Vinson Day 8: Summit Day!!!
Excitement is in the thin air as Summit Day is here!!! We got up this morning at 7:45 AM for a carbo-loaded breakfast of oatmeal, cereal and coffee, packed our backpacks and were on the trail at 9:25 am. Although it was cold when we got going, the weather quickly got warmer as the sun started peaking from behind the mountain.
Climbing up the Vinson plateau with Mounts Shinn and Tyree in the background.
We headed up towards the summit passing through a gradually rising plateau. Behind us we could see impressive views of Mounts Tyree and Shinn, the second and third highest mountains in Antarctica respectively. In front of us was Mount Vinson and its imposing ridge and traverse.
Joe Ashkar climbing up towards Mt. Vinson’s Summit.
We started our climb with a first team of five and a second of three roped together. The first team was led by our guide Garrett Madison followed by Tom Boyer, Raha Moharrak, Craig York, and anchored by yours truly. The second team was lead by assistant guide Sam Hennessy followed by Roberto Castrodale and anchored by Rosier Alexandre.
The steep southwest face leading up to Summit Ridge.
Halfway through the climb, Roberto was slowing down and appeared to be struggling so we stopped and we waited for the second team a good 30 minutes to take Rosier off their rope and insert him on ours between Craig and myself. Sam stayed back with Roberto to offer him further assistance and climb at a slower pace.
Climbing up the final steep section leading to Summit ridge.
As we continued to climb using our crampons and trekking poles, we were progressing at a really fast pace while enjoying the amazing picturesque views surrounding us. Before long we had arrived to the steep ascent leading to Summit ridge. We switched from our trekking poles to our ice axes and headed up towards the summit.
The final steps leading to Vinson’s Summit.
Once at the top, we traversed a treacherous skinny ridge leading to the true summit. One missed step and you could plunge several thousand feet to your imminent death. Carefully we negotiated rocks, boulders and ice on the roller coaster path to our destination: the summit of Mount Vinson and the roof of Antarctica.
Garrett Madison and Joe Ashkar on the Summit of Mt. Vinson.
We celebrated, took several photos and videos. The weather was spectacular with wind less than 5 knots per hour and a chill factor temperature a balmy -28°F/-31°C. We hung out on the summit for nearly an hour when Sam and Roberto made out way to join us.
Joe Ashkar on the summit of Mt. Vinson, Antarctica.
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Joe Ashkar promoting “Honey Stinger” natural energy products on top of Antarctica.
The 360° view from the summit was absolutely spectacular with views as far as the eye can see. By looking at the far horizon, you can totally see the curvature of the Earth.
Joe Ashkar on the roof of Antarctica.
We took a long final look and headed down towards high camp. The decent was very euphoric with lots of happy faces. We made out way into high camp around 7 PM making for a 9.5 hours round trip. We hydrated with warm drinks and re-supplied the lost calories with a massive dinner.