Mountain Climbing: Hike in Antarctica

As mountains go, Antarctica's Vinson Massif* is not particularly awe-inspiring in its height. A humpbacked hunk of granite that rises to 16,860 ft., Vinson is the highest known peak on the continent, but it is still lower than ten mountains in North America. For an accomplished alpinist, the hike to the summit would seem like a Sunday stroll —if only it weren't for a couple of complications.

First, Vinson lies 400 miles due east of remote Byrd Station, and only 600 miles from the South Pole. Second, Antarctica is racked by fierce (up to 90 m.p.h.) gales and covered with...

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