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Antarctica, Dronning Maud Land, Summary of Activities

Summary of activities. In late January an experienced team of Russian mountaineers flew in to Dronning Maud Land, aiming to make a number of ascents among the spectacular spires for which this area is now famous. The group flew from Cape Town, South Africa in an Ilyushin- 76, landing at the Russian base Novolazarevskaya (‘Novo’) on January 25th.

A reconnaissance party had already been in during December, traveling in two sixwheeled diesel-powered buggies, the same type used for a journey to the South Pole in the 1999-2000 season. The buggies arrived via the Russian ship Akademic Federov and were unloaded on to the ice shelf on December 18th. In early January a crew of three drove the buggies on a 450km return trip in to the Orvin Mountains, to scout a suitable landing area for the Antonov-2 plane that was planning to deliver the climbing team.

Instead, the team eventually used the buggies to travel from Novo base around 150km into the Wohlthat Mountains. The peaks visited are over 100km to the east and slightly north of the better-known massifs containing peaks like Ulvetanna and Rakekniven. One of the buggies became inoperable and the remaining buggy was used to reconnoiter the area for climbing objectives. The first ascent was an unnamed peak at 71°36.375S 12°38.12E, climbed by Yevgeniy Vinogradsky, Valeriy Pershin and Alexandr Foigt on January 30th and given the unofficial name “Georgi Zhukov.”

On February 1st Vinogradsky and Pershin, with Yuriy Baikovsky and Georgi Gatagov climbed another peak, supposedly 2,255m, 15km to the north-west of the previous peak. This second peak they named “Holy Boris and Gleb.” The climbers reportedly placed a cross of the Russian Orthodox Church on its summit. (Though unconfirmed, if true, this move is to be condemned, as it sets an undesirable precedent and violates the regulations of the “Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty” that deal with removal of all introduced material by expeditions. Generally, Antarctic mountaineers neither take nor leave anything from a summit.—DG)

Two days later Foigt, Pershin, and Vinogradsky climbed a 2,239m peak around 5km from their base camp. Then, on February 5th, Baikovsky, Gatagov, Vinogradsky, Maxim Volkov, and the leader, Valeri Kuzin, climbed another peak close to their base camp, which they named “Geser Peak.”

While these ascents were taking place, Khvostenko, Kuznetsov, Sokolov, and Zakharov were climbing a difficult new wall route on one of the Svarthorna Peaks, in this case a 2,585m spire that the team named “Peak Valery Chkalov.” These Svarthorna Peaks have sometimes been known as “Mount Schwarze” or “Shvartse,” another name that the Russians used on this occasion. This new route involved two days of fixing ropes to start, then another six days of climbing, plus a day to descend on February 6th. The team reported excellent crack climbing, much of it freed up to 6b, on sound rock that took both natural and bolt protection. Nights were spent in portaledges, though luckily the weather was excellent for the duration of the climb.

The expedition then began plans to return north to Novo, proposing three round trips in the one remaining buggy. However, shortly in to the first trip, not far from their base camp, the buggy went in to a crevasse and was damaged beyond repair. The team was then rescued by an Antonov-2 plane from the Russian Antarctic program and left Antarctica for Cape Town on February 10th.

Damien Gildea, AAC, Australia