ALE's Union Glacier Camp is up and running for the 2017/18 season so time for an overview of this years Antarctic & South Pole Expeditions. Alongside the usual Mt Vinson and Last Degree expeditions there a number of more challenging projects and guided trips.
Ben Saunders (Trans-Antarctic Solo) - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul attempt at an Antarctic crossing from the southern edge of Birkner Island to the South Pole and on to the Ross Ice Shelf via the Leverett Glacier. Based on Lt Col Henry Worsleys Solo Shackleton 2015/16 attempt. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Astrid Furholt - Two person team attempting an unassisted manhaul on the Roald Amundsen route by which the South Pole was first reached. Accessing the start point at Framheim by Twin Otter to the Ross Iceshelf and then by kite ski to the edge of the shelf. [unassisted]
Ice Maidens - Six women team from the British Army attempting an unsupported crossing of Antarctica from the Leverett Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf to Hercules Inlet via the South Pole. Two resupplies at the South Pole and Thiel Mountains. This 1700km route was used by Felicity Aston in 2011/12 on her Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic Expedition. [unsupported]
Ice Trek - A guided team of five attempting a new route from the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole via the Reedy and Kansas Glaciers
Scott Sears (Antarctic Gurkha) - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul along the standard 700 mile Hercules Inlet route to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Yasu Ogita - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Davar Rostuhar - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
ALE Ski South Pole - Guided team manhauling from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. Two Guides Carl Alvey & Christain with five clients
Paul Landry (Polar Consultants) - Guided team man hauling from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole
Robert Swan Energy Challenge - Guided team of four man hauling from the Messner Start to the South Pole. Expedition running on 'renewable energy & bio fuels' during the manhauling phase.
Leo Houlding (Spectre) - An innovative attempt to combine climbing, man hauling and kite skiing. After an ALE Twin Otter drop off the expedition will comprise a 300km kite ski to the Organ Pipe Peaks in the Gothic Mountains, an attempt on the 750m buttress of the Spectre (2020m) and other unclimbed peaks, a 400km manhaul onto the polar plateau and a 1100km kite ski directly back to Union Glacier. [unassisted]
Unsupported - Support in Antarctica is usually provided by kites i.e. wind assisted or vehicles. Unsupported trips are typically manhauling on skis
Unassisted - Assistance is usually in the form of resupplies, either planned or emergency. All solo trips are unassisted by definition.
Parrish Peak 1775m
Horseshoe Valley S 79.55 W82.01
1st ascent 12th Dec 1979 I Campbell & G Coleridge (NZ) Route unknown
2nd ascent Jan / Feb 1994 M Curtis & B Hull (UK) NW Ridge
3rd ascent 23rd Dec 2015 P Delmas, M Vincent (Fr) & Z Poulton (UK) NW Ridge
North West Ridge, Grade AD-, 300m.
Ascent 3:00, Descent 1:15
Access NW Ridge (left hand skyline on photo) from west by means of a snow rib below west face (windscoop) on skis to the first large horizontal platform. Climb the ridge direct on snow and very loose flaky rock, mainly on the left with a couple of excursions onto the right. The crux is just below the summit. Bypass the final tower by traversing snow leftwards until a loose gully leads easily to an exposed summit with block belays. Descend by the same route
An unclimbed summit…. A new route…. In Antarctica… with clients! It doesn’t get much better or more challenging for a mountain guide. A season spent guiding on Mt Vinson and the South Pole had me tuned in to the polar environment and ready for a different challenge.
High winds were driving clouds through the mountains bordering the glacial basin in which our base camp was situated. The constant but ever changing sunlight helped us to identify a sharply defined arete on our chosen peak. Snow and rock gave a prehistoric spine direct to the highest point on a horizontal summit ridge.
The clarity of the air meant the distance was greatly fore-shortened. After a fair few hours of dragging our pulks across the vastness of the Schenz Glacier the ground began to subtly rise, Rounding a broad shoulder of moraine we were able to crampon up steep icy slopes until an exposed col gave us just enough flat ground for our tents. Above us our peak suddenly seemed a lot bigger. Fortifying ourselves for the climb ahead we feasted on Moroccan Lamb, ice cream, chocolate brownie and a box of Chile’s ‘finest’ red wine!
Next morning a couple of hours scrambling over the moraine brought us to the base of the ridge. We zig zagged up over rubble filled ledges with the occasional steeper step until a band of conglomerate buttress and gullies blocked the way. Forced out rightwards on to the steep snow and blue ice of the east face the exposure was immediate and intimidating. A gully allowed us to regain the ridge where it narrowed. Ahead a series of sculptured gendarmes blocked the way. However a succession of delightful wind scoops and snow ramps gave spectacular but easy climbing just below the difficulties of the crest with a couple of excursions onto the rock of the west face to add variety.
The difficulties and exposure steadily increased until we suddenly arrived at the summit. The ever present wind had died away and we were able to linger in the sunshine with spectacular views back down our line of ascent. Looking out to the south there were dozens of unclimbed peaks bordered by a mass of the Drake Icefall tumbling down from the high polar plateau.
Peering over the summit ridge we spied an easy scramble descent to the glacier. Steep slopes with the occasional crevasse and some clever route finding allowed us to pick up a natural line back across the west face and onwards to our camp. Quickly packing up we clipped into our skis and raced our pulks back to the expanses of the glacier below. A few short hours later we were enjoying a well deserved beer and a shower at a busy Union Glacier base camp.
Peace Peak 1869m by Windscoop Ridge PD 350m,
Soholt Hills, Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica
First ascent: 8th January 2015
The last few days in the mountains have proved pretty eventful with the ongoing earthquake disaster in Nepal and the avalanches on Everest. We'rejust picking up the pieces after our own avalanche experience in Greenland exactly one year to the day after 16 Sherpas were killed on Everest.
I was guiding for Tangent Expeditions and our plan was to explore, climb and ski in the rarely visited southern Stauning Alps on the east coast of Greenland. Good weather enabled our skidoo transport to make quick progress across Jamieson Land with the mountains of Milneland, Renland and the Staunings dominating the horizon. There were tens of musk ox moving singuly and in herds chewing on the few sprigs of vegetation that were starting to show through the snowpack.
We spent the night in the derelict Gurreholm Research station after digging down to it's back door. The following morning we picked our way across the sea ice and up the main drainage line until we were blocked by sheet ice. From here we were on ski dragging everything we needed for the following two weeks in our pulks. A long hot day ensued until we found a good location for our base camp still a few kilometers from the mountains
Next day saw us enjoying a stunning ski tour up one of many glacier that drop from the small icecap atop the Stauning Alps. There was very little crevasse risk, the sun was out and we were sheltered from the wind blowing across the plateau. However on a slope we had identified as stable we presume a deep seated weak layer meant that we triggered a large slab avalanche as we approached the rim. We regrouped having dug ourselves out after a bruising ride and with no serious injuries but our skis were gone. Our 'postholing' descent to base camp took rather a long time!
Back at camp we realised our expedition was over with no efficient way of moving around the mountains and a few limiting injuries. A poor weather forecast meant that the Dragon Skidoo Team couldn't reach us immediatly but we were safe and secure in camp with enough food and fuel for 2 weeks. In the event it wasn't needed as a weather window opened and the Dragons grabbed the oppurtunity to get in and pick us up. Poor visibilty and flat light meant that the return journey took three days but within hours of getting back to Constable Point we were in the air and on our way back to Iceland.
Good report here from Dr Rob Conway on the Dragons Skidoo Team
I'm currently on my way to the east coast of Greenland to guide an exploratory ski mountaineering and alpine climbing expedition for Tangent Expeditions. Our plan is to base ourselves in the Southern Stauning Alps which have had few if any visits. First ascents and descents would seem to be the order of the day. Access will be by a two day skidoo journey up through the vast frozen fjord system to place our base camp on Oxford Glacier. The promo video we shot from a couple of years ago gives a good idea of the scale and isolation of this stunning landscape.