Ed & Lydia Litton’s Trip Report
It seemed a bit radical. Two young West Australians, with a fear of heights and flying, and no mountaineering or cold weather experience, embarking on a four-week adventure to climb Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica. We left one of the hottest, flattest continents, bound for the coldest and highest one, with the words of the late John F Kennedy in our minds, ‘Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.’
Our Antarctica program combined ALE’s Climb Antarctica and Mount Vinson Experiences and had been tailored to our needs as mountaineering novices after considerable telephone, email and face-to-face meetings with the ALE staff.
The two-week Climb Antarctica Experience was designed to equip us with the skills required to climb Mount Vinson and also prepare us for the conditions we would encounter on the mountain. With the supervision and guidance of our superb guide, Tim Connelly, and the support of the ALE team, we explored peaks surrounding Union Glacier, in the Heritage Range of the Ellsworth Mountains. At first we stayed in clamshell tents at ALE’s Union Glacier camp to acclimatize to the Antarctica environment. We undertook several fantastic day climbs, gradually adding in more technical aspects as our skills improved. We also learnt how to pull sleds, carry heavier packs, climb using a fixed line, and generally enjoyed the bustle, banter and great food of camp life. A highlight of Climb Antarctica was being dropped off by ski-doo a couple of hours from Union Glacier, to practice our snow camping skills for several nights and climb peaks that may never before have seen a human footprint. At the end of this program we had seen and done more than we had ever expected and felt ready for part two of our Antarctic adventure: Mount Vinson.
Our Mount Vinson experience started with a flight in a Twin Otter airplane to the higher Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains; we landed at Vinson Base Camp, perched at 2100m on the Branscomb Glacier. Over the next seven days we traveled up the mountain under Tim’s guidance and with the support of the ALE rangers. The mountain and environment speak for themselves, but again our guide and the ALE team were outstanding. They were all very reassuring with their professionalism, but still really fun, doing everything they could to maximize our experience in Antarctica and also make our summit of Mount Vinson on Christmas Eve possible.
Our adventure in Antarctica was an amazing experience, one that went well beyond our expectations. We have been fortunate enough to travel extensively around the world and have absolutely no doubt that this trip will always remain one of best things we have ever done. This was truly a unique opportunity to take on a new challenge in a stunning part of the world, made possible only through the time and commitment that the ALE staff devoted to making our trip a success. From our initial contact and throughout our time in Antarctica we could not speak more highly of the ALE team. We have never experienced a better sense of camaraderie, professionalism, and consideration, and we are enormously grateful to ALE for putting together our unique program and supporting us in completing it. We will cherish our adventure for the years to come and look forward to returning to Antarctica with ALE for more adventures in the not too distant future.
Many thanks to Ed and Lydia Litton for submitting this trip report