Huge Wall Climbed in Antarctica



The stunning 3,150-foot North Face of Ulvetanna, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. The Norwegians’ new route climbs straight up the middle of the lower wall, then a bit left of center in the upper half. Their 1994 route ascends steep snow and ice to a rock headwall on the West/Northwest Face, around the corner to the right in this picture.
Photo courtesy of www.ulvetanna.no.

Almost 13 years after making the first ascent of Ulvetanna, a striking 9,710-foot granite spire in Antarctica, a Norwegian team returned to Queen Maud Land to climb the tower’s vertical North Face.

In February 1994, Robert Caspersen, Sjur Nesheim, and Ivar Tollefsen climbed the West/Northwest Face of Ulvetanna (“Wolf’s Fang”) over 10 days, producing stunning pictures that helped introduce the world to these otherworldly towers. In November 2006, Caspersen and Tollefsen returned with Stein-Ivar Gravdal and Trond Hilde, and the four men spent 16 days climbing the peak’s 3,150-foot north wall. The team climbed capsule-style, with one camp on the ground and three portaledge camps on the wall. They ascended 21 pitches, with hard aid climbing (up to A4) in the lower half and eight pitches of 5.9 and 5.10 free climbing higher up. “We experienced mainly good weather conditions, apart from one 48-hour snowstorm, with 60cm (2 feet) on the ground, that we waited out in our portaledges halfway up the face,” Caspersen wrote in an email. “Temperatures averaged minus 20 Celsius (minus 4°F).” The team placed 45 bolts, mostly at belays. “All in all the route has great climbing, the line is very aesthetic, and the face and mountain are in their own class in the area—all the right ingredients to make this a future classic!”

After completing this climb, the team skied nearly 20 miles east to the Holtedahl Mountains, where they climbed six peaks, all of which they believe to be first ascents. (This is the same area where Mike Libecki soloed two routes in late 2005. See http://www.climbing.com/news/antarticsolo/index.html.) Then they skied another 20 miles east to bag a tower called Sandneshatten, and finally returned to the Ulvetanna area, where they did some easier first ascents, thus completing a remarkable 40-day expedition.

See more photos and expedition reports (in Norwegian) at www.ulvetanna.no.

Dates of Expedition: November 2-December 10, 2006; Ulvetanna climb: November 5-20, 2006.

Sources: Robert Caspersen, www.ulvetanna.no, 1996 and 2006 American Alpine Journals.

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