Erik's 4th Continental Summit
|Elevation||16,050 feet (4,892 meters)|
|First Ascent||1966 by Nicolas Clinch, Barry Corbet, John Evans, Eiichi Fukushima, Charles Hollister, William Long, Brian Marts, Peter Schoening, Samuel Silverstein, and Richard Wahlstrom.|
|My Ascent||January 2000|
Vinson Massif was my fourth continental summit. It is one of the world's most remote peaks, and just getting there is half the battle. After traveling to Punta Arenas, the southern tip of South America, we flew on a big C-130 cargo plane six hours over the Drake Passage, the most notorious section of ocean in the world. We landed at Patriot Hills, a temporary summer encampment near the Ellsworth Mountains.
During the winter (February - October), the camp is abandoned, and supplies are stored in deep ice caves cut by chain saws. Our plane landed on a natural blue-ice runway formed by katabatic winds which begin at the South Pole and flow thousands of miles to the coast, along the way picking up speed and cold air mass until they are at hurricane force. From there, we flew smaller Twin Otter planes to Vinson base camp. The summit of Vinson Massif is a very cold place, often -50 degrees Fahrenheit!