I learned a couple of important things while climbing Vinson, which will influence my future climbs. While the scenarios that led to these realizations aren't detailed in this blog, I believe that it is still important to point them out.
As most fledgling climbers do, I have mostly climbed with organized guiding companies. This is hugely beneficial as all of the planning is taken care of, and a climber is (hopefully) afforded the benefit of learning from an experienced mountain guide. The downside is that the climbing team is typically comprised of a group of strangers whose only connection is to climb a given mountain.
I place a great deal of importance on preparation and will not climb a mountain unless I feel mentally and physically prepared to do so safely. Unfortunately, not everyone shares this same view. While I can accept this difference, I will not accept it on the teams for which I am a member. Climbing is a team sport, requiring each member to trust that his or her teammates have the skills and experience to both avoid dangerous mistakes and to safely extricate if they occur. Being asked by a teammate how to use an ascender at the top of a fixed line doesn't engender this sense of camaraderie. And it's dangerous.
What I learned on Vinson is that the only way for me to ensure that the other people on my rope place the same importance on safety and preparation is to climb with people that I know, whose values are similar to mine. Secondly, I learned that I am more capable of managing these situations than I would have thought. I feel lucky that I have learned a great deal from experienced climbers and guides over the years. Their influence has built both my skill level confidence. While I still have a lot to learn, I am pleased that when things start to go sideways I am able to remain calm and help to get them back on track.
I was also immensely awed by the pristine beauty of Antarctica. I feel blessed to have experienced it's peacefulness and untouched landscape. Although it is remote and harsh, part of me didn't want to leave.