American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Antartica, Vinson Masif and Mount Shinn, Sentinel Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1986

Vinson Massif and Mount Shinn, Sentinel Range. On December 13 at 1:30 A.M., Gerry Roach and I reached the summit of Vinson Massif 4897 meters, 16,067 feet), the highest peak in Antarctica, at nearly 80° S. latitude. The ascent followed the original route pioneered by the Americans in 1966. However, given the almost continuous white-out conditions and extreme winds encountered while on the mountain, the traditional high camps employed by previous expeditions to Vinson could not be established. Thus, the climb was made by ascending over 6000 vertical feet on the summit day, which was accomplished in approximately 9 hours. Temperatures during the summit assault ranged from — 20°F to — 40°F and winds exceeded 50 mph. For Roach it was his seventh continent summit, thereby becoming only the third person to accomplish this feat. In addition to the ascent of Vinson, on December 7 fellow team members Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins climbed a new route on the steep west face of Mount Shinn (4558 meters, 14,954 feet), Antarctica’s third highest peak. This impressive climb likewise required a summit day ascent of over 6000 vertical feet, and was also done in extreme cold temperatures and high winds. Other members of the eight-man American team included expedition leader Dan Emmett, Dan Bass, Frank Morgan and Phil Trimble. The private group was flown to the western edge of the Sentinel Range aboard a twin-engine Otter piloted by Giles Kershaw. The 16-hour flight from the southern tip of South America took over four days to complete as the group was repeatedly forced to land on the Antarctic icecap to wait out marginal weather conditions. The flight was made possible by the use of three prearranged fuel caches provided by the Chilean Government, and the addition of an extra 250-gallon fuel tank which was located in the front of the passenger section of the tiny Otter. Happily, none of the expedition members are smokers.

Glenn Porzak

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