Antarctica, Ellsworth Mountains, Sentinel Range, Embree Glacier, First Exploration and Various Ascents

Publication Year: 1999.

Embree Glacier, First Exploration and Various Ascents. Bob Elias, Kurt Cox and I flew from Punta Arenas to Patriot Hills on November 13, 1998. We were forced to wait for one week by bad weather before we could fly to our objective, the Embree Glacier, so in the meantime we climbed an ice face on Patriot Hills’ north face. This route was to the right of Patriot Hills’ much easier normal route, which we used for our descent. Ours was a fun 50° ice route; we did about ten pitches to the summit, from where we had a spectacular view of Mt. Simmons. Jim Donini soloed the route alongside us, finishing before we did. (It is uncertain whether this line had been climbed previously.)

Two days later my clients and I set out to climb Mt. Simmons (1590m), joined this time by Donini and Elizabeth Sodergren. My clients and I got about 150 meters from the top, but did not continue to the summit due to miserable cold weather and high winds. Jim and Elizabeth continued to the summit. The route was the most obvious and easiest line on Mt. Simmons’ northwest face.

On November 21, my client Robert Elias and I landed on the Embree Glacier at 78° 04' 17" S, 86° 02' 16" W, at an altitude of 2200 meters. We were, to the best of our knowledge, the first people to set foot on this glacier. We set up Base Camp on a beautiful windless day. We had spectacular views of the surrounding peaks, which according to our research were all unclimbed and mostly unnamed. The most spectacular peaks were Mt. Todd, Mt. Press, Mt. Bentley, and indisputably the tremendous north face of Mt. Anderson.

On November 22, we did our first exploratory climb in fierce winds and temperatures of -40°E We climbed the peak immediately north of Mt. Hale (78° 04' S 86° 9' W) via the northeast ridge. We “named” the unnamed peak “Natalie Peak,” a beautiful 3400-meter summit (all names are tentative pending approval by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names). The climbing was moderate, involving mainly snow and ice climbing at the beginning and middle sections. The upper section was mixed climbing, and very challenging because of high winds and brutally cold temperatures.

On November 24, we climbed a second unclimbed peak north of Natalie Peak via its northeast ridge and named it “Kristen-Jule Peak” (ca. 3200m). It involved fun moderate mixed climbing with an interesting ridge. On November 26, we attempted to climb Mt. Little Todd, a sub-summit of the impressive Mt. Todd (3600m, 78° 03' S 85° 56' W), via the west ridge, finding great mixed climbing and several 60° ice pitches. We reached a point about 200 meters short of the summit in deteriorating weather.

On November 27, Conrad Anker, Jim Donini and Mike MacDowell joined our Base Camp, armed with a Twin Otter full of equipment, gourmet food, great wine and great spirits. The weather got worse the next day and never improved. The area is excellent, and there are more first ascents to be done. I feel like we barely touched its potential.

Rodrigo Mujica, unaffiliated