinson, even during the southern hemisphere’s summer months. Large crevasses create a completely different type of obstacle as well, forcing climbers to remain vigilant and nimble on their feet at all times. Something that becomes increasingly more difficult after climbing for more than eight hours straight on the way to the top.
Despite those challenges, the Vinson climbing season got off to a good start earlier this week when an estimated 24 mountaineers reached the summit of the mountain on Wednesday. Commercial teams led by Berg Adventures, International Mountain Guides and Adventure Consultants, amongst others, waited out a terrible storm earlier in the week, then spent two days moving up the slopes to reach the summit in nearly perfect weather conditions. Those teams have since descended back to Base Camp and are now preparing to head home, but their efforts have paved the way for other climbers to soon follow in their footsteps.
When compared to the other Seven Summits – the highest peaks on each of the seven continents – Vinson is dead last in terms of altitude. But because of its remote location and the logistical challenges involved in getting there, it is typically one of the last of those mountains that climbers take on. The other peaks on the list include Denali (North America), Aconcagua (South America), Elbrus (Europe), Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania) and of course Everest (Asia).
By Kraig Becker
[Photo Credit: International Mountain Guides]