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Rising high above the Ronne Ice Shelf just 750 miles from the South Pole, Mount Vinson is the highest point on the continent of Antarctica. With a summit elevation of 16,050 feet, it is the fifth tallest of the famed Seven Summits, but due to Antarctica’s severe weather and complex logistics, it was the last to be climbed. An American team led by Nicholas Clinch made the first ascent in 1966, more than a decade after Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary touched the top of Mount Everest. On Vinson, mountaineers brave frigid temperatures and high winds while enduring the rigors of camping on glacial ice. They are rewarded with the experience of a lifetime: a climb through the unearthly beauty of the ice-covered continent, in a season when the sun never sets.


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Mount Vinson • Branscomb Shoulder • 16 Days

Mountain Gurus’ Mount Vinson expedition ascends the normal route up the Branscomb Shoulder. Our adventure begins with a flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the blue ice landing strip at the Union Glacier Camp in Antarctica. Another flight takes us to our base camp deep in the Sentinel Range of the serrated Ellsworth Mountains.

We utilize two camps on the mountain above base camp. The terrain above Low Camp can include sections of steep ice and snow, which we climb with the assistance of fixed lines. Gentler slopes on the mountain’s upper glaciers take us to the summit ridge. From the top of Antarctica we gaze out over the 13-mile-long Vinson Massif and some of the most remote and pristine terrain on the planet. Fewer people have summitted Mount Vinson than Mount Everest.

Climb Highlights

  • Ascent of Antarctica’s tallest peak
  • Expert mountain guides
  • Welcome dinner
  • 3 nights hotel in Punta Arenas
  • Flights between Chile & Antarctica
  • Flights between Union Glacier & Base Camp
  • Excellent facilities in Base Camp
  • Tasty, healthful meals in Antarctica
  • Austral summer when the sun never sets
  • Friendly MG office staff will help you prepare for your adventure

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Arrive Punta Arenas, Chile
Day 2 • Gear checks
Day 3 • Orientation briefing
Day 4 • Flight to Union Glacier, Antarctica
Day 5 • Vinson Basecamp • 6,900 ft
Day 6 • Carry to Camp 1 • 10,000 ft
Day 7 • Move to Camp 1
Day 8 • Carry to High Camp 12,000 ft
Day 9 • Rest Day
Day 10 • Move to High Camp
Day 11 • Mount Vinson • 16,050 ft
Day 12 • Descend and transfer to Union Glacier
Day 13 • Depart Antarctica
Day 14 • Extra Weather Day
Day 15 • Extra Weather Day
Day 16 • Depart Chile

Mount Vinson

Expedition begins and ends in Punta Arenas, Chile

Day 1 • Arrive Punta Arenas, Chile

Arrive Presidente Carlos Ibanez del Campo International Airport, Punta Arenas (PUQ). We allot an extra day to recover from jet lag and wait for any baggage that may have been waylaid.

* We recommend that climbers arrive in Punta Arenas one extra day before the beginning of the itinerary to accommodate travel delays or lost luggage. Extra expenses incurred during this day (for lodging, food, etc.) are the responsibility of the climber.

Accommodations: Hotel in Punta Arenas

Day 2 • Gear Checks

After group introductions we launch into an in-depth gear check. We spend the rest of the day relaxing and exploring Punta Arenas.

Accommodations: Hotel in Punta Arenas
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 3 • Orientation

After breakfast, we gather for a pre-trip orientation. We then sit down for a slide show and lecture on regulations and other concerns specific to traveling and climbing in Antarctica. Since we will be visiting one of the most remote and pristine regions of the planet, we take care to review Leave No Trace principles. Today we also weigh our gear for the flight to Union Glacier.

Accommodations: Hotel in Punta Arenas
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 4 • Flight to Union Glacier • Vinson Base Camp • 6,900 feet

Due to local weather patterns, we will be on call today for our flight to Union Glacier on Antarctica. All luggage not needed on the climb will be left at our hotel in Punta Arenas. After touching down on the ice, we transfer to a smaller aircraft and fly to Vinson Base Camp, weather permitting.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 5 • Vinson Base Camp • 6,900 feet

We spend today settling into basecamp and resting from our flights. We sort our gear and pack it onto sleds for our move to Camp 1 tomorrow.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 6 • Carry to Low Camp • 10,000 feet

We ascend the low angle Branscomb Glacier to Low Camp, pulling our gear and equipment on sleds to reduce the weight in our backpacks. Since we will be traveling in crevassed terrain, we rope up. Depending on group fitness, route and weather conditions, we may choose to sleep in Camp 1 or cache our gear and descend back to base camp.

Vertical Ascent Climbing: 3,100 feet
Climbing Time: 4-5 hours to Camp 1

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 7 • Move to Low Camp • 10,000 feet

A contingency day to accommodate mountain conditions and the needs of the group. If we cached equipment and returned to base camp the previous day, we re-ascend to Low Camp and spend the night there. If we slept at Low Camp yesterday, we spend today resting and acclimatizing.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 8 • Carry to High Camp • 12,000 feet

Today we carry a load of equipment to High Camp using fixed lines on a 35- to 40-degree slope. High winds can make this area very cold, even in sunny weather.

Vertical Ascent Climbing: 2,000 feet
Climbing Time: 4-5 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 9 • Rest Day • 10,000 feet

Time and weather permitting, we spend today resting at Low Camp. We will do a moderate hike on the glacier to assist our acclimatization.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 10 • Move to High Camp • 12,000 feet

We follow our tracks from the previous day, carrying lighter loads to High Camp. After an early dinner and summit talk, we turn in for the night.

Vertical Ascent Climbing: 2,000 feet
Climbing Time: 3-4 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 11 • Summit Day • Mount Vinson • 16,050 feet

Again, depending on weather, we will try to summit today. The route follows a valley glacier to the summit ridge. A short, steeper section leads to the summit, where we enjoy breathtaking views of the rest of the Vinson Massif and the icy expanse of Antarctica. Temperatures can range anywhere from -60 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit on our 9- to 12-hour ascent. After summiting we return to High Camp for some much-needed hot drinks.

Vertical Ascent Climbing: 4,050 feet
Climbing Time: 9-12 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 12 • Descend to Vinson Basecamp • Union Glacier

After packing up our camp, we descend the fixed lines down to Low Camp. We load our remaining gear onto our sleds and continue back to base camp. Weather permitting, we fly to Union Glacier this afternoon.

Vertical Descent Climbing: 5,100 feet
Climbing Time: 6-7 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 13 • Flight to Punta Arenas, Chile

Transfer from Union Glacier to Punta Arenas.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 15 – 16 • Contingency Days

Extra days to be used if weather or mountain conditions cause us to adjust our flight schedule or climbing itinerary. We may spend these days on the mountain or waiting for flights.

Accommodations: Tented Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 14 • Depart Punta Arenas, Chile

Transfer to airport for flights home.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Itinerary Notes
Mountain Gurus makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool or synthetic. Must cover the ears.
  • Buff or Neck Gaiter: 2 or 3 synthetic buffs or neck gaiters for protection from cold air and wind.
  • Heavyweight Balaclava: Must cover your whole face (no exposed skin) when worn with goggles.
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Two pairs (one spare). Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields. Category 4 lenses required.
  • Goggles: Dark lenses. Protection from snow and wind.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+
  • Climbing LED Headlamp: Bring one extra set of batteries.

Upper Body

  • Baselayer Tops: Two synthetic long-sleeve shirts. One with sun hood recommended.
  • Mediumweight Top: A thicker baselayer top.
  • Fleece Tops: Two (2) warm synthetic or fleece tops with hoods. Must be able to layer on top of each another.
  • Softshell Jacket: A breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Hardshell Jacket: GORE-TEX© or a fully waterproof shell. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Insulated Jacket: Heavyweight 700+ fill down with hood.
  • Expedition Down Park: Ultra heavyweight down parka with hood.
  • 8,000-meter Expedition Down Suit: Insulated with hood.


  • Liner Gloves: One pair
  • Lightweight Work Gloves: One pair. Leather, lightly insulated.
  • Heavyweight Gloves: Insulated glove with GORE-TEX© or waterproof outer.
  • Expedition Down Mittens w/ wrist straps: One pair
  • Handwarmers / toe warmers: 3 sets of each

Lower Body

  • Baselayer Bottoms: One lightweight and one mediumweight pair. Synthetic, no cotton
  • Softshell Pants: One pair. Mediumweight synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated.
  • Hardshell Pants: One pair of GORE-TEX© pants. Full-length side zips are required; you may need to take off your hardshell pants without removing your boots.
  • Insulated Pants: One pair of heavyweight down pants with full side zips.


  • Mountaineering Boots: Triple layer 8,000-meter mountaineering boots are required. Full-shank, crampon compatible. If your boots do not have built-in gaiters, you will need to bring separate gaiters.
  • Down Booties: For use around camp. Non-slip soles recommended.
  • Mediumweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks.
  • Heavyweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks for sleeping in and for summit day.

Note: Please read our Mountaineering Boot and Crampon guide for more information.


  • Sleeping Bag: A warm bag rated to negative 40ᵒ Fahrenheit.
  • Inflatable Pad: A full-length inflatable pad.
  • Foam Pad: A full-length closed-cell foam pad.

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 100-liter backpack with internal frame for personal and group gear. The pack should fit properly, have a good waist belt, and be able to carry 45-60 lbs.
  • 20-Liter Waterproof stuff sacks: 3 pairs
  • Compression Sack: For sleeping bag
  • Duffle Bags: Three (3) large, waterproof, PVC duffel bags. One of them, with your non-mountain gear, will stay at the Punta Arenas hotel during the climb. One will stay cached in Vinson Base Camp. You will pull one on your sled while approaching Low Camp.
  • Liner Bags: 2-4 large plastic contractor bags.

Climbing Gear

  • Ice Axe: 55-65cm mountaineering axe.
  • Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates.
  • Climbing Helmet: Lightweight
  • Alpine Harness: Lightweight alpine harness with adjustable leg loops.
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible with snow baskets.
  • Locking Carabiners: (3) Large pear-shaped, screw gate locking carabiners.
  • Non-locking Carabiners: (8) wire gate non-locking carabiners.
  • Ascender: Left or right-handed
  • Rappel/Delay device: Figure 8 recommended
  • Cord: 20 feet, 7mm perlon
  • Nylon Sling: (1) 60cm nylon sling
  • Nylon Sling: (1) 120cm nylon sling


  • Water Bottle: Two (2) 1-liter wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE©
  • Water Bottle Parkas: Two (2) fully insulated water bottle covers.

* CamelBak-style hydration bladders are not acceptable. They freeze and pop.


  • Day Pack: Carry-on bag while traveling (optional)
  • Travel Clothing: Nicer clothes in case we visit one of Punta Arenas’ finer restaurants (optional)
  • Swimsuit: For hotel pool (optional)
  • Marker: For labeling duffel bags
  • Pen: For paperwork while traveling

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Personal snacks: We recommend 5 pounds of food you know you will want to eat at altitude when your appetite may diminish. A mix of sweet and salty whole foods (nuts, dried fruit, dried meat) and energy foods such as Gu, Nuun and Shot Blocks.
  • Plastic bowl, insulated mug, and spoon
  • Personal first-aid kit (keep it small and light):
    • Aspirin / ibuprofen
    • Antibiotics: such as Azithromyacin for upper respiratory, Ciproflaxin for gastrointestinal
    • Imodium
    • Antacids / Tums
    • Cold and flu meds
    • Blister kit
    • Bandaids / bandages
    • Triple antibiotic ointment
    • Any personal prescription medications
  • Altitude Medication (in consultation with your doctor):
    • Acetazolamide: 125mg x 10 tablets
    • Dexamethasone: 4mg x 4 tablets
    • Nifedipine: 30mg slow-release x 2 tablets
  • Tooth brush and paste
  • Toilet paper (2 rolls)
  • Blue bag or wag bag
  • Pee bottle or pee funnel (women)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Baby wipes (optional)
  • Soap and shampoo for Union Glacier shower (optional)
  • Towel for Union Glacier shower (optional)
  • Earplugs
  • Power pack and/or solar panel with appropriate cords
  • Camera
  • Aloe vera for sunburn
  • Hand / face lotion (optional)
  • Book or device with e-books, music, movies (optional)
  • Headphones (optional)


Program Location:
Begins and ends in Punta Arenas, Chile

Visa/Entry Information:
A valid passport is required for American citizens to enter Chile. American citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days for tourism.

Health & Immunizations:
Immunizations are not required for entry into Chile

Flight Travel Information:
Presidente Carlos Ibanez del Campo International Airport (PUQ), Punta Arenas, Chile

International Departures:
Itineraries reflect the date and time you will need to arrive in country for a program. Mountain Gurus programs begin and end in the country’s destination city. When booking your flight, you will need to account for travel time and crossing the international dateline if needed. It is easiest to give your booking agent the day and time you will need to arrive.

Meals and Food:
All meals are provided as per meal schedule. See itinerary.

A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your program will be sent to you in the pre-departure packet upon reservation. For your safety and comfort, it is extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.

Mount Vinson Fitness & Training

Climbing Grade: Advanced   

As the highest point on the continent of Antarctica, Mount Vinson experiences some of the coldest and windiest weather on the planet. Experience with expedition living is critical to success on this peak. You must know how to take care of yourself while camping in extreme conditions. Be prepared to carry a pack weighing as much as 65 pounds, while pulling a sled weighing up to 100 pounds. Previous crampon and ice axe experience is required. Previous experience climbing fixed lines is recommended.

Prior to the expedition we recommend that you take, at minimum, a mountaineering course and climb other high-altitude peaks. We would be happy to help you prepare for this adventure!

Here’s a suggested progression of climbs before attempting Mount Vinson.

  • Northwest Climb (Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Shuksan)
  • Glacier Mountaineering Course
  • Aconcagua
  • Denali

Things you should know about this trip

Who can climb Mount Vinson?

Mount Vinson is a challenging climb. It demands excellent physical fitness, technical climbing skill, experience at altitude and, perhaps most importantly, a mindset to survive and thrive while living far from home in cold and rugged conditions.

That said, we take pride in our ability to provide some of the very best services on the mountain. At Vinson Base Camp we live in comparative luxury. We have an insulated, indoor dining facility with tables and chairs, where we enjoy hearty meals including hamburgers, pancakes, pasta, meat, potatoes and fish. Our mid-season climbing schedule allows us to take advantage of relatively warmer temperatures, minimizing the risk of frostbite and maximizing our chances of success. Our Vinson expeditions are led by an experienced western guide who has personally guided Mount Vinson nearly 20 times with a 100 percent expedition success rate.

How much climbing skill do I need for Mount Vinson?

The Branscomb Shoulder Route consists of low-angle glacier walking above base camp, moderately steep fixed lines on snow and ice slopes higher on the mountain, and a ridge traverse to the summit. The climbing itself is relatively non-technical, but climbers must have experience with roped glacier travel and fixed lines. It is important to climb big mountains in locations like Alaska or the Andes before attempting Vinson because Antarctica’s severe weather and remoteness demand strong expedition living skills. If you want to climb Mount Vinson, but don’t yet have the necessary skills or experience, we would be happy to help you prepare!

How much will my pack weigh?

On Mount Vinson we must carry our own group gear, divided among the team. Be prepared to carry a backpack weighing 40 to 50 pounds on the lower glaciers, while pulling a loaded sled. While moving to high camp, your pack may weigh as much as 65 pounds.

How cold will it be?

On clear, still days temperatures as high as 70 degrees Fahrenheit have been recorded on Mount Vinson, but that’s an exception. We will encounter severe cold. On summit day, temperatures may range from -20 to -60 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the weather. At night lower on the mountain, temperatures may drop as low as -40 degrees. It is essential that you to follow our gear list and listen to your guides’ advice. Tell your guides if you feel cold or numb.

Should I bring a down suit?

We recommend that climbers bring a heavyweight down parka and a pair of heavyweight down pants instead of a down suit. The parka-pants combination is more adjustable than a down suit, which may cause you to overheat if you are stuck in it all day.

When should I arrive in Punta Arenas?

As noted in our itinerary, you must arrive in Punta Arenas at least two days before we fly to Antarctica. We recommend that you arrive three days in advance in case your luggage is lost or your flights are delayed. You’ll be glad to have the extra time in Punta Arenas because there are no second chances if you miss the flight to Antarctica! If you arrive three days in advance you must pay for the extra night of lodging and any other expenses. We would be happy to book an additional night at the hotel for you.

How do we get to Antarctica?

From Punta Arenas, we take a 4.5-hour flight in an Ilyushin cargo plane to a blue ice runway at Union Glacier Camp. This is one of the most unique experiences of the trip. In Union Glacier, we organize our gear and then board a smaller Twin Otter for the 45-minute flight to Vinson Base Camp, where we land on snow with skis.

What if our schedule is disrupted by weather or flight delays?

To climb Mount Vinson, we must travel to one of the most remote places on the planet. We use the best flight operators in the business, and they do not fly in poor visibility or otherwise marginal conditions. Since safety is our main priority, we sometimes have to wait in Punta Arenas, on the Union Glacier or in Vinson Base Camp for flying conditions to improve. If we are delayed in Antarctica, rest assured that we have plenty of cached food, fuel and medical supplies for any contingency.

As they say, it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the sky, than in the sky wishing you were on the ground! We strive to adhere to our itinerary, but our safety is ultimately more important than our schedule.

Will I be able to contact my friends and family?

While we are in Antarctica, satellite devices are our only means of communication. We carry satellite communications gear on all of our expeditions, and you can use these for an extra fee depending on our battery levels. Please be aware that for safety purposes we try to conserve power.

If your friends and family urgently need to reach you, please have them contact our office and we can arrange a call. We will also send out regular updates on team progress. These are an excellent way to keep track of our teams on the mountain. Please explain to your loved ones that communication is more challenging from Antarctica and they may not hear from you as often as with other trips. No news is good news.

Should I purchase travel insurance?

Trip delay and cancellation insurance with rescue, repatriation and medical coverage, is required for this expedition.

How much extra cash should I bring?

If you plan to purchase non-scheduled services, bring between $750 – $1,000 USD in cash. Remember, gratuities for guides and camp staff are not included. It is customary to tip guides 10% of the trip cost.

Need help choosing a trip?

Read our Four-Legged Stool blog post for tips on finding the right adventure for you. Each of our expeditions requires a different mix of fitness, technical climbing skill, altitude and expedition experience. We use a simple system to help you find an itinerary that fits your goals and your abilities. The trip you choose should offer you just the right mix of challenge and enjoyment.