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Antarctica, Ellsworth Mountains, Union Glacier, "Mt. Herve, " Possible First Ascent: Horsehoe Glacier, "High Nunatak," Possible First Ascent

Union Glacier, “Mt. Hervé,” possible first ascent; Horseshoe Glacier, “High Nunatak,” possible first ascent. Previously unreported from the 2004-05 season, the Heritage 2004 Expedition comprised three alpinists/geologists of the Universidad de Chile, Rodrigo Fernández, Christian Vásquez, and I. We traveled 350km studying part of the Ellsworth Mountains, using two skidoos and four sledges. We had food and fuel for two months and one satellite phone. We had no external support, and you might describe our journey as an Alpine-style snowmobile traverse.

We began by heading south from Patriot Hills and climbed the south summit of the Three Sails. We next moved back north on the west side of the Patriot Hills, at every stop exploring and collecting rock samples. Unlike most expeditions, ours increased its load with time. We continued to the north end of the Horseshoe Valley, crossed the Eureka Pass, and stopped on the southern section of the Union Glacier, installing “Unexpected Camp” in the middle of a field of crevasses at S 79° 54' 20.871", W 83° 30' 52.483", 1224.22m (GPS reading).

Twenty-five days into the expedition we decided to continue on ski, due to the high risk of crossing crevasse fields in Skidoos with heavily loaded sledges. The route north took several days of exploration and planning in order to find the best route across the Union Glacier. Six days later we were celebrating Christmas by pulling sledges across the middle of the Union Glacier at midnight in full sunshine. Finally we reached the northernmost point of our journey, which we named “Christmas Camp” (S 79° 45' 12.406", W 83° 28' 01.352", 815.11m).

From this camp we reached the summit of a nunatak peak we later referred to as “Mt. Disappointment” (S 79° 44' 47.6", W 83° 28' 8.5", 1,049m), because we discovered a bamboo wand on the summit. The following day we climbed a similar peak we called “Mt. Hervé” (S 79° 43' 51.3", W 83° 11' 56.8", 1,112m). This was six kilometers from our camp and gave a four- hour climb to the top, with a fine view of the great Union ice stream to the east. Both peaks were technically straightforward.

Three days later we returned to Unexpected Camp and in a marathon 28- hour skidoo journey established “High Nunatak Camp” in the middle of the Horseshoe Valley at S 80° 04' 07.623", W 82° 53' 04.507", 1,055.94m. Next day we climbed the “High Nunatak” (S 80° 03' 24.2", W 82° 38' 02", 1,149m) in two hours. The climbing was easy but rather exposed, and the final 50m, which we climbed unroped, gave a pitch of 5.6. This summit provided a fine panoramic view of the entire Horseshoe Valley. Finally, after 45 days, we returned safe and sound to Patriot Hills with 500kg of rocks and two broken sledges.

Mauricio Durán, Chile