Garrett Madison has led 22 successful expeditions to Mount Vinson since 2009. Each of these climbs successfully reached the top of Mount Vinson, the highest point in Antarctica. Madison Mountaineering’s approach to leading small and self-sufficient teams allows us the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in Antarctica and accommodate the needs of our climbers. Our “expedition style” approach on Vinson provides climbers with the relevant climbing and expedition experience to apply on bigger and more challenging peaks worldwide.
Who is your guide?
In addition to leading 24 previously successful expeditions of Mount Vinson, Garrett Madison has led 12 successful climbs of Mount Everest, 3 on K2, and many other expeditions around the globe. Garrett is a pleasant person to spend time with and is one of the best “expedition leaders” in balancing climber safety, reaching the summit, and having a great time throughout the program. Other Madison Mountaineering guides leading our teams on previous Mount Vinson seasons include Terray Sylvester, Conan Bliss, Ed Viesturs, and Conrad Anker!
The Journey to Vinson
Our journey begins in the Tierra del Fuego (Spanish for “Land of Fire”) in Chile’s southernmost city of Punta Arenas, located on the strait of Magellan. A large statue of the famous explorer towers over the town square. Legend has it that those who kiss the statue are destined to return! After a briefing with our flight logistics operator, we depart on a chartered jet and fly 4 hours over the Drake passage and then over a large part of the Antarctic continent, landing on a large strip of blue ice nearby the Union Glacier camp. We generally spend a day or two here then fly via Twin Otter aircraft 45 minutes to Vinson base camp, where we begin our climb.
Part of the Ellsworth mountain range, Mt. Vinson is the highest peak in Antarctica, approx. 600 miles from the South Pole and over 1,200 miles from the beginning of the Antarctic Peninsula. Traveling to Antarctica is an incredible experience in itself, as most Antarctic tourists merely catch a glimpse of the Antarctic peninsula from a cruise ship. Vinson climbers actually fly onto the continent (an opportunity normally only reserved for government-funded scientists or support personnel) and experience the surreal environment of inland Antarctica. A pristine land of ice, snow, and rock, Antarctica is actually a desert, with the least precipitation of any continent on Earth. At our intermediate camp in Antarctica located on Union Glacier, we have the opportunity to interact with other Antarctic explorers as well as scientists doing meaningful research in their fields.
We break the ascent of Vinson into several stages. With two higher camps above our base camp, we have the opportunity to acclimate along the way and rest during the ascent. Most of the climbing is on glaciated slopes, with one full day on a steep snow and ice slope utilizing fixed ropes. The final day to the top involves climbing the summit ridge with amazing views of the surrounding peaks as well as looking to the horizon of ice as far as the eye can see. Generally, we have stable weather during the climbing season of December and January, as this is the summer season in the southern hemisphere with 24 hours of daylight in Antarctica. The average temperature is well below 0°F, and occasionally the winds can reach up to 40 mph. Climbers should have experience climbing in cold conditions, be comfortable carrying a 40 lb. backpack and possess appropriate glacier travel experience. Please contact us to discuss the prerequisites for this expedition.
- Small team size, with a maximum of four climbers with one guide.
- Flexibility to adjust to changing mountain conditions, as well as possible flight delays.
- Expert leadership throughout, the highest success rate overall in the industry with top guides
- The best food on the mountain. Our team is famous for meals on Vinson that never disappoint! (think eggs, pancakes, and bacon for breakfast, meat, fish, with vegetables and a rice or potato dish for dinner)
- A dedicated and extremely knowledgeable contact person in the Madison Mountaineering office to assist with any pre-trip questions as well as logistics during and after the expedition
- Regular dispatches: Keep family members and friends informed through our daily dispatch from the mountain.