Patriot Hills Base Camp

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Patriot Hills Camp
Patriot Hills Base Camp
Patriot Hills Base Camp
Location of Patriot Hills Base Camp in Antarctica
Location of Patriot Hills Base Camp in Antarctica
Patriot Hills Camp
Location of Patriot Hills Base Camp in Antarctica
Coordinates: 80°18′00″S 81°20′39″W / 80.299971°S 81.344236°W / -80.299971; -81.344236Coordinates: 80°18′00″S 81°20′39″W / 80.299971°S 81.344236°W / -80.299971; -81.344236
Country United States
Location in AntarcticaHeritage Range
Ellsworth Mountains
Administered byAntarctic Logistics & Expeditions LLC
Established1987 (1987)

Patriot Hills Base Camp (80°18′00″S 81°20′39″W / 80.299971°S 81.344236°W / -80.299971; -81.344236) was the only private seasonally occupied camp in Antarctica. It was located in the Heritage Range of the Ellsworth Mountains, next to the Patriot Hills that give it its name.

The camp was run by the private company Adventure Network International (now Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions LLC, known as ALE),[1] a company that provides expedition support and tours to the interior of Antarctica.[2] It was constructed in 1987[3] and used during the summer months of November to January.[4] Patriot Hills was for many adventurers and explorers a stop on the way from Chile's Punta Arenas into the interior of Antarctica. The flight time from Punta Arenas is about 4.5 hours.[3]

As of November 2010 ALE has moved operations. Union Glacier Camp is the new base of operations and Union Glacier Blue-Ice Runway SCGC is the new runway. Patriot Hills is being retained as a backup runway.[5]

In the summer months the temperature rises to −15 °C. The temperature in the winter months is estimated to be about −40 °C, but no one has yet overwintered in the Ellsworth Mountains.[3]


In the Antarctic spring of 1988 Patriot Hills was the staging point for the first expedition from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole, led by Martyn Williams. This 50-day expedition opened up the doorway for South Pole overland journeys, and has become the classic route for most expeditions.[6] In 1989 Patriot Hills was the staging point of the continental crossing by Reinhold Messner and Arved Fuchs that started at 82°S-72°W, crossed the South Pole to McMurdo Station.[7] It has also been the starting point for many expeditions to Mount Vinson, some 120 kilometers away.

See also[edit]


Location of Heritage Range in Western Antarctica
Airport typeBlue-ice runway
OperatorAntarctic Logistics and Expeditions LLC
ServesPatriot Hills
LocationHeritage Range
Ellsworth Mountains
Elevation AMSL2,900 ft / 884 m
Coordinates80°18′53″S 81°22′29″W / 80.314861°S 81.374833°W / -80.314861; -81.374833
Direction Length Surface
ft m
24M 3,281 × 164 1,000 × 50 Ice

The camp was built near one of the rare blue ice fields. A blue ice runway was used as the takeoff and landing strip for large intercontinental aircraft including DC6, L-382, C130 and Ilyushin Il-76.[8]

The heart of the camp was the communal tent that serves as a common lounge and dining room. In the communications tent, using devices powered by solar power, high-frequency radio equipment maintained contact with Punta Arenas and the traveling expeditions. The residents of the camp were housed in two-person tents.[9]


  1. ^ Website der Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions LLC. Accessed on March 25, 2010
  2. ^ Patriot Hills Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine, Polar Conservation Organisation
  3. ^ a b c Adventure Network International: Patriot Hills. Accessed March 25, 2010.
  4. ^ Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions News Archived 2010-04-12 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed March 25, 2010.
  5. ^ Union Glacier Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Polar Conservation Organisation
  6. ^ First NGA ski trip to Pole from Hercules Inlet: [1]. Accessed April 4, 2015.
  7. ^ Messner-Fuchs Antarctic Crossing: [2]. Accessed April 4, 2015.
  8. ^ National Science Foundation - Office of Polar Programs: Initial environmental evaluation – development of blue-ice and compacted-snow runways. 9. April 1993. Accessed March 25, 2010.
  9. ^ Antarctic Ice Marathon: Accommodation Facilities in Antarctica Archived 2010-02-06 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed March 25, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Swithinbank, C.W.M. 1991. Potential airfield sites in Antarctica for wheeled aircraft. Hanover, USA, CRREL Report 91-24.
  • Murphy J. 1990. South to the Pole By Ski.
  • OpenStreetMap
Aerial view of base camp tents
Storage tunnels beneath the camp