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Antarctica, Antarctic Peninsula, Peninsula Summary

Peninsula summary. As usual, there were numerous yacht journeys down the Peninsula, some of them for climbing. The season was somewhat busier and more successful than the previous few. The highlight of the climbing season was the first ascent of Wandel Peak (980m), the highest point of Booth Island, by a strong Spanish team (see below). Carl Wandel was a Danish hydrographer on de Gerlache’s 1897-99 Belgica expedition, which overwintered in Antarctica. (The expedition was an international affair; the doctor was Frederick Cook and a young volunteer was a certain Roald Amundsen.)

Booth Island forms the western side of the narrow Lemaire Channel, the entrance to which is known in the Antarctic cruise industry as “Kodak Gap.” The Channel, with Booth Island on one side and Cape Renard Towers (“Una’s Tits”) on the other, is probably the most photographed area of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is now receiving around 20,000 ship- borne tourists a year. Wandel had been attempted numerous times with no success, including two attempts from the north. It was probably the most coveted first ascent on the Peninsula.

Australian yacht Spirit of Sydney carried both a sea-kayaking expedition and a group of climbers. The climbers were Jytte Christensen of Denmark and Darrel Day, Grant Dixon, Peter Itaak, and Megan Noble from Australia. Day, Dixon, Christensen, and Itaak made what is probably the third ascent of Mt. Hoegh (890m), by the west face. The latter three, with Noble, then climbed the popular Mt. Scott (880m) by the normal route up the east ridge. The only overnight trip undertaken by the climbers resulted in Christensen and Dixon summiting Mt. Shackleton (1465m) via the east ridge. This route, accessed from the Wiggins Glacier, has been climbed numerous times, but the team was almost certainly only the third private (i.e., nongovernment) group to do so. The first such group was an international team of three in March 2001, and the second the Spanish team this season, as reported below.

Dixon and Christensen climbed the south ridge of a southern summit of the Miller Heights, a feature above Prospect Point that runs eastward from Sharp Peak. Dixon also joined Rob Clifton and two others from another yacht, Australis, to make an ascent of the aesthetic little Mt. Demaria (635m), in Waddington Bay. The group aboard Australis was led by the experienced Peninsula guide, Kieran Lawton, who took clients up both Mt. Scott and Mt. Demaria. Dixon, who in 1999 was one of the team that made the first north-south traverse of South Georgia, finished his busy southern sojourn with a solo ascent of Jabet Peak (545m) above Port Lockroy, probably the most popular climb on the Peninsula.

While their friends were climbing, the kayak team of Laurie Geoghegan, Andrew McAu- ley and Stuart Trueman achieved their objective of paddling over 800km from Hope Bay to Darbel Bay, where they crossed the Antarctic Circle.

A commercially guided expedition of New Zealand-based Adventure Consultants was also active on the Peninsula during February. It was led by Kiwis Guy Cotter and Mark Sedon, with the American guide Luis Benitez, all aboard Steve Kafka’s Evohe. Cotter kicked off with an ascent of labet Peak, while Sedon and Benitez took the group up Doumer Hill (515m), the high point of Doumer Island, a snowy dome near Port Lockroy and situated between Anvers and Wiencke islands. Most of the group descended on skis.

Four days later the whole group made an ascent of the highest point of Edwards Island in Leroux Bay. On February 15 the whole group climbed on Chavez Island, also near Leroux Bay, but were turned back on three different attempts by dangerous avalanche conditions. However, a fourth attempt resulted in the ascent of a peak that they measured at 630m and called “Will’s Peak,” in memory of a guiding colleague killed in the mountains at home. Two days later the group visited the popular Prospect Point area and, after an unsuccessful attempt on Sharp Peak (475m), climbed an unnamed peak to its west, which they called “Kiwiana Peak.” Benitez, with some of the clients, all on skis, also climbed another peak yet farther west. Nearby, Cotter made ski ascents of two small peaks close to the sea, while Benitez and Sedon made a ski ascent of a larger peak slightly farther inland. They named this peak “Chloe’s Gift” after one of the crew on Evohe.

On February 24 Benitez, Cotter, and Sedon made a possible first ascent of a larger mountain, of around 1,300m, on the Peninsula mainland above the waters of Errera Channel. The map stated the presence of “100' ice cliffs at sea level,” a common problem along the Peninsula when trying to get ashore to climb, but these particular ones seem to have disappeared, and the climbers had no difficulty accessing the ground above. The climbing initially required snow- shoes but then involved steeper slopes and finally seven roped pitches on variable snow and ice to gain a ridge. Benitez, Cotter, and Sedon traversed moderate ground along the ridge, then climbed a short, steep slope to arrive on a rounded summit dome six hours after starting. They proposed the name “Hiddleston Peak” in memory of fellow guide Dave “Hip” Hiddleston, who died with several other climbers in an accident on Mt. Tasman recently. Hiddleston was a well- known and respected UIAGM Guide who had taken clients up Everest and other Himalayan peaks, as well as working extensively in New Zealand.

A group of New Zealand climbers aboard the perennial visitor Northanger is said to have climbed Savoia Peak (1,415m, often erroneously called “Mt. Luigi” or “Mt. Luigi de Savoia”) on Wiencke Island and attempted a route on one of the impressive peaks in the Cape Renard area.

Damien Gildea, Australia, AAC, with input from Grant Dixon, Kieran Lawton, Andrew McAuley and Mark Sedon