Trip Summary and Itinerary Map
- Climb Mount Vinson in 5-9 days, depending on weather and acclimisation
- Ascend what is known as the "standard route" – the Branscomb Shoulder Route
- Stay at Vinson Base Camp and Union Glacier Camp
- November–January departures
- Round trip flight and transfers to Antarctica from Punta Arenas included
Arrival in Punta Arenas, Chile
We ask you to arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile at least two full days prior to your scheduled Antarctic flight in order to fully prepare you for the upcoming experience. These days also allow a buffer for flight and luggage delays should your travels to Chile not go as scheduled.
During these days, a clothing and equipment check will be arranged at your hotel. The day before your departure, all luggage will be prepared and your checked luggage will be collected. The evening before the flight you will join the safety briefing, which will introduce you to the process, update on current weather, and prepare you for your arrival at Union Glacier. Afterwards, you can enjoy hors d'oeuvres and pisco sours with your fellow travellers.
Day 1: Fly to Antarctica
In the morning, you'll be advised on current weather conditions and whether the flight will therefore be going ahead. If the weather is suitable, you'll be picked up from the hotel within the hour and transfer to Punta Arenas Airport.
Fly a little more than 4 hours to Antarctica by private transport jet. The route crosses the Drake Passage, then follows the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula and the spine of the Ellsworth Mountains. You'll land on the blue-ice runway on Union Glacier Camp where you will take your first steps in Antarctica. Climb aboard a van for the 5 mile (8 km) transfer to the main camp (Union Glacier Camp), where staff will be waiting to welcome you.
When weather conditions permit, you will continue by ski aircraft to Vinson Base Camp. The guides will keep you informed of the weather and when your onward flight is likely to depart. In most cases, you will spend at least one night at Union Glacier Camp before flying to Vinson. On rare occasions, you may be shuttled to Vinson on the same day you arrive in Antarctica.
Every effort will be made to keep to the scheduled flight date and we will depart as soon as weather and runway conditions permit. Please understand that delays are common in Antarctic travel. All flights are dependent on weather, aircraft serviceability, and local conditions. Our staff will stay in close contact with you and will provide you with regular flight updates.
Days 2-3: Vinson Base Camp
Vinson Base Camp is situated at an elevation of 7021 ft (2140 m) on the Branscomb Glacier and offers you a spectacular setting to relax and recover from your travels to Antarctica while you prepare for the climb ahead. Here you will meet the experienced mountain guides that will be climbing with you.
On the first day, your guide will take your team on a short acclimatisation hike which allows you to gain familiarity with the Antarctic environment and refine your clothing and equipment choices for the climb. The team sizes are kept small so the guides can assess individual strengths and challenges for each team member to develop a strategy that maximizes everyone’s chance for a successful ascent. The following day, you will pack your personal equipment as well as a small amount of food and fuel.
Your team will ascend Vinson using the Branscomb Shoulder Route (standard route). The climb usually takes 5-9 days depending on weather conditions and how quickly team members acclimatise. Most groups set two intermediate camps on the mountain prior to attempting the summit. Your climb is a team effort and at the end of each day, everyone will help pitch camp. The rate of ascent and daily climbing plan will be set by your guide to ensure everyone’s safety and success.
You’ll travel roped together throughout your time on the mountain due to crevasse hazard.
Days 3-4: Base Camp to Low Camp
From Vinson Base Camp, you’ll follow the gradual rise of the Branscomb Glacier to Low Camp (9121 ft/2780 m). This gentle climb is ideal for pulling sleds, allowing you to lighten your pack load. Typically climbers split their 40-49 lb (18-22 kg) loads by carrying 30% in a backpack and 70% on a sled when they leave Base Camp.
The climb to Low Camp takes 4-6 hours and ascends 2100 ft (640 m) where a large dining tent and cached sleeping tents await for your first night on the mountain.
Low Camp is in the shade until the late morning and it is normal for people to stay in bed until the sun hits the tents. After a late breakfast, your guide will lead an excursion to a nearby viewpoint and you may visit the lower section of the fixed lines for some additional training and familiarisation. Strong parties may wish to make an ascent of Knutzen Peak (11,066 ft/3373m), a 5-6 hour round trip from Low Camp.
Day 6: Low Camp to High Camp
When conditions are suitable and the forecast indicates stable weather ahead, your team will leave the sleds at Low Camp and ascend to High Camp (12,402 ft/3780 m) carrying all of your equipment in backpacks. Low Camp to High Camp is 3,281 ft (1000 m) of elevation gain and usually takes groups 6-8 hours to complete.
The route takes you up the broad mixed spur at the northern end of Branscomb Ridge, offering fantastic views of Mount Shinn and the glaciers below. The hike to the start of the fixed ropes takes less than 1 hour. You’ll ascend fixed ropes on snow covered slopes up to 45°. Snow conditions can vary from soft to hard and wind-blown with icy patches. The ascent of the fixed ropes takes approximately 4-5 hours. There is a large ledge at the half-way point where you can stop for a rest and enjoy some food and drink.
The hike from the top of the fixed lines to High Camp takes about 1.5 hours, ascending the gentle slopes of the summit glacier. This final section of the route can be very exposed to the wind, requiring care to prevent cold injury.
The facilities at High Camp are more basic than those at Low Camp. Your guide will prepare simple meals in a cooking shelter and you can eat inside your tent or outside if the weather is calm. The next day is normally spent resting and acclimatizing at High Camp to give everyone the best chance of summiting.
Days 7-8: High Camp to Summit
Your team will make its summit attempt on the best weather day possible based on forecasts predicting good visibility and low winds. High Camp to Mount Vinson’s Summit is 3,648 ft (1112 m) of elevation gain and takes most teams 9-12 hours round-trip. The majority of the route is along the gently angled Vinson summit valley, with a short, steeper snow and ice slope leading to the spectacular, rocky, summit ridge.
Parts of the route are exposed and can be subject to high winds. The summit pyramid can be climbed via two routes. The easiest route is via the left- hand (eastern) ridge which is less steep than the right-hand (western) ridge. Many teams traverse the peak by climbing the right-hand and descending the left-hand route. Your guide will select the route that is most appropriate based on the weather conditions and the abilities of the team.
The views from the summit are breathtaking. Mount Gardner, Tyree, Epperly, and Shinn dominate the foreground, surrounded by impressive peaks that rise from the vast ice sheet below. Here, at the
top of Antarctica, the true scale and majesty of the continent are overwhelmingly apparent. Take time for photos and savour the experience before retracing your steps to High Camp.
Day 9: Descent to Vinson Base Camp
The descent to Vinson Base Camp usually takes one day from High Camp, re-tracing your route down the fixed ropes and along the Branscomb Glacier. At Base Camp you’ll celebrate your summit with a hearty celebration meal and toast to your team!
Days 10-11: Return to Union Glacier Camp
Vinson Base Camp will stay in close contact with Union Glacier Camp to identify the best ‘weather window’ for your return flight.
Depending on flights, you may have at least one day at the end of your expedition to explore more of Union Glacier. Enjoy a hot shower and celebrate your summit with your team! Here you will receive a certificate to commemorate your Mount Vinson Expedition.
Day 12: Return to Chile
When weather and runway conditions permit, our intercontinental aircraft will arrive at Union Glacier to transport you back to Chile. Our staff will meet you at the airport and transfer you back to your hotel.
We recommend booking your flight home one week after your return Antarctic flight. If you purchase a full-fare ticket, most airlines will allow you to move your departure date. It is important to give yourself a buffer as delays are common in Antarctic travel. Our Punta Arenas team can provide a list of local tour operators and excursions if you wish to explore Chile before you return home.
When it is time for your flight home, the staff will provide transportation from your hotel to the Punta Arenas airport.
NOTE: This itinerary is for guidance only as each voyage will vary depending on ice and weather conditions, and opportunities to see wildlife. Flexibility is key and all part of the adventure of an expeditionary cruise.
Prices, Departures and Inclusions
No two Antarctic experiences are exactly the same. This is part of the excitement and adventure of Antarctic travel. The itinerary above highlights typical activities and experiences. Exact timeline and details will vary from trip to trip. Trip length may vary by departure.
Please anticipate delays and do not plan anything for at least a week after your scheduled return. Allow yourself to enjoy this unique experience without the stress of pending commitments.
- Transfers to and from Punta Arenas airport, Chile
- Briefing with refreshments in Punta Arenas one day prior to departure
- Round trip flights from Punta Arenas to Antarctica
- All flights within Antarctica as shown in your itinerary
- Meals and tented accommodation while in Antarctica
- Mountain guide
- Official and personalised Certificate of Achievement
- A baggage allowance of up to 55lbs (25kg) on Punta Arenas-Union Glacier flight
- Group camping and climbing equipment
- Commercial flights to and from Punta Arenas
- Flights within Antarctica, other than those shown in itinerary
- Meals and accommodation in Punta Arenas
- Airport transfers other than in Punta Arenas
- Personal equipment and clothing (polar clothing may be available for rent)
- Expenses incurred in Punta Arenas due to delays
- Any excess baggage costs over confirmed baggage allowance
- Cost for the use of satellite phone whilst in Antarctica
- Insurance coverage - personal, medical, evacuation or otherwise