Please take the time to read the entire Logistics section in full. If you have questions, feel free to call the Alpine Ascents office or email us.
Make sure you submit the following paperwork to Alpine Ascents as soon as possible after registering for your climb.
⎕ Passport copy
⎕ Flight itinerary
⎕ Flight service forms (linked with confirmation of enrollment)
⎕ Trip Evacuation Insurance Confirmation (required)
Acquiring trip evacuation insurance is mandatory. A variety of trip insurance options are available through different providers. We recommend comprehensive Trip Cancellation Insurance, which generally includes evacuation insurance, any injury or illness cancellation prior to your trip, as well as a host of other pre-trip issues (family emergency, work conflict, etc).
There are two basic policies: ‘standard trip insurance’ which can cover injuries or illness, or a ‘cancel for any reason’ addon which covers a wider variety of situations. Note – this addon is considerably more expensive, and if paid out only covers 75% of the trip fee. Please note this is just a summation of the policies available.
Please see complete specific policy information for our recommended policies..
Please note: our flight carrier for Antarctica requires insurance coverage for 7 days after your expected return date
Note that trip dates include travel time from your home country. A day-to-day itinerary can be found with your confirmation letter.
Flying to Punta Arenas, Chile
This climb begins and ends in the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, our departure point for the landing strip at Union Glacier, Antarctica. You are expected to arrive two days before the Antarctica flight to provide ample time to retrieve any lost luggage and to attend a full briefing from Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (A.L.E)., our flight service. Please see your trip itinerary for specific dates.
Please Note: Flights to Punta Arenas go through Santiago, Chile. You will need to pick up your baggage in Santiago and personally take it through customs en route to Punta Arenas. This is a common reason why luggage is delayed getting to Punta Arenas.
Upon Arrival: We will pick you up at the airport in Punta Arenas. Please ensure we have your flight schedule. Contact information for your guide and/or a local contact will be emailed with your team roster about a month prior to your trip. Please make sure you have this contact information saved or written down while traveling.
Given the nature of the flight to Antarctica, there may be delays getting to/off of the continent. If we are delayed in Punta Arenas, those are free days to tour the city. Alpine Ascents does not provide food, transport, and hotels during your stay in Punta Arenas.
Flight reservations for your climb should be made as soon as possible. Alpine Ascents uses the services of Charles Mulvehill at Scan East West Travel: (800) 727-2157 or (206) 623-2157. He is very familiar with our international programs and offers competitive prices.
We highly recommend using our travel agent as he can best facilitate changes. Flights back to the USA often need to be changed, as flights to/from Antarctica are subject to delay. If you use our travel agent we may be able to call ahead via satellite phone from Antarctica and make changes in advance, letting you reach home earlier.
If you do not book with our agent, it may be more difficult to change your departing flight and you may have to wait until you return to Punta Arenas to confirm flight adjustments. This generally requires physically walking into the Lan Chile office in Punta Arenas. Please refer to your itinerary to determine correct arrival and departure dates.
Delays: Delays of 3–5 days are common (inbound or outbound) and should be expected as part of the planning. Please do not plan any important business for the two weeks following the expedition. Our schedule already includes 3 extra days for delays, and should our climb finish early, our travel agent can generally arrange for earlier departure. Delays leaving Punta Arenas to Vinson will result in additional lodging and meals costs.
In Punta Arenas
The scheduled hotel for this expedition is the Dreams Hotel. Alpine Ascents will make the initial hotel reservations. Please note that climbers pay for their own lodging in Punta Arenas. For those requesting double room accommodations every effort will be made to pair you with another climber.
We will inform you if any changes are made to our lodging itinerary. As Punta Arenas is a transition town to Antarctica, hotels can be unexpectedly full at the last minute. You may have a different hotel before or after your climb.
Punta Arenas, Chile
Phone: (600) 626-0000
Please refer to your Gear List:
You are required to bring every item on this list as described, so be as precise as possible when packing. We are happy to work closely with you on finding the proper gear.
If you plan to rent gear, your rental form must be submitted at least a month prior to expedition start date. Gear is also available for online purchase at the Alpine Ascents Equipment Store where climbers on an Alpine Ascents expedition will receive a discount. Please call our office or e-mail [email protected] with any questions.
If you’re confused by items and/or language on the Gear List, we encourage you to refer to our Gear Guide for explanations on layering systems, differences between boots, etc.
Below are articles written by veteran Alpine Ascents guides that you may find helpful in preparing and packing for your expedition.
People generally take too much “stuff” rather than too little. Study each item before you pack it. Eliminate redundant items, extra changes of clothing, and excessive“nice to have” luxuries. You will benefit from traveling light because of the costs of excess baggage and because of the frequent loading and unloading of bags. Remember to review your airline’s weight limits and pack accordingly. Traveling light may be your key to summit success. Take everything on the required equipment list and little else.
Organizing for Antarctic Extremes
Antarctica can feel warm enough for sunbathing, but frequently lives up to it’s more common image as a frozen continent battered by extreme storms and temperatures well below 0°F. For a safe, comfortable, and smooth journey, read this guide thoroughly as it will help you prepare for your trip.
You need four different types of luggage for this trip:
- Expedition Backpack – big, comfortable, and sufficient for carrying gear to high camps when we leave our sleds behind.
- Sled Duffel Bag – the biggest, burliest duffel available. Think 150-liters in size.
- Ilyushin Carry-On – 20-30 liters in size, this will be used for your flight to the continent aboard an Ilyushin IL-76.
- Small Duffel – useful as a carry-on when traveling to Chile, and useful for storing belongings at the hotel.
How do these four kinds of luggage work together? Read below to understand the trip flow.
Stage 1 – Travel to Chile
Pack everything (except for a few items mentioned below) into your sled duffel and check it in with your airline. Your expedition pack should be flat-packed inside of the sled duffel.
Pack your small duffel as your carry-on, and remember any usual comfort items for international air travel. Staying relaxed prior to your expedition will contribute to your success on Mount Vinson! Pro tip: we fly with our high-altitude boots and insulated pants in our carry-on baggage. These items are difficult to replace in Punta Arenas.
Stage 2 – Trip Prep in Punta Arenas
Windy but temperate during climbing season, Punta Arenas is on the Straits of Magellan. It’s nice to have a small selection of town clothes with you, suitable for walking along the water or tackling any pre-or-post trip travels. After landing at the airport, we complete a thorough gear check and try to finish packing before the next day’s luggage weighing and check-in. Here’s how we pack:
- Small duffel – anything not flying to Antarctica can remain with you for the night. Before flying to Antarctica, you’ll check this in with your hotel and it will be stored until you return.
- Ilyushin Carry-On – pack this small bag with essentials for the flight to Antarctica. Prescription meds, glacier glasses and goggles, a warm hat, gloves and mittens, sunscreen, and your passport.
- “Go” Pile – we make a pile of gear we’ll wear onto our flight to Antarctica: expedition boots (with a pair of socks), softshell pants, baselayer top, and expedition parka.
- We flat-pack our expedition backpack into the bottom of our sled duffel along with every other expedition item. Anything that goes in this duffel will be inaccessible from check-in until our arrival at Union Glacier Camp (UG, for short).
Stage 3 – Flight Check-In, Briefing, Etc.
First thing in the morning, we weigh and then turn in our sled duffels to the flight operator. If weather is good, we’re reunited with our gear the next day in Antarctica (“on the ice”, we say). If weather is bad, it is possible our flight to the ice will be delayed. This can mean hours of delay, or can mean days of delay. It is not possible to recover our duffels during this time, so pack carefully!
In our street clothes, we also attend a logistics briefing with the other teams flying in the Ilyushin, explore Punta Arenas a bit, and enjoy a final night in civilization.
Stage 4 – Flight to Union Glacier (UG)
After turning over our small duffels to hotel storage and settling up for our rooms, we head to the airport and board the plane to Antarctica. We’re dressed for the cold, as the Ilyushin cabin is unheated, wearing: expedition boots, baselayers, softshell pants, and glacier glasses. We carry with us our Ilyushin Carry-On pack with absolute essentials, and typically sling our expediton parkas over our shoulders. It’s important to pack a hat, goggles, and warm handwear in your carry-on in case a storm is brewing on arrival.
Stage 5 – Hop to Vinson Base Camp (VBC)
After loading our sled duffels into the Twin Otter bush plane, we hop an hour to Vinson Base Camp. The weather is typically colder and harsher the further into the continent we go, and we likely take this flight with a few more layers on. It’s common to wear a hat, gloves, and our expedition parkas for the short flight to the base of our objective.
Stage 6 – Climbing the Mountain
From VBC onwards, we tow our sled duffels in sleds (up to the fixed lines), which along with our expedition backpacks contain every stitch of equipment and calorie of food we’ll need to safely climb Mount Vinson. We’ll stash our Ilyushin Carry-On bags in a cache in the snow, as they won’t be of use to us on the upper mountain.
After the climb has concluded, we’ll reverse the process, all the way back to Punta Arenas.
Credit cards are accepted at our hotel and in most restaurants. In the chance that we are forced to move hotels, please note that some hotels do not accept credit cards but ATM machines are available. We recommend taking at least $500 in cash along with your credit card.
If you need to leave the expedition early, you are responsible for all incurred expenses (evacuation fees, transport, extra hotel nights, etc). A comprehensive trip insurance plan is strongly recommended, which can cover these costs in the event that they occur.
Our guides make every effort to ensure your climb is safe, successful, and as enjoyable as possible. If you have a positive experience, gratuities are an excellent way to show your appreciation. It’s difficult to recommend a specific amount as we believe tips should be based on level and quality of services, as well as an amount that meets your budget. Please consider the information below to be a general recommendation.
$500-$1,000 for the whole guide team is a standard guideline. Any contribution to the guides’ tip pool can be given directly to your lead guide and will be appreciated by the entire team.
On the Mountain
Physiology Of Mountaineering
Dehydration, hypothermia, frostbite, and altitude illness are all important health conditions to be aware of while climbing. Please read our overview of these physical factors:
Food & Water
We are aware of the potential monotony of expedition food and Alpine Ascents makes every effort to make meals a positive part of the climb. This includes local shopping before each expedition, pre-planned meals and dining as a group (in dining tent when possible). We take great care in our meal preparation, understanding the importance staying healthy, fueling effectively, and overall enjoyment.
Alpine Ascents prepares all water by boiling. Climbers will fill water bottles at all meals.
Leave No Trace
Alpine Ascents International practices Leave No Trace principles on all expeditions. We believe that given the proper information most people will do all they can to help protect and maintain the environment. Before your climb, please become familiar with Leave No Trace:
As guides, we spend time teaching the environmentally appropriate Leave No Trace principles and practices. There is nothing more rewarding than working hard to get high into the mountains, reaching a pristine campsite, witnessing incredible views, and having the feeling that no one has been there before.
Conversely, there is nothing more disheartening than working hard to climb a mountain, reaching a site and encountering trash, food waste, and toilet paper. Please read the seven LNT principles, and call the office if you have any questions about what you can do to plan ahead.
Updated COVID-19 Protocols
Please note the following protocols have been put into place by ALE the Antarctica Flight service
- ALE will be administering a COVID test each day (3-4 days) before your Antarctic flight. Please see your itinerary for details
- ALE has published COVID FAQs which can be found on their website. https://antarctic-logistics.com/2021/06/01/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions/
- ALE requires every climber to be vaccinated and we will need a copy of their COVID vaccine card.
Strong program, strong guides. Vern is very charismatic and generally fun to have on an expedition. Vern did things in particular that set himself apart. Lakpa is extremely talented, he very much enabled many things through his boundless energy, work ethic, calmness, and mountain wisdom. And he grills one hell of a ‘pan de pasqua’ […]