(ThePoles.com) Antarctica season now folding, time has come to check what else has been happening on the ice. Damien Gildea's team has made a number of first ascents and here goes Damien's report with a second update coming up later this week.
Mts. Bentley and Press bagged
After landing in the Embree glacier on Dec 19th we spent four days in bad weather. Xmas Day dawned pretty good though so Jed and I set off for one of the ridge peaks behind our camp - we went for what we figured was the highest one, but once on top we realized that both the other two pointy peaks on the ridge heading north were both higher. So for now we're referring to this summit as 'Wrong Peak'.
The next two days were bad weather but on the 29th we set off for one of our main objectives, the NE ridge of Mt Bentley. Bob Elias and Wally Berg had climbed most of this ridge back in '98, stopping a couple hundred feet short of the summit. It was mostly pretty moderate climbing, but with a very sharp, narrow summit ridge atop the steeper upper face. Jed went to the right on this face, I went left. In hindsight, right was right :-)
When we processed Mt. Bentleys data we got a new height of 4137m, only 8m lower than the older USGS height.
Dec 31st was spent by Jed, Pachi and Camilo making the first ascentof Mt. Press. They celebrated New Year's Eve just near the summit and ran the GPS for a few hours.
Leaving Todd for someone else
The next day Jed and I went for Round 2 with Mt Todd. We tried the easy-looking ridge initially but found some unpleasant crevasses and snow conditions, so we then opted for the broad, snowy west face but Jed also found out it was in bad windslab avalanche condition. He was a few hundred meters higher than me and across from me when he triggered a slide. A section about 200m wide cracked and slid down 400m or so. Nowhere near me but enough of a warning so we got the hell off Mt Todd. Someone else can have it.
By now it was time to get out of the Embree, so on Jan 3rd we packed up o and headed north down the glacier.
Escaping Embree glacier
On the flight in we had checked out two cols on the ridge to our west that would be our escape. One was closer, steeper on the Embree side - some backpacking loads maybe needed - but fine on the west side. The other, a bit further north, was really easy on the Embree side but we didn't really see the west side. We went for the 2nd one. It was a bit steeper than we expected!
Anyway, we spent an hour or two lowering the sleds off a 3-snowstake anchor, down 150m or so to easier ground. From there we each lowered them by hand a little more until we could re-attach them and start skiing along the west side of the range, now out on the icecap but with some ridges and easy cols.
Next goal: Mount Anderson
After Embree, the team moved for the third stage of the Unclimbed Antarctica expedition.
[Once out of Embree Glacier]we headed SSE and around and up into the valley running down from the W face of Anderson - the highest unclimbed mountain in the range. Some time in the next day or two we'll be heading up the big rock face to try a couloir that cuts throught it from left up right, reaching the west ridge up high beneath the final ice slopes. At least thats the plan.
For the 8th straight season, Aussie climber and researcher Damien Gildea is back in Antarctica, leading a young expedition on the ice plateau. American Jed Brown and Chileans Camilo Rada and Maria Paz Ibarra, have spent around 2 months on the ice to measure the highest unclimbed peaks in the Sentinel Range.
Damien has led seven expeditions at Antarctica, most launched by The Omega Foundation, a Non-Profit Organization dedicated to supporting scientific, environmental, educational and literary endeavors in the Antarctic region.
Damien is the author of The Antarctic Mountaineering Chronology (1998), the only reference book on mountaineering in Antarctica and has a large number of first ascents in the Antarctic ranges.
Camilo Rada (26) is Damien's regular climbing mate on the ice, and has also done winter climbs in San Valentin and San Lorenzo, Patagonias highest mountains.
Maria Paz Pachi Ibarra (28) became the first Chilean lady climber to summit Lhotse earlier this year. She has also done first climbs in the Tierra del Fuego ranges, and three climbing expeditions to the southern Patagonian Ice Cap.
American Jed Brown (23), is an Alaskan ski racer, climber and mathematician, currently working at UAF developing a mathematic model of the Antarctic ice sheet.
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