Big Wall in Antarctica


Americans Josh Helling and Mike Libecki climbed a new big-wall route in rarely visited Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, during a two-month visit to the southern continent. The climbers first spent two weeks repairing a remote weather station and making a ski-touring circumnavigation of the Orvin Fjella range, a surreal landscape of granite needles and fins erupting from thousands of acres of ice. Eventually they chose the 2,000-foot west face of Fenris, a spectactular triangular wall, as a climbing objective. In Norse mythology, Fenris (or Fenrir) is a huge wolf-like monster. Over 16 days, Helling and Libecki climbed 14 pitches to the summit of Fenris, with five portaledge camps. Helling led the A4 hooking and beaking first pitch, with no bolts and an icy bergschrund yawning below his feet. Above this, numerous offwidths and squeeze chimneys dominated the route, requiring free climbing up to 5.10-plus. The leader frequently had to don rock shoes despite the Antarctic chill. The weather turned poor halfway up the climb, with off and on snow and temperatures of –10 F to –20 F. But clear skies returned on January 15 as they reached the knife-edged summit.