“Best trip of my life” – Sam Gilbert, Vinson climber 2015
Madison Mountaineering is among a very select few companies that have gained authorization to operate mountaineering expeditions in Antarctica, which includes submitting Advance Notification to the US Department of State and permitting regarding Waste Management, Environmental Documentation, and Post-Visit Report submissions.
Garrett Madison has led 14 successful expeditions to Mt. Vinson over the last 19 years. Each of these 14 climbs was successful in reaching the top of Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica. Madison Mountaineering’s approach to leading small, self sufficient teams allows us the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in Antarctica and accommodate the needs of our climbers.
Who is your guide?
In addition to leading 14 climbs of Mt. Vinson, Garrett Madison has led 9 successful climbs of Mt. Everest, and many other expeditions around the globe. Garrett is a very enjoyable person to spend time with, and is perhaps one of the best ‘expedition leaders’ in regards to balancing climber safety, reaching the summit, and having a great time throughout the program.
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 in an Ilyushin 76 Russian cargo jet and fly 4 ½ 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 be 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.
• Your mountain guide will meet you in Punta Arenas to conduct your gear check and be with you for the entire program (other companies have you meet your guide at the mountain).
• Small team size, with a maximum of five climbers with one guide.
• Flexibility to adjust to changing mountain conditions, as well as possible flight delays.
• The best food on the mountain. Garrett Madison is famous for his signature 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)
• Expert leadership throughout.
• A dedicated and extremely knowledgeable person of contact in the Madison Mountaineering office to assist with any pre trip questions.
• A travel agent well versed in booking flights for Vinson climbers, and available to make changes should your choose to change your itinerary.
• Regular dispatches: Keep family members and friends informed through our daily dispatch from the mountain accessed on our website.
We regularly organize custom programs for private groups. We are happy to accommodate your program dates, as well as other specific requests related to the itinerary, amenities, and group size. Please contact us if you would like to know more about custom programs.
Day 1: Arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile. Our guide will meet you upon arrival at the airport and take you to our hotel. After settling in, we will conduct a thorough equipment check, and then have a group dinner at one of the many fine restaurants.
Day 2: After breakfast we attend a pre flight briefing with our flight operator, and discuss many aspects of the journey to Antarctica. In the afternoon we send our duffel bags to the airport to be checked and packed for departure. We have the late afternoon and evening to explore the city.
Day 3: Depart for Antarctica. We fly approximately 5 hours over the Drake Passage and land at Union Glacier camp. We generally spend 1-2 nights at this camp.
Day 4: Review rope travel, Ice axe arrest, and crevasse rescue techniques.
Day 5: Fly to Vinson base camp, establish base camp.
Day 6: Climb to Camp 1, establish camp.
Day 7: Rest in Camp 1 and review fixed line climbing techniques.
Day 8: Climb up the Branscomb ridge, carrying a load to our Camp 2, return to Camp 1 for the night.
Day 9: Climb to Camp 2 and establish camp.
Day 10: Rest in Camp 2; evaluate weather conditions for a summit attempt.
Day 11: Summit day! We climb the glaciated slopes to the summit ridge, and then traverse the ridgeline to the highest point in Antarctica. Return to Camp 2 for the night.
Day 12: Descend from Camp 2 to Vinson Base Camp, spend the night at VBC.
Day 13: Fly back to Union Glacier Camp this day.
Day 14: Fly from Union Glacier Camp to Punta Arenas
Day 15: Depart Punta Arenas for home.
Days 16-18: Extra days in case of bad weather or flight delays.
Vinson Massif Climb: $42,250
2018 – 2019 Departures:
December 16 – January 2
December 27 – January 13
January 7 – January 24
• All flights from Punta Arenas to Antarctica and back
• All flights within Antarctica to reach Vinson base camp and back
• All accommodation and services while in Antarctica
• All meals in Antarctica
• All team equipment (tents, ropes, cooking equipment, etc.)
• All communications equipment such as VHF radios and satellite phone
• Guide service fees
• Daily weather forecasting during the climb
Costs Do Not Include:
• Wire transfer fee
• Accommodation and meals in Punta Arenas
• Personal items (see equipment list)
• Medical and Evacuation Insurance (required)
• Trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended)
• Any charges incurred that are beyond the control of Madison Mountaineering, LLC
• All prices and program dates are subject to change
Mt. Vinson Cancellation and Refund Policy:
Each deposit includes a $5,000 non-refundable registration fee that secures your flight reservation to Antarctica. A full refund, minus the registration fee will be provided if a refund request is made in writing and received by our office 120 days before the program begins. No refunds will be provided from the 120-day period leading up to the start of the expedition.
• Ice Axe: General mountaineering tool (65cm)
• Crampons: General mountaineering crampons
Ascender: 1 right or left hand ascender (Petzel brand is best)
• Alpine Climbing Harness: A mountaineering harness, with adjustable leg loops. Not a rock climbing “sport” harness.
• Carabineers: 3 locking and 3 regular
• Accessory Cord: 40′ of 5mm accessory cord for rigging your harness and prussiks.
• Rappel device: ATC or figure 8
• Mountaineering boots: La Sportiva Olympus Mons, Millet Everest, etc. A ‘triple’ boot system is preferred to keep your feet warm.
• Gaiters: If you are not using a triple boot system (recommended above), then plan to bring gaiters.
• Overboots: If you are not using a triple boot system, please bring neoprene overboots to provide additional warmth for your feet.
• Booties: Optional, down is best.
• Wool or synthetic socks: 3 pair
• Liner socks: 3 pair
• Synthetic Short underwear: A non cotton style underwear.
• Lightweight Long Underwear: 2-3 pair long sleeve shirt and long pants
• Heavyweight long underwear: 1 pair
• Short Sleeve Synthetic Shirt: 1-2 pair
• Soft Shell jacket: To be worn over other layers
• Soft Shell Pants: Very breathable and water repellant
• Hard Shell Jacket with hood: A waterproof and breathable shell jacket
• Hard Shell Pants: Waterproof and breathable shell pants
• Heavyweight Insulated Down Jacket with hood: 800+ fill
• Insulated synthetic Pants: 800+ fill
• Warm Hat: Synthetic or wool hat (ski hat).
• Balaclava: to protect your neck and face in high winds.
• Facemask: Optional, neoprene is best.
• Baseball Cap or other sun hat: To shade your face / neck from the sun on a hot day.
• Bandana or Buff: To protect your neck / face from the sun.
• Balaclava: To protect your face & neck from the wind/cold
• Glacier glasses: Full protection with side covers or wrap around.
• Ski goggles: To be worn on summit day in the event of high winds.
• Lightweight synthetic liner gloves: For wearing on a hot day.
• Soft shell gloves: To wear for moderate cold / wind.
• Shell glove with insulated liner: To wear for severe cold / strong wind.
• Expedition Mitts: Large enough to fit a liner glove inside.
• Expedition Backpack: 65L pack should be large enough.
• Sleeping Bag: Rated to at least -40°F. Goose down or synthetic.
• Compression stuff sacks: For reducing volume of the sleeping bag, down parka, etc., in your pack.
• Self inflating sleeping pad: Full length is preferred.
• Closed cell foam pad: To be used in conjunction with the inflating pad for warmth and comfort when sleeping.
• Trekking poles with snow baskets: Adjustable poles
• Cup: A plastic 16 oz. minimum cup or mug
• Bowl: A large plastic bowl for eating dinner or breakfast out of
• Spoon: Plastic spoon (lexan)
• Sunscreen: SPF 50 or better
• Lip screen: SPF 30 or better (2 sticks).
• Water bottles: 2 or 3 wide mouth bottles with 1 liter capacity.
• Water bottle parkas (2): fully insulated with zip opening.
• Thermos: 1 liter
• Pee bottle: 1 liter minimum bottle for convenience at night in the tent.
• Toiletry bag: Include toilet paper and hand sanitizer
• Hand warmers & toe warmers: 3 sets of each.
• Knife or multi tool (optional).
• Trash compactor bags: to line back pack and stuff sacks as well as for separating gear.
• Camera: bring extra batteries and memory cards.
• Travel Clothes: For days in Punta Arenas.
• Duffel bags (2) with locks: To transport equipment.
• Base Camp Items: Kindle, iPad, smart phone, etc.
• Snack food: Please bring a week’s supply of your favorite climbing snack food such as bars, gels, nuts, beef jerky, etc. A variety of salty and sweet is good. Please be advised that some foods are not allowed into Chile.
• Small personal first aid kit: Include athletic tape, band aids, Ibuprofen, blister care, personal medications, etc.