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Antarctica, The Peninsula, Wiencke and Ronge Islands, Various Ascents and Scientific Program

Wiencke and Ronge Islands, various ascents and scientific program. An international expedition comprising myself as leader and skipper, co-skipper Dave Hildes (Canada), Peter Taylor (US), Grant Redvers (NZ), Jon Millar (Canada), Elliot Robertson (UK), David Fasel (Switzerland), Fraser Bernie (Scotland), Andy Mitchell (UK), Lena Rowat (Canada), and Penny Goddard (NZ) spent 10 weeks sailing and exploring the Peninsula in the yacht Gambo. The weather and sea-ice conditions over the 2001-2002 summer were apparently exceptionally bad, giving record snowfalls, high winds and bad visibility. For these reasons we never ventured further south than the Lemaire Channel, but we had a fantastic time. We made three successful ascents on Wiencke Island, two of which are likely to be first ascents: the first (or northernmost) of the seven sisters of the Fief Range (ca 1200m by its northwest ridge, a mixed route of between 30 and 60 degrees with a crux steep rock pitch on very chossy rock); the “shroom” (ca 900m) on the Wall Range, climbed via “Crag Jones” gully (opposite Noble Peak) to a nasty corniced ridge heading up left (north); Luigi (1400m) by its east ridge via an exceptionally good ski route (we may claim the first snowboard ascent and descent) with a 300-meter snow climb up to 50 degrees to the summit. Other projects on Wiencke Island failed due to exceptionally poor weather windows, but to keep sloth at bay we made almost daily ascents of the popular Jabet Peak (550m).

The team made a ski traverse onto the Peninsula Icecap Plateau via a route from the Orel Ice Fringe to the Downfall. Unfortunately, we were weathered off three-quarters of the way across the Downfall at the crux, before we could get fully established on the Peninsula and achieve an ascent of Mt. Walker. However, we made two possible first ascents: Stolze Peak (ca 1580m) on skis, and the westernmost peak of the Laussedat Heights. We also made the second ascent of Mt. Hoegh (890m) in conjunction with members from the British Army Antarctic Expedition (but led by the Gambo crew). The previously unclimbed Mt. Britannia (1600m) on Ronge Island was ascended via two routes. The first and more technical took place via the east ridge directly opposite Danco Island; and the second, via the southeast ridge, was achieved mostly on skis.

The majority of our scientific work was concentrated into two to three weeks at King George Island. Whilst Gambo was moored in Maxwell Bay, numerous field parties completed a surface and basal topographic survey of the Warzawa Icefield by Radio-Echo Sounding and GPS. We took GPS fixes at numerous rock outcrops in Admiralty Bay to ground truth and constrain 1950s aerial photography. We took a temporal and spatial suit of sub-glacial and supra-glacial water samples to assess for minor and trace metals, and other run-off nutrients. We also collected over 50 samples of glacogenic material for extremeophile microbe analysis.

Alun Hubbard, Wales