The South Pole / Vinson combination is an increasingly popular duo of polar expeditions and not only for adventurers doing the Explorers Grand Slam. It makes a lot of sense to combine Antarctica's two most popular expeditions into one departure - especially if you are smart about how you plan it.
The two big factors are the order of the expeditions (which goes first: the South Pole or Mt. Vinson?) and the timing (December? January?) Our South Pole / Vinson combo always kicks off in January with the South Pole first, followed by Vinson. Why? Here are five important reasons.
#1. Good acclimatization at South Pole means a rapid climb on Vinson. The South Pole sits at 9,300 feet but thanks to a thin polar atmosphere the physiological effect on your body is closer to 12,000 feet. Hauling a sled at this altitude for 8-10 days is perfect acclimatization for Vinson - and not only because of the elevation. You are also honing the same cold weather systems that will keep you safe and comfortable on Antarctica's highest peak. Indeed skiing across the polar plateau is perfect prep work for climbing Vinson. After reaching 90° South (the Geographic South Pole) the transition to Vinson is smooth. We fly back to Union Glacier Basecamp to swap our polar kit for climbing gear and then we head over to VBC (Vinson Base Camp). Once there our pre-acclimatization means we can start our ascent straight away, avoiding the 2-4 "acclimatization days" of standard Vinson ascents. Additionally with fine-tuned expedition skills we arrive as an efficient team which increases the safety and fun factor of our ascent.
#2. Hardest and longest "job" completed first, making enjoyment of the amazing Ellsworth Mountains that much better. We'll be honest, the South Pole is AMAZING but visually it's not as stunning as Vinson. It can feel like a bit of a slog skiing for 8-10 days when the weather is the only variable. We love everything about skiing to the South Pole, but Vinson is much more exciting, with each step bringing a view that is more stunning than the last. Climbing Vinson AFTER skiing to the South Pole means ending the combo on a high - no pun intended!
#3. Last people on the mountain, as a rule: more serene, beautiful and personal. By skiing to the South Pole first we arrive at Vinson during the end of its busy climbing season. Most teams have come and gone, and up at high camp we tend to have the mountain to ourselves. Vinson is a beautiful mountain especially when you can experience it without a maze of tents and dozens of climbers who are also intent on making the summit. There's a wonderful feeling of solitude that is befitting of this giant that rests in one of the most inaccessible and stunning places on the planet.
#4. Some of the best weather of the season and no holiday stress! January offers some of the best weather of the season with temperatures that are generally much warmer than in November and December. Our January departure also eliminates the stress of the holiday season which means you can enjoy a peaceful holiday at home with no risk of missing the festivities because of delays in Antarctica. Rather, our South Pole / Vinson Combo team gathers in Punta Arenas, Chile on New Year's Eve and kicks off the New Year with a celebration of fireworks over the Straits of Magellan - and then it's off to Antarctica!
#5. We've been offering the South Pole / Vinson Combo since 2001 always with the South Pole first. Since that time we've reaffirmed many times that this is by far the most efficient and enjoyable way to experience these two Antarctic treasures.