"The Vinson trip was spectacular. The success was in part due to the superior efforts and organization provided by you and the RMI staff. Thank you for your efforts. "
— Bruce F. | Read More Testimonials
Located only 660 nautical miles from the South Pole, Vinson Massif (16,067') is the highest peak in Antarctica and one of the renowned "Seven Summits." Expedition highlights include:
- Scale the "top of the bottom of the world" - the highest mountain in Antarctica and one of the most remote mountains on earth.
- Fly across the Drake Passage and over the sprawling icy interior of Antarctica to reach Vinson Base Camp.
- Climb Vinson with Dave Hahn, the most experienced and widely regarded Vinson guide in the world.
- Improve your chances of reaching the summit with an itinerary that includes proper acclimatization and the flexibility to accommodate for the uncertainties of Antarctica’s weather.
- Benefit from RMI’s excellent organization, support, and carefully planned and outfitted Vinson expedition: all the small advantages that add up to a more enjoyable experience.
- Take part in an RMI adventure to Antarctica and see why we continue to set the standard in guiding excellence.
Climbed for the first time in 1966, Vinson still sees very few visitors and remains a pristine and majestic peak. To reach this remote area of the world, we fly from Punta Arenas, Chile and land on the blue ice runway of Union Glacier. A short flight then brings us to Vinson Base Camp at the foot of the Branscomb Glacier in the Ellsworth Mountains. From here we ascend the Branscomb Glacier and climb the headwall on Vinson, setting up two camps along the way. Summit Day is one of the most spectacular of any big climb in the world: as we ascend from our High Camp (12,400') the views of the immense ice sheets which surround the Massif gradually come into view, the final steep push up the summit ridge is exhilarating but not technically difficult, and standing atop this remote summit a climber looks for miles in all directions onto a landscape virtually untouched by humans.
THE RMI DIFFERENCE
When your goal is the highest peak on the Antarctic continent, experience matters. Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. was established in 1969 and is one of America’s oldest and most-trusted guide services. We are the largest guide service on Mt. Rainier and Mt. McKinley and leaders in guiding climbs and treks around the globe. Our years of leading mountain adventures give us the experience and knowledge to create the best possible trips and we work hard to live up to our reputation as an industry leader. Nowhere is this more important than for an expedition to Vinson where the remote and inhospitable landscape necessitate that all the finer points are addressed. Our trip preparation before departure and when you return takes care of the details for you, from hotels to airport transfers, so that you can focus on preparing for the climb instead of the distraction that comes with coordinating logistics.
Our Vinson Massif expeditions are led by Dave Hahn and RMI’s foremost U.S. guides. Dave holds the world record for Vinson Massif - he has reached the summit an impressive 31 times. Dave and RMI’s guides bring years of climbing experience on not only Vinson but on mountains all over the world, from the Andes to the Alaska Range to the Himalayas. As you reach higher elevations and test the limits of your experience, the value of an accomplished, highly trained RMI Guide held to our standards cannot be understated.
Safety has always been RMI’s top priority and we strive to create the safest mountain experience possible. RMI’s experienced team of guides focus on leading a fun and successful climb of Mt. Vinson without compromising safety. We apply the same standards of safety we bring to Alaska and the Himalayas to our climbs of Vinson. Careful planning, precise ascent profiles, flexibility in our itinerary, and diligent attention are taken as we venture to high altitudes. Additional resources are stationed at Base Camp and comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio and satellite communication equipment are carried with the team throughout the climb.
As you prepare for your upcoming adventure please feel free to contact our office and speak directly to one of our experienced guides regarding equipment, conditioning, the route, or any other questions you may have about our programs. We are available Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at (888) 89-CLIMB or email@example.com.
Mt. Vinson Itinerary
The climb usually takes a minimum of 14 days, but weather related delays often occur and, therefore, your schedule must remain flexible.
Day 1: Depart U.S.
Day 2: Arrive in Santiago, Chile and connect with flights to Punta Arenas, Chile (PUQ). Upon arrival in Punta Arenas take a taxi from the airport to our hotel. Night spent at Hotel Diego de Almagro in Punta Arenas.
Day 3: After breakfast we have our first team meeting. Afterwards, we conduct a detailed personal equipment discussion and gear check. Night spent at Hotel Diego de Almagro. (B)
Packing gear in Punta Arenas
Day 4: Today we make our final preparations for the flight to Union Glacier with a pre-flight briefing, weighing baggage, etc. During the afternoon we have time to explore the interesting port city of Punta Arenas. Night spent at Hotel Diego de Almagro. (B)
Preparing for the flight to Antarctica
Day 5: Flight to Union Glacier, Antarctica. This flight is approximately five hours long, crossing Drake Passage and the Antarctic Circle before landing on a blue ice runway. If the weather allows we will continue on via Twin Otter aircraft to Vinson Base Camp located at 7,200' on the Branscomb Glacier. The flight is approximately 1 hour. (B, D)
Flying to Union Glacier Flying to Vinson Base Camp
Day 6: The climb begins! We carry food and fuel to Camp 1 located at 9,100', make our cache and descend to Vinson Base Camp for the night. (B, D)
Carrying loads to Camp 1
Day 7: Rest and acclimatization day. (B, D)
Resting at Base Camp
Day 8: We break camp, climbing back to Camp 1 with our remaining gear and establish our second camp at 9,100'. (B, D)
Moving to Camp 1
Day 9: Weather and health permitting we carry to High Camp located near the crest of Vinson's dramatic western escarpment. We cache gear at High Camp (12,400') and descend to Camp 1 for the night. (B, D)
Carrying gear to High Camp
Day 10: Rest and acclimatization at Camp 1. (B, D)
Resting at Camp 1
Day 11: Move to High Camp. (B, D)
Moving to High Camp
Day 12: Summit Day! On the climb from High Camp to the top of Mt. Vinson we gain 3,600'. From the 16,067' summit we have unparalleled views of the Ellsworth Range, the Ronne Ice Shelf and seemingly the whole continent of Antarctica. We spend the night again at high camp. (B, D)
Climbing on Summit Day The final slopes to the summit
Day 13: Break camp and descend to Vinson Base Camp. Night spent at Base Camp. (B, D)
Descending to Base Camp
Days 14 to 20: Days fourteen through twenty are contingency days should we experience delays due to weather or other unforeseen events. Days of delay are a normal part of Antarctic travel and maybe used on the mountain or for travel. (B, D)
Day 21: Return flight to Union Glacier and connect with the transport plane for our return flight to Punta Arenas. Night spent at the hotel at Punta Arenas. (B)
Flying off of the Ice
Day 22: Fly from Punta Arenas to Santiago and connect with flights to the United States. (B)
Day 23: Arrive home.
Key: B, L, D = Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner included.
Vinson Massif Equipment List
The following is a list of required equipment. We may encounter a variety of weather conditions throughout our climb, including rain, wind, snow, sleet and extreme heat. Skimping on equipment can jeopardize your safety and success, so we want you to think carefully about any changes or substitutions you are considering. If you have questions regarding the equipment needed for your upcoming climb, give us a call and speak directly to one of our experienced guides.
Most of the required equipment is available for rent or purchase from our affiliate Whittaker Mountaineering. RMI climbers receive a 10% discount on new clothing and equipment items ordered from Whittaker Mountaineering. This offer excludes sale items. For internet orders, please use the discount code RMI2014.
Pack & Bag Guides' Pick
2 DUFFEL BAG(S): A 120+ liter bag made of tough material with rugged zippers.
BACKPACK: An 80-90 liter pack is the recommended size for this climb. Your pack must be large enough for your layers, climbing gear, and food, as well as a portion of your tent and group load (kitchen equipment). A separate summit pack isn't necessary.
DAY PACK: A 25+ liter day pack to use as carry-on, while traveling or sightseeing.
A bag rated to -20° to -40° F. Either goose down or synthetic, with ample room for movement. Most guides prefer down, because it is lightweight and compactable. A waterproof bag is preferred, but not mandatory.
The temperature rating system for sleeping bags is arbitrary and is not a guarantee of warmth. Base your selection on how well you do in the cold. If you tend to sleep on the cold side, choose a bag rated on the lower end of the temperature range. Using two sleeping bags together is not recommended.
SLEEPING PAD - INFLATABLE: A full-length inflatable pad.
SLEEPING PAD - CLOSED FOAM: A second full-length or 3/4 length closed cell foam pad. This pad is used in combination with the first sleeping pad.
Technical Gear Guides' Pick
ICE AXE: The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following general mountaineering formula: up to 5'8", use a 65 cm axe; 5'8" to 6'2", use a 70 cm axe; and taller, use a 75 cm axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should still be a few inches above the ground.
CLIMBING HARNESS: We recommend a comfortable, adjustable alpine climbing harness. Removable, drop seat or adjustable leg loops are convenient for managing your clothing layers over the course of the climb and facilitate going to the bathroom.
2 TRIPLE-ACTION LOCKING CARABINER(S): Used for clipping into the climbing rope.
HELMET: A UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) or CE (European Committee for Standardization) certified climbing helmet. Bicycle or ski helmets are designed for a different type of impact and will not substitute as a climbing helmet.
CRAMPONS: The 10 to 12 point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. Rigid frame crampons designed for technical ice climbing are not recommended.
AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVER: A digital transceiver is preferred; analog will work as well. If you rent a transceiver, one set of new batteries will be provided.
TREKKING POLES: Lightweight and collapsible poles are preferred. Larger baskets work well with deep snow. Ski poles will also work.
MECHANICAL ASCENDER: For traveling on fixed ropes. Most people prefer an ascender designed for their weak hand, leaving their strong hand free to hold their ice axe. For example, a right-handed person would use a left-handed ascender.
Head Guides' Pick
WARM HAT: Wool or synthetic. It should provide warmth but also be thin enough to fit underneath a climbing helmet.
BUFF / NECK GAITER / BALACLAVA: One item for face protection is required. Our primary recommendation is the Buff. A neck gaiter or balaclava is also acceptable.
2 GLACIER GLASSES: You will need protective sunglasses, either dark-lensed with side shields or full wrap-around frames. Almost all sunglasses block UV-A, UV-B and infrared rays adequately. Pay attention to the visible light transmission. The darkest lenses (glacier glasses) only allow approx. 6% visible light to get through, while lighter lenses (driving glasses) let in as much as 20+ %. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the wearer’s pupils through the lenses, they are too light for sun protection at altitude.
GOGGLES: Amber or rose-tinted goggles for adverse weather. On windy days, climbers, especially contact lens wearers, may find photochromatic lenses the most versatile in a variety of light conditions.
HEADLAMP IS NOT REQUIRED FOR THIS TRIP
Each glove layer is worn separately as conditions change during the climb.
HEAVY WEIGHT GLOVE: Wind/water resistant, insulated gloves. These also serve as emergency back-ups if you drop or lose a glove.
2 PAIR WORK GLOVES: Medium weight insulated gloves for climbing and working around camp. These should be both durable and dexterous enough to allow you to perform activities like setting up or taking down tents while wearing them.
Down Insulation Guides' Pick
DOWN PARKA WITH ATTACHED HOOD: An 8,000-meter down parka with attached hood.
DOWN PANT: An 8,000-meter down pant.
We recommend a minimum of five upper body layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Two of these should be insulating layers, one light and one medium, that fit well together. Today there are many different layering systems to choose from, including fleece, soft-shell, down and synthetic options.
LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT BASELAYER: Long-sleeve wool or synthetic top. Quarter zip styles will allow for better temperature regulation. We recommend light colors, which best reflect the intense sun on hot days.
HEAVY WEIGHT BASELAYER: One long-sleeve heavy weight top.
RAIN JACKET (HARD SHELL): A jacket made of rain-proof material with an attached hood. We recommend a thinner lightweight jacket rather than a heavier insulated jacket.
We recommend a system of four layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Products which combine several layers into one garment, such as traditional ski pants, don’t work well as they don’t offer the versatility of a layering system.
UNDERWEAR: Non-cotton briefs or boxers.
LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT BASELAYER: Synthetic or wool.
HEAVY WEIGHT BASELAYER: Heavy weight bottoms.
CLIMBING PANT: Soft-shell climbing pants offer a wide range of versatility. You can wear them in combination with the base layer on colder days, or alone on warmer days.
RAIN PANT (HARD SHELL): A waterproof pant with 3/4 side zippers (sometimes called 7/8 or full side zips) are required for facilitating quick clothing adjustments over boots and crampons.
Feet Guides' Pick
MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: A new breed of composite boot like the Millet Everest or an expedition-style plastic double boot in combination with a full overboot is mandatory. Price is the best indicator. Though expensive, the function of footwear is of crucial importance. Select a brand's "top of the line" model and it should be sufficient. The boot needs to be roomy enough to allow for good circulation. Anticipate a sock combination when sizing them (single sock, liner and sock, or two heavy socks on each foot). Wear the boots as often as possible before the climb, to determine proper fit, comfort and performance. It is recommended that you keep your boots in your carry-on luggage for all of your commercial flights in case your luggage is mis-directed.
OVERBOOTS: Expedition overboots add significant warmth, especially at high altitude. All-in-one mountaineering boots do not need the added insulation of overboots.
LIGHTWEIGHT HIKING SHOES: Great for travel, day hikes, and camp.
BOOTIES: Goose down or synthetic fill. Booties can be worn inside of the overboots while walking around camp, which allows an opportunity to dry out inner boots.
4 PAIR OF SOCKS: Either wool or synthetic. Whatever sock combination you are accustomed to wearing during your training or previous adventures (whether single medium weight socks, a medium weight with a liner sock, two medium weight socks together, etc), should work just fine for this climb.
GAITERS: A knee-length pair of gaiters, large enough to fit over your mountaineering boots, will be needed for protection from snow, mud, and catching your crampons on loose clothing. These are not necessary with all-in-one boot / gaiter models.
Miscellaneous Items Guides' Pick
SUNSCREEN: We recommend small tubes of SPF 15 or higher, which can be carried in pockets for easy access and to prevent freezing.
MEALS: See the Food tab for suggestions and quantities.
2 WATER BOTTLES: Hard-sided, screw-top, one-liter water bottles with wide mouths are required.
2 INSULATED WATER BOTTLE COVERS: These help prevent freezing. It should completely cover the bottle.
2 SETS ALKALINE BATTERIES: For avalanche transceiver.
LUGGAGE LOCKS: For your duffel bags. Must be TSA approved.
SHIRTS: For hotel dinners and while traveling.
PEE BOTTLE: 1 to 1 1/2 quart size
Personal First Aid Kit
ASPRIN / IBUPROFEN / TYLENOL
PEPTO-BISMOL (STOMACH RELIEF)
SMALL ROLL OF ADHESIVE TAPE
ANTIBIOTICS: Broad spectrum antibiotics for Traveler's Diarrhea.
TYLENOL #3: Tylenol 3 for pain
ACETAZOLAMIDE: For Altitude Illness
DEXAMETHAZONE: For HACE.
Utensils Guides' Pick
CLEANSING FACE WIPES
READING MATERIAL / JOURNAL
iPOD or MP3 PLAYER
THERMOS: One-half liter capacity, maximum.
PASSPORT: Valid for six months beyond your return date.
COPY OF PASSPORT: The first two pages of your passport.
COPY OF FLIGHT ITINERARY
2 EXTRA PASSPORT PHOTOS
Purchase travel insurance.
Return the Registration Packet to the RMI Office.
Purchase airplane tickets.
Reserve rental equipment.
Be in the Best Shape of Your Life!
RMI provides the following equipment for your program: tents, group cooking equipment, climbing ropes, avalanche probes and shovels, and blue bags (for solid waste disposal).
Every guide on your climb will carry rescue equipment and a first aid kit. Each climb has two-way radios and a satellite phone for emergency contact.
Breakfast and dinner meals on the mountain are included as indicated in our Trip Itinerary. Most restaurant meals are on your own. Your trip fee does not included bottled water and drinks.
Please list any special dietary needs on the Participant Information Form. The form must be returned to the RMI Office 120 days prior to the program departure date.
You are responsible for your own mountain lunches for 16 days. Lunch items should weigh about 9 - 10 lbs.
You are packing two different kinds of food for this trip - "Mountain Lunches" and "General Snack Food".
Mountain Lunches are the snacks that you will be eating throughout the climb. The food is generally bought from the U.S. and it is your tried and true favorites. You will need to bring enough snack food for 10 days of "Mountain Lunches". Snack items should be small and compact (not bulky) and fit inside a stuff sack as you will be carrying these snacks with you while you climb.
General Snack Food is what you will be eating if we are delayed for any reason while on the ice. Most of this food can be purchased in Punta Arenas. It should be small and compact as well but we will be able to cache some of the food at Union Glacier and at Vinson Basecamp. You will need a total 6 days of General Snack Food.
Take lunch foods that you genuinely enjoy. Eating well is the key to maintaining your strength while in the mountains. And in order to combat the loss of appetite at altitude, it is best to have a variety of foods from which to choose, from sweet to sour to salty.
Lunch snacks are eaten during short breaks throughout the day while in the mountains. Avoid packing any items that require preparation or hot water.
Recommended mountain lunch items: dry salami, smoked salmon, jerky (turkey, beef, fish), small cans of tuna fish, individually wrapped cheeses such as Laughing Cow or Baby Bell, crackers, bagels, candy bars, hard candies (Jolly Ranchers, Toffees, Life Savers), Gummy Bears, sour candies (Sweet Tarts), cookies, dried fruit, nuts, energy bars, GORP mixes, and drink mixes (Gatorade/Kool-Aid).
Keep in mind that upon arriving in Chile you must clear customs and food items are subject to inspection. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are not allowed and will be confiscated. Please plan on buying such items in Punta Arenas, and understand that the selection in Punta Arenas is limited and the markets do not always carry the same foods as in the United States. When going through Customs any food you do bring with you should be declared.
Mountain Breakfasts and Dinners
The breakfast menu includes items such as instant oatmeal, cold cereals (granola), breakfast bars (Kashi, Kudos), hot drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa, cider).
Dinner usually begins with soup and ends with dessert, followed by a round of hot drinks. Healthy one-pot meals, incorporating fresh local food whenever practical, are served as the main course. There are limitations, but the menu is planned to offer good variety and ample portions.
Our Vinson program is for adventurers in excellent physical condition who have previous glacier travel experience and are familiar the skills needed for a cold, remote, glaciated peak. Prior completion of an RMI Expedition Skills Seminar or equivalent instruction in a mountaineering course is required for team membership.
Please submit the RMI Registration Form prior to securing your reservation.
This trip is open to individuals who possess:
- Excellent physical fitness
- Previous roped glacier experience
Formal mountaineering skills training with competency and proficiency with the following skills:
- Crampon use
- Team rope travel skills
- Knots & slings - prussik, butterfly, Münter, etc.
- Snow and ice anchors
- Crevasse rescue (from both the victim and rescuer perspectives)
- Fixed line travel with mechanical ascenders
- Ice axe self and team arrest, with and without a backpack
- Snow camp construction
Recommended climbing experiences prior to Vinson include:
- Expedition Skills Seminars on Mt. Rainier or in Alaska.
- Previous experience at altitude (Kilimanjaro, Mexico, Aconcagua, etc.). While not a substitute for the necessary skills, previous altitude is always a benefit.
Physical Fitness Training
Mountaineering requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness. Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing mountains qualifies as an extremely challenging endeavor.
- Start immediately. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills.
- Be intentional. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb.
- Be sport-specific. The best fitness and training program mimics the physical and technical demands of your climbing objective. The closer you get to your program date, the more your training should resemble the climbing.
For Vinson, you are preparing for:
- Steep climbing and glacier travel with a 50-60 lb load
- A 10+ hour summit day
- A trip to an extremely cold environment
- Mountaineering techniques which require core strength and flexibility
Nothing ensures a personally successful adventure like your level of fitness and training. Bottom line: Plan on being in the best shape of your life and ready for a very challenging adventure!
Please refer to our Resources for Mountaineering Fitness and Training for detailed fitness and training information.
The key to climbing high is proper acclimatization. Our program follows a calculated ascent profile which allows time for your body to adjust to the altitude.
Excellent physical conditioning significantly increases your ability to acclimatize as you ascend. Climbers in excellent physical condition simply have more energy to commit to the acclimatization process throughout the days and nights of the ascent, allowing their bodies to adjust to the altitude more easily.
Finally, physical performance and acclimatization are also related to how well you have taken care of yourself throughout the hours, days and weeks prior to summit day. Arriving healthy and well-rested, maintaining proper hydration and caloric intake, and protecting against unnecessary heat loss (staying warm) are all key factors in an individual’s success on an expedition such as this.
RMI has partnered with Pirjo DeHart to provide comprehensive travel support to Punta Arenas. As a Travel agent for CTT Destinations, she has booked countless miles for adventure travelers across the globe. Pirjo has worked with Vinson Massif climbers for many years and understands the travel needs of this program. Please call (425) 831-0367 or email Pirjo.DeHart@CTTDestinations.com.
Cancellation Insurance and Medical Evacuation
We strongly encourage everyone to purchase Travel Insurance which can cover trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss or delay, medical expenses, medical evacuation, repatriation and more. The wise traveler, while perhaps able to walk away from the non-refundable cost of an adventure, recognizes that travel insurance offers the best possible protection in the event of a sudden, unexpected illness or injury prior to or when traveling. Note that many of the insurance options can be purchased under one policy but some coverage may only be available if purchased within 14 days of making your trip deposit or if purchased as an upgrade to an existing policy rather than as a stand-alone option.
Cancellation Insurance: Cancellation insurance offers protection of deposit and registration funds should you need to cancel from a program. This might be due to an injury during training, a personal illness, or it might be due to extenuating circumstances, such as family emergencies. Check with the insurance providers listed below for specific coverage details and options, including adventure/sports coverage.
Medical Evacuation: An illness or injury in a remote area could require a medical evacuation costing well over $100,000. For this reason, we require everyone to purchase a medical evacuation policy with minimum coverage of $150,000. Travel insurance providers (such as AIG Travel Guard and Travelex Insurance) typically offer reimbursement for medical evacuations. Check with the insurance providers listed below for specific coverage details and options, including details of what constitutes a medical vs. a non-medical emergency.
For more information, please visit one of the websites below or contact your local travel agent.
|AIG Travel Guard||Pirjo DeHart|
Travel Advisories / Warnings
Please confirm any current travel advisories/warnings as well as entry requirements with the U.S. Department of State.
Climbers flying from the U.S. usually fly via Santiago, Chile and then onward to Punta Arenas, Chile (PUQ). The 5-hour flight to Antarctica is aboard a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane which lands on a blue ice runway at Union Glacier. From Union Glacier we board a Twin Otter on skis for the one-hour flight to Vinson Base Camp. The logistical support needed to get climbers and their gear into position on Mt. Vinson is extraordinary.
A valid passport is required for your travels. Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the expected return date.
We suggest making a copy of the first two pages of your passport and keeping them in a separate bag as a backup. A copy should also be left with your emergency contact.
Chilean Visa: U.S. Citizens traveling to Chile do not need a prearranged visa. However, a "reciprocity fee" must be paid upon entering the country. The current cost is $160 and can be paid in U.S. Currency or with major credit cards. A receipt for this fee will be stapled in the back of your passport and is valid until the expiration of the passport. Visitors may stay in Chile for a maximum of 90 days with the tourist visa issued at Chilean Immigration. An extension of stay for an additional 90 days is possible, but requires payment of an extension fee.
If you are traveling under a non-U.S. passport, please check your country's specific requirements with the Chilean Embassy.
The Antarctic Treaty System that governs the continent dictates strict environmental protection practices and biosecurity guidelines exist for travel to Antarctica in order to prevent any alien species or diseases from accidentally being transported onto the continent. Before packing your bags, please clean and carefully inspect your gear to make sure that it is completely free of any soil, plant, or other organic material. Equipment will be checked again in Punta Arenas prior to departure. You will be provided with a "Biosecurity and Equipment Cleaning" document for further information.
Arranging Flights to and from Punta Arenas
Please arrive in Punta Arenas on Day 2 of the itinerary.
Airfare should be booked to depart Punta Arenas two weeks after the scheduled trip end. When you return to Punta Arenas, you can reschedule your return flight at the ticket counter or over the phone. Depending on the airline, a change of date penalty is usually charged at this time. We have found scheduling a future date works better than an open-ended ticket or missing an early return date.
Please make sure that you purchase a fully flexible airline ticket that allows for changes. Discount fare, air miles or frequent flier points are typically heavily restricted and with limited space availability and so can be the cause for many unwanted headaches at the end of the trip. Due to the extremely unpredictable weather the chances are very high that you will not fly on your regularly scheduled return flights, thus having flexibility is extremely important.
Here are some considerations when making your flight arrangements:
- We are traveling during the region"s high season, so seats to Punta Arenas can be limited and expensive.
- In general, the cheaper your ticket, the more difficult and/or expensive it is to make changes on short notice. Some fares do not even permit you to fly stand-by.
- Change fees can be expensive and payment is required at the time of change.
- The RMI Office is available to help facilitate in re-booking the return flights if needed. When the group leaves Union Glacier, you can call our office and we can contact your travel agent to start the process of re-booking for you. If you would like us to change your ticket, we will need all your ticket and passenger information. If it is not a fully flexible ticket, then we will also need a credit card number and maximum amount we are allowed to charge for making the change.
- Once you have confirmed your flights please forward your itinerary, flight details, confirmation number and/or ticket number to the RMI Office.
Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, take a taxi from the airport to our hotel, the Hotel Diego de Almagro.
Luggage for Flights to Union Glacier
All luggage must comply with international air transport regulations. White gas, fuels or other hazardous substances must not be carried on flights to Antarctica. No sharp objects (e.g., multi-tools, Swiss Army knives) should be carried in hand luggage. All cargo hold luggage and hand luggage will be screened by airport security personnel.
We have a baggage allowance of 50 lbs of personal gear for each team member. This includes all hold luggage but does not include the clothing that you will be wearing on the flight to Union Glacier. If the total weight of your personal gear is more than 50 lbs, you will be charged $30 per pound for any overages. The excess baggage fee must be paid in cash (no credit cards are accepted) prior to departure for Union Glacier. No individual bag can weigh more than 66 lbs (30kg). No exceptions.
In preparation for weighing and collection, your luggage should be separated into 4 categories:
- Clothing worn on flight to Antarctica: This will remain with you until your flight and should include various under-layers as well as your parka, rain pants, Antarctic boots, gloves, hat, goggles or sunglasses.
- Hand Luggage: Includes items you carry aboard in a reasonable sized daypack or on your person. Hand luggage includes your passport and other items that you want to keep with you until flight day or to have handy during the flight: all medications, cameras, sunscreen, and money. You MUST have your passport in your hand luggage. No sharp objects are allowed.
- Hold Luggage: Personal food, extra clothing and personal equipment for use in Antarctica, including knives and sharp objects. Hold luggage will be loaded the day prior to the flight and will remain in the hold of the plane until weather conditions permit us to fly to Union Glacier. Please tag your bags with traveler name, program code, and RMI. You will not have access to these items before or during the flight. Since weather delays are the norm, do not put anything in your hold luggage that you might need during your stay in Punta Arenas, including medications, perishable foods, passport, credit cards or cash.
- Left Luggage: City clothes and any other items you want to leave in Punta Arenas. These should be left at your hotel. Please make sure to tag all left luggage with both your name, as well as "RAAL" in case ALE needs to retrieve our luggage for us upon return from Antarctica. Please make sure you have an accurate description of the number and type of bags you have left in the hotel. This will allow ALE to move your bags to an alternate hotel if required on your return to Punta Arenas. Do not leave valuables in your left luggage.
When preparing your luggage for weighing keep in mind:
- Your hold luggage will be weighed and collected from you the afternoon prior to your flight and you will not see it again until you arrive at Union Glacier.
- You will pre-weigh hand luggage at the same time to ascertain its approximate weight and size and your group’s total luggage weight.
- Your maximum personal baggage weight is 50 lbs. Weight above that limit will be subject to a $30 per pound charge –pack efficiently!
Immunizations & Travel Medicine
No immunizations are required for traveling in Chile, however, there are several recommendations. For the most current information on inoculation requirements and recommendations, please refer to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
Travelers may suffer from upset stomachs when in foreign countries. There are some basic rules, however, that can help keep you healthy.
Hygiene: It is important that you wash your hands thoroughly before meals and after using the restroom. If water is not available for washing, we recommend using a hand sanitizer.
Water: The number one rule is: don't drink the water, and that includes shower water and ice! Brush your teeth with purified water rather than tap water. You should check bottled water for a good seal and use a napkin to wipe excess moisture from drinking glasses. Take care with fruit juice, particularly if it has been diluted with water. Carefully clean the tops of bottled beverages before opening.
Food: If it is cooked, boiled or can be peeled, you can usually eat it. Salads and fruits should be washed with purified water or peeled where possible. Be wary of ice cream and shellfish. Always avoid any undercooked meat.
Union Glacier Camp has a basic clinic where excellent care for minor illnesses and injuries is readily available. The clinic is staffed by a doctor and medic who specialize in emergency and remote medicine.
At Vinson Base Camp, a Base Camp Manager is available to coordinate an emergency response in the event of an accident on the mountain.
In the event of more serious illnesses or injuries, evacuation to Punta Arenas, Chile, would be required.
Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, driest continent on the planet. In the winter, the lowest recorded temperatures (without wind chill!) have reached -89°C (-129°F). The continent averages 2.4 km in height (1.5 miles) above sea level, making it 1.5 km (almost a mile) higher than the global average land height! Each year the South Pole receives less than an inch of water ... in the form of snow, of course. This amount of precipitation is similar to that of another desert, the Sahara.
Vinson Massif, at 78°35'S, 85°25'W is 21km (13 miles) long and 13km (8 miles) wide, is the highest peak in Antarctica. It lies on the southern part of the main ridge of the Sentinel Range. It was named for Carl G. Vinson, a Georgia congressman and a major force in 20th century U.S. Antarctic exploration. Discovered in 1957 after being sighted by U.S. Navy aircraft, it was first climbed in December 1966 by a combined group from the American Alpine Club and the National Science Foundation.
Vinson's weather is generally controlled by the polar ice cap's high-pressure system, creating predominantly stable conditions, though high winds and snowfall are possible. Annual snowfall on Vinson is low, but high winds can cause accumulations and low visibility conditions. During the Antarctic summer (November through January), there are 24 hours of daylight. The average temperature during these months is −20°F.
For current conditions at Union Glacier, Antarctica, check Yr.no.
Electricity in Chile is 220 Volts and 50 Hertz. Carry a universal convertor and plug adaptor travel kit.
There are limited charging facilities provided by ALE at Union Glacier. To access them you will need a 12V DC-DC charger for your device that is capable of plugging into a cigarette lighter socket. There are no charging capabilities available on Vinson and each climber is responsible for bringing their own necessary power supplies.
The currency in Chile is the Chilean Peso. Check a financial newspaper or www.xe.com for the current exchange rate prior to departure.
You should find that $600-$900 for spending money is adequate for restaurant meals, drinks and pocket money.
Credit cards are accepted in some stores, restaurants, and hotels in Punta Arenas, but it is still a good idea to bring some U.S. cash to exchange if necessary. We do not recommend bringing traveler's checks.
ATMs displaying "Redbank" work with Cirrus, MasterCard and Visa cards. Our hotel accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners Club International cards. Be sure to notify your credit card company before leaving home so that your account is not disabled due to the change in buying patterns.
Our guides work hard to ensure your well being and success on the mountain. If you have a positive experience, a gratuity is an excellent way to show your appreciation. Amounts are at your discretion and should be based on your level of enjoyment.
Lonely Planet and other travel service websites are readily available and describe Antarctica well.
Alfred Lansing's Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage to the Antarctic remains an enduring classic of exploration and survival on the Antarctic continent.
A deposit of $5,000 per person secures your reservation. Final payment is due 120 days prior to the start of your program. Final payments may be made via check or wire transfer only. Trips departing within 120 days must be paid in full at the time of reservation.
We will send a payment reminder approximately three weeks before your payment is due. If your final payment is not received within 120 days of the program your reservation will be cancelled and all fees forfeited.
Once we receive written notification (mail, e-mail, or fax) that you are canceling an individual participant or your entire reservation the following fees will apply. A fee of $2,500 per person will be charged for cancellations made more than 120 days before departure. There will be no refunds for cancellations made less than 120 days before your program.
Cancellation Insurance: We strongly suggest that everyone purchase travel insurance. Please see our Travel Page for details.
Included are the following:
- RMI Leadership
- Flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Vinson Base Camp and return with 50 lbs of baggage allowance per person.
- Hotel accommodations as stated in the itinerary: three hotel nights in Punta Arenas prior to the flight to Antarctica and one upon our return, based on double occupancy*
- All breakfast and dinner meals on the mountain and other meals as stated in the itinerary
- All group cooking, climbing and camping equipment
Not included are the following:
- International roundtrip airfare to Punta Arenas
- Accommodations and meals in Punta Arenas not included in itinerary
- Medical evacuation insurance of $150,000 (required)
- Travel insurance
- Personal clothing and equipment
- Excess baggage fees on flights to and from Punta Arenas
- Excess baggage fees on flight to Union Glacier (50 lbs per person included in price, additional charge of $66 per kilogram)
- Airport taxes and Chilean entry visa
- Tips for RMI Guides
- Rescue costs or costs associated with early departure from the expedition
- Helicopter or charter flight
- Personal communications (Satellite phone, phone, fax, email)
- Bottled water and personal drinks
- Additional room charges including laundry service and other personal expenses
- Costs incurred as a result of delays or events beyond the control of RMI
- Transfers between the Punta Arenas airport and hotel for arrival and departure flights
- Medical, hospitalization and evacuation costs (by any means)
- The cost of delays due to weather, road or trail conditions, flight delays, government intervention, illness, medical issues, hospitalization, evacuation costs (by helicopter or any other means), or any other contingency which we or our agents cannot control are not included.
* Accommodations are based on double occupancy. A Single Supplement Fee will be charged to those occupying single accommodations by choice or circumstance. The single supplement is not available in huts, tents, or in all hotels.
Safety is RMI's number one priority. Our guides manage significant hazards inherent in mountaineering such as avalanches, ice fall, rock fall, inclement weather, and high winds, but they cannot eliminate them. RMI guides draw from their wealth of experience and training to make sound decisions that improve your chance of reaching the summit without compromising the necessary margin of safety.
Please clearly understand that mountaineering is inherently a hazardous sport. You are choosing to engage in an activity in which participants have been injured and killed. While those accidents are indeed infrequent, they may occur at any time and be out of our control. We ask that participants acknowledge the risk and hazards of mountaineering, and make their own choices about whether or not to engage in this activity.
Mountaineering is both an individual challenge and a team endeavor. Some of the responsibility for the team is carried by the individual climbers. For this reason, we ask that each participant:
- is physically and mentally fit, properly attired and equipped, and continues to self assess throughout the program to ensure as safe a climb as possible. If a climber's own physical fitness limits his or her ability to safely continue upward, that can have a negative impact on the summit experience or opportunity of other climb participants.
- honestly and accurately describe themselves, in terms of fitness, health and skills, and their equipment to their guides, and that they adhere to the advice of their professional mountain guide.
Age-Appropriate Guidelines & Restrictions
In the interest of the safety and well-being of all participants, RMI adheres to the following age-appropriate guidelines and restrictions on all climbing programs, domestic and international.
- Ages 15 & under: No participants age 15 & under
- Ages 16 & 17: Accompanied by parent or legal guardian
- Ages 18 & above: No restrictions
An individual’s birthday must precede the departure date of the program. For example: a 15 year old who turns 16 on July 1 may participate on a program beginning July 2.
Accompaniment by parent or legal guardian is required for the program or climb.
Under-aged participants on Private Climb or Group Climb programs are assessed on an individual basis.
RMI's program plans and itineraries are subject to change or adjustment based on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to, route conditions, weather, terrain, and many other factors. RMI has complete discretion to change plans to accommodate any of these or other factors, including discretion to change program schedule or itinerary, and change guides or staff, as necessary for the proper and safe conduct of the program.
We reserve the right to cancel any program due to inadequate signups, weather or route conditions. In such a case, a full refund is given; however, RMI cannot be responsible for any additional expenses incurred in preparing for the program (i.e., airline tickets, equipment purchase or rental, hotel reservations).
RMI cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit. Weather, route conditions, your own abilities, or the abilities of other climbers may create circumstances that make an ascent unsafe, and you or your entire party may have to turn around without reaching the summit. Failure to reach the summit due to a person's own lack of fitness or to any of the events associated with mountaineering (such as weather, route, avalanche hazard, team dynamics, etc.), are not Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.'s responsibility and will not result in refund or reschedule.
If a climber decides to leave a trip at any time after the start of the trip and prior to its conclusion, he or she will not be entitled to a refund.
RMI reserves the right to dismiss the climber from a trip or to send the climber to a lower altitude at any time if RMI determines, in its sole discretion, that the Participant is not physically, technically, or psychologically prepared for or capable of participating in the program.
When should I book my return flight?
Airfare should be booked to depart Punta Arenas two weeks after the scheduled trip end. When you return to Punta Arenas, you can reschedule your return flight at the ticket counter or over the phone. Depending on the airline, a change of date penalty is usually charged at this time. We have found scheduling a future date usually works better than an open-ended ticket or missing an early return date.
How long is the flight from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier? How far from Union Glacier to Vinson Base Camp?
The flight to Union Glacier, Antarctica requires approximately five hours. The flight, crossing Drake Passage and the Antarctic Circle, is aboard a Russian Illuyshin cargo plane and lands on a blue ice runway at Union Glacier.
If the weather allows, we will continue for the one-hour flight on a Twin Otter ski-equipped plane to Vinson Base Camp, located at 7,200' on the Branscomb Glacier.
Is a down suit is necessary?
A down suit is not necessary, though a few climbers do prefer it. For most climbers, an 8,000-meter down parka with attached hood in combination with 8,000-meter down pant is the preferred option because it offers the most versatility when climbing.
Why no headlamp?
Vinson is located very near the South Pole and thus, during the southern hemisphere summer, the sun will be above the horizon 24 hours a day.
Will I need to pull a sled?
Typically the guides and a few (not all) climbers will pull sleds.
Will we see penguins? I've heard that Antarctica is teeming with animals. Will there be any wildlife?
Penguins can be seen near Punta Arenas. Should there be a flying delay to the continent, we can make time for an outing to view them.
While the coast of Antarctica is a popular cruising destination because of the wildlife, the interior part of the continent is significantly colder and thus is devoid of all life. While an odd, lost bird may make an appearance from time to time as it passes through the Ellsworth Mountains, the Vinson Massif is nearly a sterile environment, hundreds of miles from the continent's edge and even farther from open water.
How cold will it be?
At Union Glacier, temperatures might hover around 0 to +20 F, but there will be shelter available. At Vinson Base, the temperatures will likely be -10 to +10 F. On a typical summit day, temperatures are likely to range from -35 F to -20 F. If the wind is not blowing and the sun is shining, summit temperatures can be surprisingly comfortable. Most of our climbing activities are planned so as to take advantage of the sun's rays. While the sun is not setting on Vinson during the climbing season, it does creep behind the mountain from time to time.
How hard is the climb?
The climbing itself is similar to the glaciated terrain one encounters on either Denali or Mt. Rainier. Packs are generally lighter than on a typical Denali trip, but heavier than for an alpine-style ascent of Rainier. What makes Vinson difficult are the cold temperatures and the remote location. Many experienced climbers are surprised by the difficulty of summit day. This is partly because summit day is long and cold and at high altitudes.
Why does this expedition cost so much?
The logistical complications of such a trip are profound. Consider what it takes to station aircraft, personnel and fuel at such odd places on the planet. Then consider what it takes to do the same thing safely and in an environmentally friendly manner. Many have presumed that the costs for such a trip would come down through the years, but the reality is that such costs generally rise.
What is the food like on the mountain?
Please see our Food details for an example of meals while on the mountain.
What is the pace like?
We travel at an appropriate speed to cover the distance we need for the day without going too quickly or too slowly. While the actual distances are relatively short, the altitudes to which we travel are high and the climbing can be very challenging. The adventure as a whole, and certainly the days when we are carrying heavy loads, is generally characterized as strenuous.
What are the toilets like?
At Union Glacier, there are enclosed toilet facilities. At Vinson Base Camp, there are outdoor latrines. On the mountain, solid waste is captured in W.A.G. (waste alleviating gel) bags while liquid waste is concentrated in "pee-holes" in designated areas. This necessitates the use of pee bottles while climbing and transporting your liquid waste to the nearest disposal site.
How will I be able to stay connected with those at home?
Antarctica is the most remote continent on earth. It should not be expected to remain in constant contact with your home without incurring significant cost. At Union Glacier, you can purchase minutes to use on an ALE supplied satellite phone. On the mountain, you will have to arrange to bring your own personal satellite phone. RMI guides carry a satellite phone for emergency use.
Should I bring a cell phone, smart phone or a satellite phone?
A satellite phone is the only way to send/receive calls and data on the continent of Antarctica. Satellite phone rental is available through Remote Satellite Systems International.In Punta Arenas, a cell phone set up for international use will work.
Is a Kindle or Nook practical on this trip?
Yes, but if you wish to take it up on the mountain you will certainly need to recharge it once in a while using a personal solar charger.