ALE maintains a seasonal base camp on the Branscomb Glacier at the foot of Mount Vinson to support climbers looking to summit each season. Vinson Base Camp is currently only accessible by ski aircraft departing from Union Glacier, located 95 miles (151 km) away.
Mount Vinson lies in the aptly named Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains, deep in the interior of Antarctica. It was first summited on December 18, 1966 and for many years did not see a second ascent due to the challenges of accessing its remote locations. In 1985, we pioneered logistics to support a private expedition to Mount Vinson and 30+ years later, we continue to guide climbers to the top of the bottom of the world!
Vinson Base Camp has one dedicated ALE guide serving as manager at all times and is supported by other base camp staff and ALE Rangers. As their name suggests, ALE Rangers move about the mountain maintaining equipment and re-stocking caches. They also coordinate with ALE and visiting guides to keep Vinson clean and provide assistance to field parties when required. Together, Base Camp staff provide meals for our guests, manage and maintain our base camp facilities, coordinate with visiting guides, and assist in case of emergency on the mountain.
Guests on ALE guided experiences will enjoy our comfortable sturdy 4-season mountain tents situated amongst spectacular scenery. We typically use Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1 tents. These free-standing, double-walled tents have a more complex pole configuration, which makes them extremely strong in high winds, regardless of the wind direction.
Climbers should be prepared for extreme temperatures of -40°F (-40°C) and possible severe storms higher on the mountain.
Our heated base camp tent serves as both a dining & relaxation area for ALE guided guests and an operations center for mountain logistics. Meals are often prepared on-site with fresh ingredients and sometimes include fresh-frozen meals prepared in advance by our chefs at Union Glacier.
Simple, open-air toilets with privacy walls provide a “loo with a view” looking out over the Nimitz Glacier. In keeping with our policy of best environmental practices, all solid waste is returned to Punta Arenas, Chile (via Union Glacier) for proper disposal. No shower facilities are provided at Vinson Base Camp.
Vinson Base Camp maintains daily communication with climbing parties, Union Glacier camp, and our Chile office, using VHF, HF, Satellite phone, and email communications. Guests can make outgoing satellite phone calls from base camp, using our Iridium handsets. Pre-paid phone cards can be purchased at Union Glacier or Vinson Base Camps.
Vinson Base Camp is solar powered and limited charging facilities are available in the main tent. Two types of outlets are available: USB and 120V A/C (North American Type A or B plugs). Ensure your batteries are fully charged prior to leaving Union Glacier, you have back-up batteries on hand, and you leave any unnecessary electronics behind. Please be courteous of your fellow climbers and do not leave electronics plugged in overnight.
Even though we operate in 24-hour daylight, Vinson Base Camp time is the same as Punta Arenas, Chile, where our flights originate. Our other camps at Union Glacier, South Pole, and the Emperor Penguin Colony also operate on this same time.
Vinson Base Camp Time
= GMT (UK time) -3 hours
= Eastern Standard Time (NYC time) +2 hours
= Pacific Standard Time (LA time) +5 hours.
Vinson Low Camp & High Camp
ALE maintains a communal dining tent at Low Camp. The facilities at High Camp are more basic than those at Low Camp. Your guide will prepare simple meals in a cooking shelter and you can eat inside your tent or outside if the weather is calm.