The French base camp below the west side of Holtanna. The French team pioneered the north pillar of Holstind, the leftmost summit of the massif. Courtesy of Gmhm.terre.defense.gouv.fr.
At the end of 2008, a French expedition climbed a new route on the granite tower Holstind in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, and made the first ascent of several other peaks. The expedition of the Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne (GMHM), an elite alpine squad of the French army, also made a spirited attempt on a long new route on stunning Ulvetanna.
The team climbed a 19-pitch new route on the north pillar of Holstind, the northern summit of the Holtanna massif. The route was named Pilier de Choudens Renard (650m, A2/A3) after two GMHM members killed during an expedition to Shishapangma in 2003.
Three climbers attempted a new route on the south arête of Ulvetanna. After making the first ascent of the “Bouteille” (Bottle) via nine pitches of aid climbing, they later attempted to reach the summit by jugging fixed ropes to the top of the Bottle, and then climbing eight pitches of delicate rock and mixed ground along a sharp arête pocked with enormous huecos. They stopped about three steep pitches below the summit in rising winds and snowfall, and returned to base camp 36 hours after leaving.
The French attempt on the south arête of Ulvetanna: After making the first ascent of the “Bouteille,” the round pillar at the south end of the formation, a French trio jugged fixed lines to the snowfield atop the pillar and then made an alpine-style attempt to follow the ridge to the summit. They retreated about three pitches below the top in deteriorating weather. Courtesy of Gmhm.terre.defense.gouv.fr.
Other climbers skied to the King Olaf Mountains, where they ascended four previously unclimbed peaks.
The Swiss-German team of Stephan Siegrist and Alexander and Thomas Huber was also in the area, hoping to climb new big-wall routes on Holtanna and Ulbetanna. It’s not yet known how they have fared.
Dates of Ascents: December 2008
Jugging on the north pillar of Holstind. Courtesy of Gmhm.terre.defense.gouv.fr.