On 5th December at 17.15 Chilean time, we successfully reached the top of the bottom of the world, the highest point in Antarctica and one the Seven Summits – the largest mountains on each of the seven continents. We have conquered Mount Vinson (4892 metres).

Saturday 1st December

We had several days stuck at Low Camp due to bad weather. On the 1st December we headed partially up the mountain, ascending the fixed lines for a few hundred metres to give us a chance to practice and get to grips with the equipment. There are 1,200 metres of fixed lines on the mountain, with sections affixed for the more perilous areas, where the angle of the upward gradient can reach 45 degrees. With your harness you then clip into each section so as you climb, so you’re always protected in the event of a fall. We ascended 600m, before heading back to Low Camp.

Sunday 2nd December

The following day, we were still prevented from advancing up the mountain due to high winds on the ridge above. Instead we roped up and climb to this little col, which was around a two hour round trip from camp, but something to do when you’re stuck in your tent all day.

The col is at the end of the Branscomb Glacier, nestled in between Mount Shinn (4,661m) and Knutzen Peak. From the col, we had great views of both of these peaks to either side and the Schatz Ridge below us, with one peak on the ridge being the most perfect pyramid-shaped peak I’d seen. It was simply spectacular, and we all got a chance to take in the view as we belayed each other to a safe spot on the col.

Monday 3rd December

We woke up to a very cloudy vista. I had listened to a podcast recently about someone who discovered a new kind of cloud and his journey to have his classification ratified. It was a fascinating podcast and I couldn’t help but think he should have come to Antarctica if he wanted to see some truly amazing clouds formations! We spotted all kinds of differing weather patterns on the peaks around us; beautiful lenticular clouds and a kind of mushroom ball type cloud I’ve never seen before rising up the Weddell Sea around 35 nautical miles away. Although we get lots of cumulus clouds in the UK, they never appear in Antarctica because they’re rain clouds.

Tuesday 4th December

The next day and, finally, it’s the weather window we’ve been waiting for. The forecast gave us two days to make it up and down in the most brilliant of conditions, but it was also likely to be our only shot so we decided to go for it. It meant we had to fit quite a lot into a shortly period of time, as we’d normally allow for acclimatisation and rest days after each big push up the mountain.

We set off early and ascended the fixed lines, but I suffered badly with stomach pain and found it tough going. We arrived at High Camp after five hours of hard work up the ropes, to a lovely surprise from ALE (Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions) – a homemade beef stew for dinner! It was a meal that none of us will forget, personally delivered to us in our tents.

Wednesday 5th December

The next morning came sooner than we’d like. It was one last big push from High Camp to reach the summit, before a long and exhausting 10-12hr return trip – but it’s hard to complain when it’s a bluebird day such as it was. It was probably around -15°C but we barely noticed. We travelled in a group of four, but it was more like we were all in our own little worlds, focusing on simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Time stops for nobody – and on days like that the quote ran through my mind constantly. It was hard-going, constantly uncomfortable, and the day stretched on forever. But it was reassuring to know that wasn’t meant to be easy, and I kept front of mind that this period wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, we were going to get to where we were going – and reach the summit.

From High Camp we turned right, away from the Goodge Col and Mount Shinn to make our climb up through the valley towards the summit. With Branscomb Peak (4,520m) on our right, we spent hours climbing and climbing. Every 75 minutes or so, we are allowed a short break for 10mins minutes before we get back to it. In these breaks, our diet of Atkins bars really helped us gain the energy to keep us going to the top. I daydreamed about our dog, Bexar – he would have loved to be roped with us on this glacier!

The climb itself was arduous, crossing major crevasses throughout our climb. Yet again that hollow, almost mechanical sound arises from the depths of stepping over the snow bridge we cross. It’s a noise I already knows will never leave me. Every step feels like a gamble with Mother Nature… will you let me cross this crevasse this time? Just this once? And my friends, too?

The ALE mountain rangers are just ahead of us and it’s the first time this season they’ve actually been able to reach this far up the mountain. The high winds and storms have prevented them from reaching the summit earlier, so we’re reminded how fortunate we are to have this short weather window at this time of year.

We reached the ridge and to our left is Sublime Peak (4,865m) and Corbet Peak (4,822m). We left our poles here, so it was ice axes and crampons only from here on to the summit. We took a hard right at the ridge and began our final 40 minutes of rock climbing along it to reach the summit. We had to be careful on the footholds as we clung to the rocks, and there were a few white knuckle moments, but the summit was so close now that we were suddenly more alert than we’d been for the last few hours. This was it. We could all feel it. I actually had a little cry when we reached the ridge, but not at the summit itself – arriving at the ridge meant I knew we’d make it to the summit, and the exertion of the day would all be worth it.

We were rewarded for our efforts, treated to an almost windless summit and warm temperatures of -20°C (far better than the -32°C recorded the last week!). We had around 15 minutes of the summit, enjoying the view whilst waiting for the rest of our group to arrive so we could all hug it out. We were ecstatic and I’m personally so happy that we made it up there as team and safely. We couldn’t have asked for better guides in the form of Tre-C, Lakpa and Seba from ALE.

We took in the breathtaking views of the whole of Antarctica and the entire Ellsworth Mountains Range. It was hard to tell if you were looking at peaks with clouds enrobing them below, or whether they were actually all “filled in” with snow.

It was also so very special that Matt and I were able to do this together, a truly memorable honeymoon for us. It was a major milestone for our friend Steve as well, as this was his sixth mountain in the Seven Summits series. Congrats Steve, we look forward to following your journey on the last of the Seven Summits – the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia!


Onwards to the South Pole!


To help Jenny raise funds for Children in Need, click here or text ‘SPJD99 £3’ to 70070 to contribute £3.

Comment below for the chance to have Jenny answer your questions during her solo expedition to the South Pole.

One reply on “The Top of the Bottom of the World – 5th December 2018”

Comments are closed.