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Antarctica, Ellsworth Mountains, Sentinel Range, Vinson Massif, Summary

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Damien Gildea acknowledges contributions from Simon Abrahams, Ludovic Challeat, Patrick Degerman, Bob Headland, Robert Miller, Todd Passey, Mike Roberts, Christian Stangl, and Phil Wickens.

Vinson Massif, summary. One-hundred-and-forty-seven climbers reached the summit of Mt. Vinson (4,892m) in the 2011-12 season, with repeats by guides bringing total ascents to 158. Fourteen climbers also ascended nearby Mt. Shinn (4,660m), the continent’s third highest mountain. Guides from Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) made several ascents of Knutzen Peak, a rocky summit that lies above the Vinson normal route, and did some reconnaissance on the eastern side of the massif. American Jordan Romero, aged 15 years, 5 months, 12 days, guided by ALE’s Scott Woolums, became the youngest to climb Vinson and also the youngest to complete the Seven Summits.

The major ascent of the season was the fifth ascent of Mt. Tyree (4,582m), the second highest mountain in Antarctica. Austrian climbers Hans Kammerlander, Robert Miller, and Christian Stangl reached the top by making the third ascent of the northeast face, more or less following the 1997 French route up the Grand Couloir. Stangl attempted the route in December 2010 but had to retreat from very high when his partner was injured by rockfall. The three used a different approach from previous ascensionists; ALE flew them to a base camp on the Cervellati Glacier, rather than the Patton Glacier. From the Cervellati they spent the first day of 2012 climbing onto the rocky northeast ridge of Tyree, where they placed a camp in an obvious notch at 3,247 m. The next day they went a little higher on the ridge, before traversing left into the couloir (as on the second ascent, in 1997), which they followed all the way to the broad saddle between Tyree’s north and south summits. Easy ground then led to the higher north summit. Their 200m, 6mm rope allowed them to make eight long rappels on the descent. Stangl joins Conrad Anker, Barry Corbet, and John Evans as the only people to have climbed Antarctica’s three highest mountains.

With this ascent Kammerlander claimed to be the first person to have climbed the Second Seven Summits, a challenge thought to be considerably more difficult than the Seven Summits. However, Kammerlander’s claim considers Nga Pullu, near Puncak Jaya (Carstenz Pyramid), to be the second highest in Oceania, while recent developments show that Puncak Mandala, a massif much farther east, is the second highest mountain on New Guinea, approximately 25m higher than Puncak Trikora, the third highest. Also Kammerlander plans to return to Canada’s Mt Logan, as it became apparent that he did not reach the main summit on his previous expedition. There is another issue of whether Mawenzi should be considered Africa’s second highest, in preference to Margherita in the Ruwenzori, given that it has sufficient prominence from Kilimanjaro. There needs to be clarification of the geographical status of these various peaks before any claims can be truly valid.

Damien Gildea, Australia