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Antarctica, Ellsworth Mountains, Vinson Massif Summary

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All ascents reported took place in the 2010–11 season, unless otherwise stated. In the summaries, Damien Gildea acknowledges contributions from Alex Abramov, Dana Coffield, Kip Garre, Bob Headland, Rajiv Joshi, Gary Kuehn, Colin Monteath, Victor Saunders, Phil Wickens, and Scott Woolums.

Vinson Massif summary. It was another busy season on Vinson (4,892 m) with 183 people successfully climbing the mountain. Repeat ascents took the total number of summits to exactly 200. Among those successful were two 16-year-olds: George Atkinson (UK) and Crina Popescu (Romania). After descending to Base Camp a number of climbers were stuck for several days due to bad weather; their February 1 flight out was the latest that climbers have left the mountain for many years.

There were several notable ascents. The first was by Dana Coffield, Jocelyn Dufour, and Brent Manning. This group went up the right-hand side of the West Face Ice Stream, a repeat of a combination of three existing routes that had first been linked by Slovenians in 1997. The three initially climbed the route taken in 1995 by Spanish climbers, who made the first ascent of the rocky shoulder now known as Asturias Peak. They then crossed up and left to join Heavenly Father, climbed in 1993 by Jo Bentley and Jay Smith, before continuing across flat terrain at the top of the ice stream, and finally up to the summit of Vinson. The trio placed two camps on the route before finishing up the southwest ridge of the summit pyramid. This last section had been climbed in 1999 by Conrad Anker after his solo, single-push first ascent of the full west ridge.

Another interesting ascent, in the dying days of the season, was a new route on the northern section of the west face by climbers from France’s Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne (GMHM). The main rocky part of this face was first climbed in December 2007 by Maria “Pachi” Ibarra and Jarmila Tyrril via a 1,200m line on steep snow and rock that they named the Chilena-Slovak Route. On January 28 Sébastian Bohin and Marion Poitevin put up a new line left of the Chilena-Slovak Route. Their climb involved steep snow, moderate mixed terrain, and was named Tack-Tack, in tribute to a friend who had helped with the expedition.

A further piece of new climbing was the first full ascent of the north ridge of Branscomb Peak. This summit sits at the apex of the main west face of Vinson, overlooking the Branscomb Glacier. It was named in 2006 by the USGS during publication of the Omega Foundation’s map Vinson Massif & The Sentinel Range. It was first traversed in 1992 by Roger Mear and Martin Hood on their descent from Vinson’s summit, and in 2004 was climbed via a couple of different routes on its eastern and southern sides, by diverting from the normal route to Vinson’s main summit. In recent years ALE personnel had ventured up its north ridge from High Camp, but none had continued all the way to the summit. On January 13 a British military group comprising Gordon Clark, Simon Hall, Rajiv Joshi, and James Lancashire pushed up the ridge and reached the summit, finding the edge quite corniced in places.

Mount Shinn (4,660m), the continent’s third highest mountain, also saw a significant repeat this year, when two ALE guides made the second ascent of the elegant southeast ridge. This narrow line forms the right-hand skyline of Shinn as commonly seen from Vinson, rising above Goodge Col. It was first climbed in 1988 by the New Zealand-Australian team of Colin Monteath and Greg Mortimer.

Damien Gildea, Australia