American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Antarctica, South Georgia, Nordenskjold Attempt and Normann Ascent

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

Nordenskjold attempt and Normann ascent. John Griber, Hilaree Nelson, and Rick Armstrong along with film crew Tom Day and John Teaford, made up a strong U.S. team, led by Doug Stoup that visited the island in October and November. They traveled aboard Golden Fleece and had ambitious plans for filming climbing, snowboarding, and skiing on the island’s highest peak, Mt. Paget, as well as on Nordenskjold Peak and Mt. Roots. This group arrived to find the thinnest snow cover in the mountains for over 20 years and experienced atrocious weather for most of the trip.

On November 2 Stoup, Griber and Armstrong attempted Nordenskjold Peak. Climbing in very high winds Stoup and Armstrong turned back after frontpointing over 1000m of hard blue ice at around 55 degrees. Downclimbing from this point still took them around three hours. Griber continued on, reaching the summit ridge at around 2135m. Though only 200 meters below the top, changing conditions dictated descent, which amazingly Griber decided to do on his snowboard. Watched by the rest of the team, Griber descended the extremely icy face in around 15 minutes. Stoup, who has made a number of difficult snowboard descents in Antarctica, described it as, “One of the most amazing things I have ever seen.” The next day their base camp tents were destroyed, hit by winds measured at over 70 knots. The team retreated to the boat. They then changed plans to make shorter ship-based forays.

One of these forays, on November 15, produced the second ascent of Mt. Normann (1265m), by a new route. Stoup, Armstrong, Nelson, and Griber climbed the 1200-meter east face of Normann to exit on to the narrow east ridge, which they followed to the summit. The climb gave over 1000 meters of 50-degree snow and ice, beginning at the water’s edge, like all of their climbs. Most of the descent was done by ski or snowboard. Mt. Normann was first climbed in January 1991 by members of the South African Mountain Club Centenary Expedition aboard the yacht Diel. Stoup’s team went on to do a number of other shorter climbs and ski descents on features close to the shore in Larsen Harbour, and spent time studying and filming the island’s wildlife, before returning to Ushuaia.

Damien Gildea, AAC, Australia

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