Asgard Range, Various Ascents. This past January, I climbed with Thai Verzone in Antarctica’s Asgard Range as part of a SAR training exercise. The trip was very favorable on the work-to-play ratio. Our maps of the area were poor, so we had the helicopter circle around until we’d identified some enticing peaks, then were dropped off and had at it.
We first climbed Mt. Thundergut (keep in mind we didn’t find out the names of these until we got back). The climbing involved 35-degree blue ice, kicking up another ten degrees after the bergschrund to a saddle, then through a series of fourth-class traverses and chimneys to a small summit. On the way back to base camp, we knocked off Mt. Viel as well. A straightforward, shattered wall of ice and rock accessed a steep ridge that dropped off sharply on the sides, leading to the point of a beautifully pyramidal peak. One of the nice things about Antarctica in the austral summer is if the weather’s nice and the climb- ing’s good, the day goes on and on.
The feather in our cap came on the next day with Mt. Obelisk: 45- to 65-degree mixed climbing (with one steeper ice gully) to a continuous, exposed fourth-class ridge of wind- eroded rock gargoyles. From the ridge to the summit required low fifth-class (a lot around 5.2, a few moves of 5.6) and more exposed (think a steeper, meaner, and more continuous Owen-Spalding) climbing in our plastic boots.
Editor’s Note: According to Damien Gildea, Obelisk was first climbed in 1970 and was later climbed twice by Colin Monteath with others. According to Colin, helicopters had apparently landed on a number of these summits before climbers. Thundergut was first climbed in 1974 and has no doubt been climbed since, as is most likely the case with Mounts Rae and Viel.