American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Antarctica, South Georgia, Three Brothers, First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Three Brothers, first ascent. Sailing aboard the yacht Pelagic, Alun Hughes, Skip Novak (captain of Pelagic), and I arrived at South Georgia with the aim of making a five-part series on sailing, climbing, and the history of wildlife on the island for Welsh television. The unclimbed Three Brothers were on my list since I first spotted them while working as harbor master on South Georgia during 1990-91. The 1991 South African Mountain Club Centenary Expedition led by John Moss had a go at the highest peak and got as far as the col. They reported straightforward skiing across the Neumayer Glacier. However, after a dry winter and a hot summer the glacier was now as dry as a bone and constant zig-zagging was required to make any progress. It took us a week to ferry everything in to the mountain, carrying roughly three loads each in order to establish a well-stocked camp below the headwall leading to the western col. The site was at an altitude of ca 450m and was occupied around January 18. The three of us were then stuck for a week of constant bad weather in a two-man tent.

We eventually received a forecast that a weak ridge of high pressure would arrive on what would effectively have to be our last day. We started at 4:15 a.m. but the weather was still bad with lots of spindrift avalanches being blown across the face in high winds. Al and Skip decided against it and turned back. I managed to work a way through the lower icefall and across the bergschrund via a hole to get onto the face. I climbed this in difficult conditions to the col. The weather then started to improve as forecasted, so I began to move eastward towards the summit tower. My planned approach via the southern ridge looked too steep to solo, so I traversed shale terraces and ramps to the crest of the north ridge. I then followed this on fairly steep glass-hard ice, past two false summits, to the main top at 2040m, arriving at around 12:15 p.m. on January 25. The summit has five high points, all about the same altitude within 70 meters. They were icy with a covering of hoar frost and dropped away spectacularly to the east. The western flanks were more slabby.

I traversed all five high points, crossing an à-cheval section and descending some precarious awkward steps, then began the descent. Instead of following my line of ascent I went directly down the icefields below the north ridge, then traversed around to the col at a lower level. I then reversed the face below the col, sticking to the rocks as much as possible to minimize any avalanche risk. I reached the others at 5:30 p.m.

Crag Jones, United Kingdom

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