Vinson Massif

Please note you will be emailed a set of the Vinson Massif Team Reference Notes upon registration. This extensive booklet includes detailed information to assist in the planning of your trip; from travel and medical advice to equipment lists and photography tips. The following is to serve as a helpful guideline but please feel free to call or e-mail if you have any further questions. Our team is here to help!

CHOOSING A PROVIDER

How long has Adventure Consultants been in operation?
Adventure Consultants started in 1990 and we have been guiding internationally ever since. 

A few outfitters ‘claim’ to have the same level of experience and prestige with that of Adventure Consultants. In this league, what makes you a first choice for your climbers travelling to Antarctica?
In December of 1992, Adventure Consultants founders Rob Hall and Gary Ball ran their first commercial expedition to Antarctica and previous to this, Rob and Gary climbed Vinson Massif in 1990, and Rob earlier in 1989. Adventure Consultants have continued guiding ever since to this remote part of the world, and have an established relationship with ALE (Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions), who supply our transport to and from Antarctica and the logistic support and safety backup for our Vinson Massif expedition. Adventure Consultants has been running expeditions to Vinson Massif for over 20 seasons and over this time, we have developed our well-established ascent methodology and a flawless ascent record.

FOOD, ACCOMMODATION & FACILITIES

What showers and laundry facilities will be available on the expedition?

Showers and laundry facilities are available at the Punta Arenas Hotel prior to and after the expedition but during the expedition, this is not possible. We advise people to bring wet-wipes for an impromptu wash while on the expedition.

Would you let us know what food will be available?

Food is one of the most crucial factors for a trip onto Vinson Massif.  We serve nutritious and filling food that will sustain you well for the ascent; during the planning stage, we will ask you for your feedback in advance in order for us to adjust our menus to your specific requirements or tastes. We allow you to select your own mountain snack food in Punta Arenas prior to the trip to ensure you carry only what you prefer eating on the mountain.

What is the food like?

Our guides will prepare high quality ‘western’ food from a pre-planned menu with food items from New Zealand and Chile. On the mountain, we also eat fresh food plus MRE's - meals ready to eat. This is real food, vacuum sealed, so you just heat and eat! On previous expeditions, our teams have been served meals such as NZ lamb shanks, salmon, curries and pasta dishes. We are happy to cater for specific dietary requirements, so do let us know in advance.

What are the hotels like?

The expedition departs from Punta Arenas and we stay at a great little hotel called the Hotel Rey Don Felipe. This hotel offers classical elegance and its friendly helpful staff always look after the AC teams exceptionally well.  The challenge is that if we need to extend our stay in the event that weather delays our scheduled flight to Antarctica. Many groups are forced to check out of their hotel regardless but your guide will work with the hotel to try and keep the AC team in the hotel until our departure!

Will I be sharing a tent or room with other climbers? Is a single supplement available?

Typically you will have your own hotel room in Punta Arenas and on the mountain, you will share a tent with one other member. Due to the severe weight restrictions on the flight to Antarctica and heavy load carrying requirements on the mountain, a single supplement is not available while in Antarctica.

TRAVEL

Do I need to arrive the day before the trip starts? And when should I book my flight to leave as I have heard that there can be long delays trying to get to, or get back from the ice?

As the group gear must be weighed and loaded at least 1 day prior to departure to Union Glacier as well as attend the expedition briefing, you are advised to schedule your arrival in Punta Arenas accordingly. Thus we recommend arriving the day before the official start date of the expedition or at the very least, arriving on the morning of Day One. Flights to and from Antarctica are subject to weather, therefore delays can and sometimes do occur, so it is very important to allow some flexibility with airline travel arrangements at the end of the expedition.

When should I book my ticket?

For the majority of our expeditions, we advise you wait until the 120 day balance payment date prior to your trip start date to ensure your trip has met the minimum numbers and will operate. If you see a good deal and want to book your flights, then please ensure that you can make changes to your tickets. At this time, we highly recommend that you also purchase trip cancellation insurance, in the event that you need to cancel.

Can I get a cheap ticket online?

Even though our expeditions are only 2 weeks long, you MUST purchase an open, fully changeable air ticket, as trips can be extended by a week or more. Given the remote nature of where we are landing, both at Base Camp and at Union Glacier, the weather must fall within certain parameters to be able to fly and you can be assured the reasons for flight delays are for safety. In today’s world, there are few places where the environment still affects our plans and Antarctica is one of them!

Where do we meet? Will I be picked up?

Upon arrival into Punta Arenas, you will have to catch a taxi from the airport to the hotel as your guide will be busy with the final packing for the trip down to the ice. Once you have arrived at the hotel, please do let your guide know that you have arrived safely as he/she will be expecting you.

Why is this two week trip so expensive?

One sentence sums it all up. The flight to and from the ice. This will be the most expensive, no frills flight that you will ever take. The plane is a Russian built Ilyushin 76, designed for work in Siberia; it is well suited for taking off and landing on the ice. However, the interior will be jammed with cargo for the Base Camp, our gear, climbers, scientists and polar explorers, etc. Despite the low frills, it is a fun and exciting flight, especially the landing!

What if I am arriving early or departing late?

We can assist you with booking extra hotel room nights if you arrive early. However, on this trip YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO ARRIVE LATE, all equipment must be weighed and loaded one full day in advance of the flight to Antarctica. If you miss this deadline, or your bags get lost, you will not be able to come on the expedition.

CLOTHING & EQUIPMENT

Do you have a recommended list of clothing we should bring?

Yes, you will be sent a personal clothing and equipment/packing list,  once our office has received your trip registration form and deposit. We do also have a dedicated equipment coordinator that is happy to provide advice and answers to any questions you may have.

Do I really need all the equipment on the equipment list?

Yes, these lists have been carefully prepared and you must bring everything on the list, as there are very limited options if additional equipment needs to be purchased in Punta Arenas.

How warm do we need our sleeping bags to be?

This will be clearly stated in your recommended gear list. In particular for camping on the ice, you will need a sleeping bag warm enough for you in conditions that can be as cold as -40oC (-40oF)  We cannot recommend enough as to buying a sleeping bag big enough to allow you to wear some clothes in if it is especially cold.

ACCLIMATISATION

I will be climbing at altitude, so does Adventure Consultants take this into consideration?

On all of our programmes, we seriously take into consideration the altitude and ensure that all of our itineraries allow for sufficient acclimatisation and rest days, if required.

What altitude medication will be available on the expedition? Do we need to take tablets before/ during the trip?

All our guides carry extensive medical kits including medication for altitude illness. Unless you have experienced previous issues with acclimatisation there is likely no need to take Diamox prophylactically.  You need to bring any medications you regularly use (don’t forget to tell us about them) plus extra. Also bring a small first aid kit including a blister kit and mild headache medication for the normal altitude headaches.

GUIDES, PORTERS & EXPEDITION TEAM MEMBERS

How many guides will be assigned to our group?

On the Vinson Massif expedition, the team will have a minimum size of 4 members and 1 guide and a maximum size of 10 members and 2 guides.

How much weight can we carry on the expedition?

Adventure Consultants are privileged to be one of the only operators permitted to leave caches of equipment at our mountain camps.  This greatly reduces the need for carrying the larger loads of days gone by.  In general you can expect to carry around 15kg (35lbs) pack and haul an additional 12kg (25lbs) in your sled. On summit day, your pack is light at less than 8kg (17lbs).

Can I hire a porter?

If you feel you want additional support to carry equipment for you, then please contact the office to discuss pricing for this option.  We can arrange for a personal porter to carry for you throughout the expedition but due to the high cost of operating in Antarctica the costs for this service are substantial.

Can I contact other climbers or guides on this expedition?

Sure! Before the expedition, contact our office and we can pass on your details to the other climbers. Due to our privacy policy, we leave it up to individual team members as to whether they want to get in touch.

Who goes on your trips?

Our climbers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, interests, nationalities and skill levels ranging from those seeking skill development, to those seeking assistance with the world's highest mountains or purely adventure.

I would like to arrange a private trip, is this possible?

We are happy to arrange a private group trip to the destination of your choice, and even to remote destinations such as Antarctica. There is no specific group size, but obviously larger groups are more cost effective.

HEALTH & FITNESS

What are the skills/prior experience required for this climb?

Members should have prior experience with an ice axe and crampons and capable of strenuous exercise for several days' duration.  Glacier travel and snow camping experience are also beneficial. If you are interested in this expedition but feel that you may not have quite enough experience, please contact our team to chat over the skills you have and we can also easily arrange additional training around the world, if need be.

What kind of physical condition should I be in for an Antarctic expedition?

Given the remote location and altitude, we ask that you are in very good physical condition. Cardiovascular fitness is very important on this climb and you should be able to climb for 6hrs a day wearing a pack and up to 10-12hrs on summit day.

How heavy will my pack/sled be?

Adventure Consultants are privileged to be one of the only operators permitted to leave caches of equipment at our mountain camps.  This greatly reduces the need for carrying the larger loads of days gone by.  In general, you can expect to carry around 15kg (35lbs) pack and haul an additional 12kg (25lbs) in your sled. On summit day your pack is light, less than 8kg (17lbs).

How can I best prepare for the cold? Isn’t it the coldest place on the planet?

Yes, if the wind picks up and you are in the shade, it can get very cold indeed. The good part is that it is a dry cold. Low humidity makes the low temperatures a bit more tolerable. The best way to prepare for these temperatures, barring standing in a walk in freezer, would be to get out during the winter months if you can, and anticipate how your body will respond to the change in climate. To give you an idea of just how cold places down there get, the lowest ever recorded temperature by humans was at Vostok on July 21st 1983 was -89C!

Adventure Consultants can assist in sourcing gear and ALE may be able to rent some clothing items for particular trips. If interested, please enquire with your client liaison.

After going all that way, I would like to stay and ski to the South Pole, is this possible and if so, how long would it take?

We can arrange this for you. It typically takes 10 days or so after your climb is finished. The whole team flies back to Union Glacier and when the main group flies back to South America, you will join our South Pole Last Degree group and fly to 88 nautical miles away from the pole, and ski the rest of the way, pulling sleds just like the polar explorers! See our Ski the Last Degree South Pole page. Note, this option is only available on particular departures, so please enquire with our office, if interested.

Can I use skis on Vinson?

On the mountain, we actually don’t need them! We do not wear skis on the expedition, as skiing with a heavy pack and a sled behind you is a skill most do not have. 

If we get "stuck" on the ice, what do we eat? Have you ever run out of food?

No, we won’t run out of food! Typically we bring at least one week's worth of extra food with us. If we are required to stay longer than this we will then dine at the large base operated from Union Glacier, who maintain huge stores of food that could basically winter over everyone present.

How long is a typical day on the mountain?

Typically expect your days to be 4-9 hours long, with summit day potentially being longer.

What type of communication is available on the climb?

Your expedition guide will have an Iridium satellite phone and you are welcome to use this at US$4 per minute. As we rely on solar power and cannot guarantee that the phone will be available 24hrs a day. Cold severely affects the system and delays can occur for re-warming. If you anticipate that you may need to make frequent or long calls then please make arrangements before the expedition through our office.

I want to contact my friend or relative, who is on one of your trips, how can I reach them?

Your guide will send daily internet dispatches and the Adventure Consultants NZ office receives updates from our guides, while they are in the field. The best place to reach a loved one is through our office.

Will there be any power source for charging batteries, etc. available throughout the expedition? What voltage requirements?

We take solar panels and sometimes battery power packs on our expeditions. Our first priority is to charge our satellite phones and expedition electrical equipment.  If your equipment has a cigarette lighter type car charger (12V DC/DC charger capable of plugging into a 'female' cigarette lighter socket), bring that as this then gives you the option to charge items at Union Glacier. We do NOT recommend bringing rechargeable digital cameras; they tend to run out when power is not available. Use cameras with replaceable batteries and we recommend lithium batteries. We can cater for special power requirements at an extra cost - please enquire with our office.

WEATHER FORECASTS

What weather report service do you use? How often do you receive a weather report in the summit bid phase?

During the expedition, your guide will receive daily weather updates from the team at Union Glacier as well as updates from the Adventure Consultants office.  This will then allow your guide to gauge the best summit window.

INSURANCE

What insurance do we need to get?

When travelling to Antarctica for a Vinson Massif expedition Search & Rescue and medical evacuation insurance to a minimum value of US$150,000 is required.  South Pole and Ski The Last Degree departures require US$300,000  worth of cover and all expedtions, need cover for at least 7 days BEYOND your expected return date to Punta Arenas. This should cover you for any costs incurred in the event of any illness, medical emergency or evacuation that occurs while on expedition and we also recommend insurance for trip cancellation, baggage loss, damage or theft, or any other mishap that can occur.

Do I need evacuation insurance?

Absolutely and as it is so imperative for departures to Antarctica, as your insurance cover is double checked prior to be allowed to travel down to the ice.

Who do you recommend for insurance?

When you have booked on an Antarctic departure, we will send you information on the insurance option which will serve you best for obtaining the best coverage in line with what is required.

What is Trip Cancellation Insurance?

Trip cancellation insurance is an option that may allow you to cancel your trip without losing the total cost of the trip. Adventure Consultants highly recommends cancellation insurance for expeditions to Antarctica. If circumstances cause us to cancel a trip (e.g. minimum numbers are not reached) then we refund your fees paid, but trip cancellation insurance covers your airfare and any other costs you may have incurred.

FEES & PAYMENTS

Can I pay by credit card?

We can accept the expedition deposit and balance payment payment on a credit card although, this does incur a 3% credit card fee. Please contact our office or visit our secure credit card page to send us your credit card details - your card is not charged at the time as we process this here in our office and not via an online payment system.

What is included in the cost of my trip? Does it include airfare?

Each specific trip page on the website has a section as well as a downloadable pdf document with exactly what is and what is not included on the trip. International airfares are not included in the trip price. We can however, recommend excellent travel agents whom we have worked with in your country, should you require help with arranging your international airfare.

Why are you sometimes more expensive than other operators?

Many of our trips are very similar in price to our competitors. Some companies even wait for us to set our prices and use ours as a guideline!! Some of our main selling point, which sometimes do cost more are; internationally qualified western guides, proven dependable local operators, small group sizes and safe client:guide ratios, quality equipment and high summit success rates, among other things. You do get what you pay for which is why we stand out from the rest. Many clients come to us after failing on one of our competitors ‘cheaper’ trips.

How do I sign up for a trip?

The best way to reserve your space on a trip is to call our office or complete our online booking form. Return this with the trip deposit either through a telegraphic transfer (information is on our trip notes downloaded from the specific trip page) or by using our secure credit card page. Phone our New Zealand head office on +64 3 443 8711 (Monday - Friday, 9:00am - 5:30pm PST + 19 hours) or Freephone 1-866-757-8722 from North America.



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