NORWEGIANS RETURN FOR ANTARCTIC FIRSTS

Posted on: January 26, 2007


The Norwegians' new line (A4 5.10, 960m) on the north face of Ulvetanna spire (2960m), Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Robert Caspersen, Ivar Tollefsen, Stein-Ivar Gravdal and Trond Hilde spent sixteen days on the face, climbing capsule style, before reaching the summit. Once complete, they headed east to establish a half-dozen more first ascents. [Photo] Courtesy of http://www.ulvetanna.no/

Ivar Tollefsen, Stein-Ivar Gravdal, Trond Hilde and I just returned from Antarctica, where we spent forty days (November 2 to December 10, 2006) climbing and exploring. It was my first trip to Queen Maud Land's untouched towers since Ulvetanna, which I climbed with Tollefsen and Sjur Nesheim in 1994.

Our first objective was a new line up the north face of Ulvetanna spire (2960m). It took sixteen days (November 5-20), climbing capsule style with four camps, to reach the summit. We were fortunate to have uneventful weather apart from one 48-hour snowstorm (60cm on the ground), that we waited out in our portaledges halfway up the face. As expected, the temperatures were cold, averaging -20 Celsius, but the route was well worth it.

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The climb follows a thin line ca. 100-150 meters left of the wall's center (the other obvious line to the right was attempted by Thomas Cosgriff and Trond Hilde in 1994. They only climbed four pitches, 150m, before aborting). We encountered better rock than expected, actually far better than anything else experienced in the area. Some magnificent pitches of sustained hard aiding made the climb quite enjoyable. Of the twenty-one pitches in all (ca. 960m), three were grade A4, six A3/A3+, four A2/A2+ and eight easier pitches went free in the middle and top section at 5.9/5.10. For aid and comfort we placed forty-five expansion bolts (by hand drill of course), forty on belays and five for protection. The line is very aesthetic, and the face and mountain is in it's own class in the area—all the right ingredients to make this a future classic!

After completing our main objective we skied eastward with pulkas and light climbing gear to the Holtedahl mountains thirty kilometers away. We summitted six distinct peaks, each around 2200-meters high (Store Gruvletind, 2254m; Kubbestolen, 2079m; and four summits with no name, ca. 2200m). All six had fairly easy climbing, requiring only short sections of roping up. We believe these were first ascents since there were no traces of other activity. The only person we know visited this area is Mike Libecki, who climbed two summits here last season, solo (read Libecki's climbing note from Issue 16).

We then continued to ski east for thirty kilometers, where we climbed the freestanding Sandneshatten (2200m); we then returned to the Fenrisskjeften and the Ulvetanna area where we did some smaller climbs. The most notable was a route on the west face of Stetind, first ascended via the south ridge in 2003 by Alain Hubert and Andre Georges.

My hope is that it won't take another thirteen years to return!

Hanging out in the cold. Although the weather on Ulvetanna was uneventful, aside from one snowstorm, the average temperature on-route was -20 Celsius. [Photo] Courtesy of http://www.ulvetanna.no/



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