Hubers, Siegrist Pioneer Huge Antarctic Walls

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Spectacular climbing on the wind-carved north buttress of Holtanna, the line of the tower’s first free ascent: Skywalk (450m, 5.10). Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

Spectacular climbing on the wind-carved north buttress of Holtanna, the line of the tower’s first free ascent: Skywalk (450m, 5.10). Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

Attempting to free climb on the west face of Holtanna. The German-Swiss team free-climbed passages up to 5.11-, but found harder pitches impossible in the cold. Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

Attempting to free climb on the west face of Holtanna. The German-Swiss team free-climbed passages up to 5.11-, but found harder pitches impossible in the cold. Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

During a six-week trip to Queen Maud Land in Antarctica, Bavarian brothers Alex and Thomas Huber, along with Stephan Siegrist from Switzerland, climbed new routes on two enormous, otherworldy rock towers thrusting from the ice cap. The trio made the first ascent of the 2,500-foot west face of Holtanna, the north buttress of Holtanna, and the west buttress of Ulvetanna.

The team had planned to attempt a big-wall free climb on the frozen continent, but deep cold and steady winds soon put an end to those thoughts. Pitches that would have gone at 5.11 in warmer temperatures were unthinkable in temperatures of 20°F below zero, they said. Instead, they continued with aid climbing up to A4 on the first ascent of the 24-pitch Eiszeit (“Ice Age”, 750m, 5.11- A4) on the west face of Holtanna. In the process they made the third ascent of the tower.

The fourth ascent came about a week later, as the team free-climbed the 10-pitch north buttress of Holtanna via Skywalk (450m, 5.10). Holtanna was first climbed in late 2000, via the south pillar, by an international team.

The team climbed the northwest buttress of Ulvetanna in just two days, with a mixture of free and aid climbing and steep snow (800m, 5.11- A2 60°). Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

The team climbed the northwest buttress of Ulvetanna in just two days, with a mixture of free and aid climbing and steep snow (800m, 5.11- A2 60°). Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

The extraordinary Ulvetanna (“Wolf’s Tooth), with the northwest buttress (Sound of Silence, 800m, 5.11- A2 60°) facing the camera in right center. Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

The extraordinary Ulvetanna (“Wolf’s Tooth), with the northwest buttress (Sound of Silence, 800m, 5.11- A2 60°) facing the camera in right center. Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

With just a few days before they were scheduled to fly out of Queen Maud Land, a brief weather window allowed the Hubers and Siegrist to complete a two-day ascent of Ulvetanna via the northwest buttress. Sound of Silence (800m, 5.11- A2 60°) was the third line on the striking peak. Norwegian teams had climbed the west face (1994) and north face (2006).

The line of Eiszeit (750m, 5.11- A4) on the west face of Holtanna. Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

The line of Eiszeit (750m, 5.11- A4) on the west face of Holtanna. Courtesy of Expedition Antarctica.

Dates of Ascents: November-December 2008

Sources: Antarctic Expedition, American Alpine Journal

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