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Australians in Antarctic climb first
A four-man Australian team has reached the summit of Antarctica's highest peak, Mount Vinson, becoming the first climbers ever to conquer the 4900-metre mountain after trekking from sea level.
Led by Adelaide mountaineer Duncan Chessell, 36, the group reached the top today after beginning their 400-kilometre trek across the continent early last month.
Chessell, who in 1999 became the first South Australian to reach the top of Mount Everest, also joined the elite group of mountaineers to have conquered the highest peak on each of the world's seven continents with his successful climb this morning.
With him were Adelaide mountaineer Peter Weeks, 53, Melbourne doctor Robert North, 31, and NSW mountaineer Robert Jackson.
"We are all exhausted but exhilarated," Chessell said by satellite phone after the climb.
"The view, standing alone on the tallest part of the Antarctic, was incredible - you could see almost to the South Pole.
"To stand there and see the hundreds of kilometres we had trekked from the sea, across land never before crossed by people, was humbling."
Today's summit push involved a 1200-metre vertical climb and about eight kilometres of climbing in total, mainly up a very long glacial slope.
The team was roped together for protection and took seven hours to reach the peak after leaving the high base camp.
Temperatures at the summit fell to minus 35 degrees.
During their trek the Australians carried all their own supplies, pulling 60 kilogram sleds across the ice.
They stored most of their gear at the base of Mount Vinson and, after descending the mountain, intend to fly out to South America and then Australia.
Other climbers, including Australians, have reached the summit of Mount Vinson, but never after a trek from sea level.