Hard Traverse at Bottom of the World

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Looking across the arête from Grand Ross to Petit Ross.

A French team made the first traverse of little-known Mt. Ross on the isolated Kerguélen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. Manu Cauchy and Lionel Daudet climbed over Grand Ross and Petit Ross in a 30-hour round trip from base camp. Though Ross is only a little over 6,000 feet high, the rime-covered volcanic fin is the high point of an island smack in the middle of the Roaring Forties, at the same latitude as the weather-beaten climbs of the Fitz Roy area of Patagonia.

In addition to completing the traverse, Daudet, Sébastien Foissac, and Philippe Pellet established a new line that climbs the full North Face of Grand Ross. This trio and Cauchy also made the first ascent of Pic au Cretère (3,875 feet) via a fine 1,300-foot ice line. Grand Ross was first climbed by a French team in 1975 and had been repeated only once, in 2001; the French team also climbed Petit Ross in 1975, but the traverse had never been attempted.

Scene during the first ascent of the North Face of Grand Ross.

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