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Planning Your South Pole / Vinson Combo: Five Tips To Do It Right

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, so 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. 
Our next South Pole / Vinson Combo kicks off on December 31.  We have a few expedition spaces available but the charter flights to and from Antarctica are filling fast! Don't miss out on this opportunity to join us. Call or email Annie for more details.


With less than two weeks until our North Pole season kicks off we are hard at work prepping and getting excited!

The first round of our guide team has arrived in Longyearbyen and are looking forward to welcoming the first of our team members in the coming days. Our Polar Shakedown Training will kick off on April 8, followed by our expeditions on April 13.

This is an exciting time for all involved! The world over gear is being organized, weighed and counted (then recounted!) Decisions are being made - should I take this hat? Or THIS hat?? It's all coming together for what will surely be an exciting time!

We hope you will check back regularly to follow the progress of our teams and to listen to their daily audio dispatches.  The first blog will be posted on April 13, 2019!

In the meantime you can meet our Last Degree Ski Teams here and our North Pole Flight team here.

Check back again on April 13!


Monday, 01 April 2019 16:36

Meet our North Pole Flight Team!

On April 13 our North Pole Flight team will kick off their exciting top-of-the-world adventure with a pre-flight briefing and, weather permitting, a flight to the North Pole on April 14. Follow their updates on our expedition blog staring on April 13!

 We'd like to introduce you to our 2019 North Pole Last Degree Ski Teams! These international teams will kick off their expeditions on April 13 in Longyearbyen, Norway. Make sure to bookmark our blog to read the daily updates and listen to the daily audio dispatches!

(Each team is color-coded)


Wednesday, 06 March 2019 20:47

North Pole Expeditions Coming Soon!

The 2019 North Pole season is just around the corner! Our expedition dispatches will start on April 13.

Make sure to bookmark this page to hear the latest from our teams!

Monday, 21 January 2019 03:22

Heading back to Punta Arenas

Great news! We have received word that Jim and Garrett will return to Punta Arenas tonight. The Ilyushin departed Punta Arenas mid day bound for Union Glacier. With at least an hour turn around time on the ground at UG we expect a late-night return to Punta Arenas. We are thrilled for them that the Vinson expedition was safe & successful (and pretty darn quick!)

It's a great feeling to board the Ilyushin knowing that the return to family and friends is close at hand. The four hour flight offers an excellent opportunity to reflect upon Antarctica and experiences had on the White Continent. Upon stepping off the plane at the Punta Arenas airport it is immediately apparent that you are no longer in Antarctica and not because of the view or the temperature. Rather the scents... of Earth and floral aromas, and the humidity. It's a wonderful treat to take a few deep breaths as you walk to the terminal.

It will be a late night, but no doubt it will feel GREAT to sleep in a proper bed and have a hot shower. Enjoy it Jim and Garrett, you deserve it!!

This will be the last post for our Last Degree / Vinson Combo expedition. We want to congratulate Jim and Garrett on a job well done, and give Jim a virtual bear hug for his Seven Summit success. 

Be sure to join us again in April for our North Pole season!

Below: The Ilyushin at Union Glaicer's blue ice runway. The view from the cockpit is incredible! (previous expedition)

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