At 4897m, Mount Vinson is not the highest of the Seven Summits, but by far the hardest to reach. As part of the Vinson Massif or the Ellsworth Mountains, it is located about 1000 km from the South Pole and 1500 km from the northern edge of the Antarctic towards South America.
This seclusion, coupled with the extreme climate, makes ascension a physical and psychological challenge. Apart from that, the expedition costs are enormous.
The area of the Antarctic is approximately the size of the USA and Mexico together, 98% of the continent are covered with an 3000 m thick ice sheet. From December to February, Antarctica has summer, then it is light for 24 hours and the weather is dominated most of the time by a high-pressure system. Nevertheless, the temperatures fluctuate between zero and -40°C and the wind can very suddenly reach speeds of up to 150 km/h.
Apart from the speed record of Christian Stangl, you need one to two weeks for a well-organized expedition to Mount Vinson - depending on the weather. The best time to climb Mount Vinson is the Antarctic summer. From Punta Arenas in Chile, you fly over Tierra del Fuego and the Drake Passage to Patriot Hills, where there is a small tent town. There, the Russian transport plane of the type Illjushin 176 lands on a mirror-smooth blue ice field. A small propeller plane will take you to the base camp at the foot of the Vinson massif. From then on you are on your own, there are no porters and no medical care. In case of an accident, only the expedition participants can help and in bad weather it can take days for an aircraft to approach the camp. From the basecamp we go over the LOW camp and the HIGH camp up to the summit. Mount Vinson is not so difficult to classify as mountaineering, its slopes are 30 to 40 degrees and the ascent to the HIGH camp can even be tackled without a rope safety device. And yet, only about 400 climbers managed to reach the summit.
Mount Vinson was only discovered in 1957 during an US Air Force flight through the Sentinel Range. As part of an expedition of the American Alpine Club, Nicholas Clinch was on 17 December 1977 the first to successfully climb the summit of Mount Vinson. Incidentally, the mountain owes its name to the US Senator Carl Vinson, who was very committed to the study of the Antarctic.