American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Antarctica, Ellsworth Mountains, Sentinel Range, An Exploratory Journey through the Ellsworth Mountains in 2002-03, and First Ascent of Mt. Segers

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

An exploratory journey through the Ellsworth Mountains in 2002-03, and first ascent of Mt. Segers. On November 10, 2002 four Chilean mountaineers, Pablo Gutiérrez, Eugenio Guzmán, Ernesto Olivares, and I started a journey of over 400km through the almost unexplored east side of the Ellsworth Mountains, with the aim of finishing at Patriot Hills. We first flew by Twin Otter from Patriot Hills to the Newcomer Glacier, where on our first night the temperature dropped to -35°C. The next day we began pulling our four pulks, each one weighing 140kg. After four days we reached the first pass that would lead us into the heart of the Sentinel Range. We named it Light Pass and the crossing to the Embree Glacier proved easy.

By contrast, sledging up the Embree proved steep and strenuous. We had to haul the pulks and on one day traveled less than 400 meters. Our first crux came toward the end, where we had to cross to the Ellen Glacier. On route we had hoped to attempt Mt. Todd, but after inspecting the pass we had to cross, and seeing the difficulties involved we decided to concentrate all our efforts on reaching the Ellen Glacier.

It took a full 14 hours to rappel and lower sledges down the far side of Crocodile Pass, at one point negotiating a vertical ice step. Still hoping to bag a virgin summit we concentrated our efforts on one of the two remaining unclimbed 4,000m peaks of the Sentinel Range, Mt. Giovinetto. We left most of our supplies on the glacier and detoured for seven kilometers to camp at the base of the mountain. Unfortunately, once there we realized that the climb would take far longer than we anticipated, and we were not carrying enough food or fuel. Reluctantly we abandoned the idea.

Another difficult pass led to the Patton Glacier, and after 21 days we had our first official day-off to rest. We then continued along the glacier, at one point camping at the foot of 4,852m Mt. Tyree, and crossed a pass to the Crosswell Glacier. The traverse of the col was so straightforward we name it Angel Pass.

On December 6 we completed 26 days of travel. We had consumed nearly half our food yet had only traveled 112km, a little more than one quarter of our intended trek. It seemed stupid to waste our meager resources on attempting a virgin peak, but our motivation to do so was still strong. We took two days out to try Mt. Segers and were rewarded with an outstanding view from the summit, which lies in the very heart of the Sentinels.

We then crossed the Dater Glacier to the Thomas Glacier, and to our dismay found the second crux of the journey: an immense crevasse field that took considerable time and effort to negotiate. We finally reached the Minnesota Glacier and crossed it to the Heritage Range.

On December 28, after climbing to a gap we called Non-steep Slope Pass, we could see the Union Glacier with its beautiful blue ice surface. By the 30th we had reached the last pass on our journey, Eureka Pass, already named by one of the members of the 1989-90 Trans Antarctic Expedition. From this pass we were delighted to see Patriot Hills, 60km distant. Our last camp was about 17km from the Patriot Hills Base and we covered the ground easily to arrive on January 2, 54 days and 403km after starting our journey.

Rodrigo Jordan, AAC

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.