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Antarctica, Vinson Massif, Sentinel Range

Vinson Massif, Sentinel Range. On November 24, our group reached the summit of the Vinson Massif. We were Pete Ackerman, Bob Failing, John Otter, Bill Martin, Mike Meyer, Dave Tollakson and I. The ascent commenced following our November 17 landing aboard our privately chartered Twin Otter aircraft piloted by Giles Kershaw. Due to poor weather, we were delayed four days in reaching the mountain following our initial Antarctic refueling stop at the Chilean Marsh Air Base on the Peninsula’s King George Island. One further refueling at the Chilean Air Base at Cavajal on the Peninsula’s Adelaide Island was also required before the final 3½-hour flight to Base Camp. From Base Camp at about 7500 feet we followed the original 1966 American route, establishing three intermediate camps before the final seven-hour summit push. Significant stormy weather did not materialize during our ascent, although one breezy day with accompanying poor visibility forced an aborted summit attempt on November 23. The lowest air temperature noted during our seven-day ascent was — 36° F recorded at Base Camp, although summit weather, amid ultimately clear and slightly windy conditions, was probably much colder. Within two weeks following our descent, three other groups, one led by Adventure Network’s Martyn Williams for Mountain Travel and others including Reinhold Messner and Hector MacKenzie were also successful in reaching the summit. It was Messner’s seventh continental summit. By our reckoning, 53 persons have now summited the Vinson Massif.

Paul Pfau