Mount Vinson is named for U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson of Georgia, who served in Congress from 1935 to 1961 and was the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He was a champion of government funding for American exploration of Antarctica. For many years, there was no specific name given to the highest peak and it was part of a group of mountains was known as Vinson Massif. The name encompassed the area’s numerous summits, as “massif” is defined as a dense group of connected mountains forming a distinct section of a range. Temperatures in the Ellsworth Mountains average around minus 20 degrees F (minus 30 C), making it the coldest of the Seven Summits. The best period for climbing is December through February during Antarctic summer, when temperatures rise to minus 29 F (minus 20 C) and the sun is out 24 hours a day. Most climbers ascend up the Branscomb Glacier, known as the Normal Route, and make it in about 10 days. About 1,000 climbers have summited Mt. Vinson, much fewer than the other Seven Summits. While other summits are more challenging from a technical climbing perspective, the cold, windy conditions and the short window of opportunity to climb keep many climbers from making it to the top.
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