First Ascent in Antarctica

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Jed Brown reaching the summit of Mt. Slaughter for the second ascent.

Veteran Antarctic explorer Damien Gildea from Australia and a team of young climbers, including Alaskan Jed Brown, have climbed a virgin summit in a remote range near Mt. Vinson. To reach the peak, the team hauled sleds along a two-day approach that stretched to six days because of foul weather. In continuing unstable weather, the team then made the second ascent of Mt. Atkinson (ca. 10,825 feet), followed by the second ascent of Mt. Slaughter (ca. 11,500 feet).

During the evening of December 9, Brown soloed the 6,500-foot West Face of Mt. Rutford in just four and a half hours to make the first ascent of the 14,600-foot peak. This is the highest point in the Craddock Massif, which lies to the south of Mt. Vinson. The exact height is unknown—part of the team’s mission is to collect GPS data from each of the peaks it climbs to help establish the correct elevations. Brown then traversed to the summit of Bugeño Pinnacle to make the first ascent of that small rock spire. Teammates Maria Paz Ibarra and Camilo Rada from Chile climbed Rutford that night, reaching the top at 5:15 a.m. on the 10th.

The expedition is far from over. After skiing back to Vinson base camp, the team plans to fly to the Embree Glacier and attempt several unclimbed peaks in this area, about 30 miles north of Vinson. Only two expeditions have visited this massif before. Finally, the team will ski back toward Vinson, with an eye toward attempting more unclimbed peaks along the way.

Dates of Ascents: December 7, 2006 (Mt. Slaughter) and December 9, 2006 (Mt. Rutford).

Source: Damien Gildea

The new route up the 6,500-foot West Face of Mt. Rutford in Antarctica.Photos courtesy of Damien Gildea.

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