American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Antarctica, South Georgia, Larsen Harbour to Royal Bay Traverse and First Ascent of Peak 5,680'

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2005

Larsen Harbour to Royal Bay traverse and first ascent of Peak 5,680'. Using Skip Novak’s yacht Pelagic to make the sea crossing from Ushuaia via the Falkland Islands to South Georgia, Julian Freeman-Attwood, Rich Haworth, Novak and Crag Jones were dropped at Larsen Harbour in the Drygalski Fjord near the south eastern tip of the island. From here the plan was to sled via the Phillipi, Graae, Harmer, Novosilski, and Spenceley Glaciers to the Ross Pass and then down the Ross Glacier to a pick-up in Little Moltke Harbour, Royal Bay. On route it was hoped that an attempt could be made on one of the bigger unclimbed peaks that flank the Spenceley.

Leaving the boat on the January 13, 2005, the four experienced fairly typical South Georgia weather and were tent bound for several days before reaching a camp at the Novosilski- Spenceley col on the night of the 20th. The 21st dawned clear and despite obvious poor snow conditions they decided to attempt the nearby Mt. Baume (6,272' and unclimbed). The East Ridge looked long and crenellated, while the North Face glacier was plainly swept by serac fall in its lower section. However, a rocky ridge on the left side of the face appeared to offer a route on to the upper part of the glacier, above the seracs. The four set off for what they thought would be a one day ascent but the route up the east flank of the buttress involved nine pitches of ice and mixed up to Scottish IV with little protection. By the time they reached a point level with the upper seracs it was 5 p.m. and here it became apparent that they were only half way up the face. As neither stove nor bivouac gear had been taken, they decided to descend.

On the 23rd and still in fine weather, Haworth, Novak and Jones made the first ascent of Peak 5,680', which lies north west of Baume. The East Ridge gave an easy three-and-a-half hour ascent. Later that day a classic South Georgia gale arrived and the team had to break camp and transfer to a hastily dug snow cave until the morning of the 26th. During this period an inner tent took flight and was never seen again. With no good forecast imminent, the four continued their journey to the Ross Pass and down to Royal Bay, where they arrived on the 26th. Freeman- Attwood, who had traveled the section below Ross Pass some 15 years ago, was astonished by the glacial recession. The last 40% of the glacier was now dry and riddled with crevasses, where before it had been skiable more or less all the way. The party note that climbing on this highly glaciated island requires permission from the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, a permit fee of £1,000 and the requirement of a dedicated vessel, with which the climbers must always have communication, remaining at the island for the whole time the party is ashore.

Julian Freeman-Attwood, United Kingdom

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