American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Antarctica, Queen Maud Land, Fenriskjeften Mountains, Ulvetanna, North Face, and Other Ascents; Holtedahl Mountains, Six First Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Fenriskjeften mountains, Ulvetanna, north face, and other ascents; Holte- dahl mountains, six first ascents. Stein-Ivar Gravdal, Trond Hilde, Ivar Tollefsen, and I visited the Orvin mountains in Queen Maud Land from November 2 through December 10. In the magnificent Fenriskjeften mountains we climbed the north face of ca 2,960m Ulvetanna (ca 960m, 21 pitches, 5.10 A4) in 16 days, November 5-20. We climbed in capsule style, fixing the first four pitches from a tented camp on the ground, before moving onto the face and establishing three portaledge camps on our way to the summit. The climb follows a thin line slightly to the left of the center of the wall, ca 150m left of the other, more obvious, line attempted in 1994 by Thomas Cosgriff and Trond Hilde, who only got four pitches (150m) up before aborting.

We had a wonderful time on the face. Climbing in capsule style with portaledges and plenty of food was quite comfortable. The climbing was ecstatically good and totally surpassed all our expectations. In general the rock in this area is heavily frost weathered, giving it a coarse and flaky structure. From earlier experiences we were expecting shitty rock and a lot of squeeze chimneys and offwidths. However, our line followed thin formations on surprisingly good rock, and the amount of natural skyhooking and delicate nailing was a positive surprise. The most difficult pitches were in the lower half of the wall. For comfort and aid we placed a total of five expansion bolts on the pitches, 40 on belays (by hand drill of course), and drilled 25 bat-hooks. We felt that this was an acceptable style for such a seemingly compact wall. We experienced mainly good weather, apart from one 48-hour snowstorm (60cm on the ground) that we sat through in our portaledges halfway up the face. Temperatures averaged -20°C.

All in all, the route has great climbing, the line is very aesthetic, and the face and mountain is in a class of its own in this area—all the right ingredients to make it a future classic.

After the climb we skied 30km with pulks and light climbing gear eastwards to the Holte-dahl Mountains, where we did what we believe to be six first ascents. We found no traces of previous activity. The only person we know to have been in this area is Mike Libecki, who climbed two summits there the previous season (Windmill Spire and Andersnuten). The six climbs we did all had major and distinct summits: Store Gruvletind (2,254m); Kubbestolen (2,079m), and four nameless summits of ca 2,200m along the Vinten-Johansen ridge. All the ascents involved fairly easy climbing (max 5.10), with only shorter sections requiring the use of a rope. After this we skied a further 30km east and climbed the freestanding Sandneshatten (2,200m) in the same style—in one day and only roping up for a short section. We then skied back to Fenriskjeften and the Ulvetanna region, where we did some smaller climbs, including a route on the west face of Stetind (ca 2,500m), first ascended in 2001 by André Georges and Alain Flubert.

Robert Caspersen, Norway

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