ANTARCTICA'S LAST SENTINEL

Posted on: January 30, 2007


The first ascent route of Mt. Giovinetto (4090m), Sentinel Range, Antarctica. A team supported by the Omega foundation, a private institution that funds scientific and environmental research expeditions to high altitude and high latitude areas, climbed Giovinetto—the last 4000-meter peak in the range—on January 20. Over the past two months the team has established thirteen first ascents and new routes; last year Gildea was part of a similar Omega team that verified elevations and features in the same range. The USGS grid they produced afterward contained revised information vital to their trip a year later. [Photo] Damien Gildea

After acquiring updated information to plot Antarctica's Sentinel Range on a USGS map last year, the Omega Foundation has established thirteen first ascents and new routes in the range over the past two months. By summitting Rutford (4450m) on December 9, 2006 and Anderson (4144m) on January 9, the Omega team conquered the two tallest unclimbed peaks in the Sentinels—leaving only one summit over 4000 meters, Mt. Giovinetto (4090m), unclimbed. On January 20, they successfully ticked that one too, ending a historic spree of virgin peak-bagging in Antarctica's highest range.

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Two days later on January 22, Jed Brown, Maria Paz "Pachi" Ibarra and Camilo Rada continued on to make the first ascent of Mt. Morris (3806m), one of the few remaining 3000-meter objectives left unclimbed in the Sentinels. Damien Gildea joined them for the return back to Vinson Base Camp early the next morning, hauling sleds through soft snow for about ten hours. Proud that "a small milestone in the history of Antarctic exploration [had] passed," Gildea also noted that "reaching the flat easy ground at [Vinson] let me breathe a sigh of relief I'd been holding in for the last two months."

To travel between mountians the Omega team hauled sleds for dozens of miles through cold, windy Antarctic terrain. [Photo] Damien Gildea

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