On the summit of Mount Vinson.

Vinson Massif in Antarctica

The very remote Vinson Massif, at 16,067 feet above sea level, is the highest point in Antarctica.

I was lucky to have been part of a small climbing team led by legendary Everest climber Phil Ershler, one of the first Americans to complete the Seven Summits.

Vinson is so remote and so difficult just to get to, it was first climbed only in 1967. We were there in December 1992, and in the prior 25 years only 144 human beings had reached the summit before we arrived.

I was #146.

With the perspective of climbs on all seven continents, Vinson is for me the most surreal, the most unique. There is not a speck of brown or green anywhere, the sky is unearthly, and knowing there are no other human beings for hundreds of miles in any direction adds to its alien feel.

Legendary climber Reinhold Messner had been there a few weeks before us and he found the view from Vinson to surpass even Everest. I do not doubt him.

You cannot stay on the mountain forever. You have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.
-Rene Daumel, Mont Analogue