In early December 2011 we flew to Mt Kosciuszko in Australia and completed this climb within one morning - without taking the chairlift! It was a pretty walk and we left soon afterwards on our way to Antarctica. On Christmas Day 2011 we reached the highest point in Antarctica, the summit of Mt Vinson Massif, and I again became the youngest British female to summit, this time in -58C. Our trip to the frozen continent was again with Alpine Ascents, and we were reunited with our Elbrus guide, Vern Tejas, and met our Everest guide to be, Garrett Madison, who was our team leader on this trip. The experience the two of them had between them was awe inspiring, and meant that we learnt lots throughout, it was good prep for before Everest!
Having the opportunity to go to Antarctica was possibly the best part of this whole trip, it was such an amazing, beautiful continent. I had to put the bottom picture on the left quite big just to show you what it looked like - if you didn't realise what you were looking at the land in the distance could easily be mistake for cloud. It was so difficult to comprehend how there could be such a massive, massive stretch of land that was just all ice and snow and rock, and that such a huge continent could be so pristine. Imagining this in winter though was intimidating. Even with 24 hour daylight this was a hostile and dangerous place, with a constant risk of frostbite. I actually can't grasp how cold temperatures in 24 hour darkness would feel.
The climb itself was relatively short. Four days of climbing up, and one down. However, with the jumps in altitude between camps, and because altitude feels much more acute at such a low latitude, we also had quite a few rest days. I've never seen such a long stretch of fixed line as there was on the steep slope up to high camp, and we had to be careful to secure everything to the rope when we stopped in case anything fell, as it wouldn't stop falling for a very long time!
We summited in weather that was much less than favorable. From the word "go" we had moderate winds and cold temperatures, and by the time we got to the summit ridge and then finally the summit the wind chill meant that temperatures reached -58C, and we were all under strict instructions not to expose any flesh at all because of the high risk of frost bite. We managed to snap a few photos from the summit, but our cameras all froze very quickly, and I suffered slight frost nip on my fingers when taking photos - the feeling's mostly come back by now though!
The 10 person team was a wonderful mix of very international and unique individuals who all really made this trip for me. We were also there to congratulate Jordan Romero and family when they returned to high camp from the summit, as this made Jordan the youngest person to complete the Seven Summits. An inspirational and very friendly family that I'm definitely going to keep in touch with!
All in all, a brilliant environment and relatively simple climb, albeit with very challenging temperatures. As some people put it - a "mini Denali".