Mountaineering :: Trekking :: Ski touring


This was my seventh season working in Antarctica and my fifth working for ALE (Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions). In previous years I had worked for part of the season but in 2010/11 I chose to work for the full season from early November until the end of January. No two years are the same with Antarctic work. Despite the best planning, unexpected events always crop up leading to changes in the schedule and programme.

Heavy snowfall at the start of the season delayed the staff flights into Union glacier. Consequently the Vinson start up team were delayed getting to Mt Vinson and there was less time available for getting Base Camp ready for the first clients of the season. In previous years I have done a variety of jobs for ALE: at Patriot Hills (now replaced by Union Glacier), on ski journeys to the South Pole, and at Mt Vinson. This season I asked to spend most of my time at Vinson. As it worked out I was the only member of the ALE staff team to arrive at Vinson on the first inbound flight of the season and leave on the last outbound flight, ten weeks later.

The climbing season at Mt Vinson is divided into 5 slots known within the company as V1 / V2 / V3 / V4 / V5. Each of these slots is approximately 2 weeks long with the first one starting in mid November and the last one ending in late January.

There were 6-8 ALE staff based at Vinson for most of the season and the three main tasks were rotated between them: working at VBC, working on the mountain, and guiding ALE clients. I was a ranger during start up and V1, Vinson Base Manger during V2 and most of V5, and guide during V3, V4 and part of V5 (reaching Vinson summit on 27 Dec, 4 Jan and 27 Jan).

The ALE operation on Mt Vinson is now well established and everything worked well this season with no significant dramas or incidents. The weather patterns were quite stable during V2, V4 and V5 and most teams of climbers made fairly quick ascents. There were two prolonged periods of poor weather that delayed the climbers during V1 and V3. In both cases people were delayed on the mountain for several days and just completed their climbs in time to get their scheduled flight from Union Glacier to Chile.

I made 3 ascents of Vinson in the 2010/11 season, bringing my personal total up to 15 ascents. During V3 I worked together with ALE guide Jarred Villhauer taking a group of 6 Chinese climbers up Mt Vinson reaching the summit on 27 Dec. During V4 I made an ascent with a single climber from the UK, reaching the summit on 4 Jan. During V5 I worked with ALE guide Rob Smith taking an international group of 6 climbers up Mt Vinson and we all reached the top on 27 Jan.

The total number of ascents of Mt Vinson during the season was approx 200 made by approx 185 climbers. Several guides working for ALE and other companies made multiple ascents.


David Hamilton, March 2011

David Hamilton
High Adventure
67 Castle Road
CV10 0SG


Telephone:    From UK    02476 395422
From other countries     +44 2476 395422

Skype:  davidhamilton8848

Website by Jenkin Hill Internet