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Antarctica, South Georgia, Falklands War Commemoration; South Georgia Traverse with Numerous Ascents; Mt. Stanley, First Ascent; Quasi-crossings

Falklatids War commemoration; South Georgia traverse with numerous ascents; Mt. Stanley, first ascent; quasi-crossings. In addition to the French expedition described below, the most notable climbing news was ascents of all four peaks that had been named after notable figures in the Falklands War. 2007 marked the 25th anniversary of the conflict, so it might be seen as appropriate that Sheridan Peak, Mt. Stanley, Mills Peak, and Ellerbeck Peak all received ascents.

French Alpinists Philippe Batoux, Manu Cauchy, and Lionel Daudet sailed to the island aboard Ada 2, skippered by the renowned French sailor Isabelle Autissier and two crew members. The team traveled along the island from northwest to southeast, using the yacht for support and repositioning between climbing and sections of sledhaulling. Ada 2 arrived at Grytviken on November 8, and on the 11th the climbing trio approached Mt. Paget (2,934m) up the Nordenskjöld Glacier. Climbing by a more direct variant of the 1995 northwest face route, all three summited on November 12, thus completing the sixth ascent of Paget, the island’s highest peak. Shortly after, the three scored the first ascent of Sheridan Peak (955m). This small, sharp peak is named after Major Guy Sheridan of the Royal Marines who, on April 25,1982, formally accepted the surrender of Argentine forces fighting on the island during the Falklands War. Sheridan himself had unsuccessfully attempted the peak in August 1999, retreating not far from the top. The French later made the third known ascent of another summit— Surprise Peak (ca 950m)—on November 18, by a 900m mixed route.

After more traversing, the team summited Mt. Worsley (1,104m), a small peak above the Esmark Glacier, via a long ridge, on December 2. Toward the end of the trip the team also attempted Mt. Sugartop (2,323m)—the only big peak aside from Paget to have had a second ascent—but retreated short of the summit in high wind and worsening weather. Ada 2 left South Georgia on December 31 for the return journey to Ushuaia, having completed a very interesting and successful expedition to this historically unique and extremely challenging island of mountains.

Mills Peak was climbed on November 30. Andy Barker, Anjali Pande, and Less Whittamore were dropped on the coast of the Barff Peninsula and climbed the 627m peak, using snowshoes for the approach. Both Keith Mills, for whom the peak was named, and Guy Sheridan (above) visited South Georgia earlier in 2007 to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the Falklands War.

The veteran Antarctic sailor and climber Skip Novak led a party of very experienced Italian climbers on a shorter crossing from King Haakon Bay to Stromness, making the first ascent of Mt. Stanley (1,263m) in the process. Novak, Anna Mattei, Romolo Nottaris, and Carlo Spinelli skinned up the Fortuna Glacier and onto the east ridge of Stanley, which they followed to the summit to top out early in the morning of October 23. After an enjoyable ski back to camp they rejoined Fabrizio Bernasconi, Sergio Brambilla, and Gianni Caverzasio to ski to a final campsite on the coast. They awoke the next morning to a giant cruise ship filling their horizon, before hauling into Stromness in the rain. An interesting aside is that it was Romolo Nottaris who filmed Erhard Loretan on his 1995 re-ascent of Mt. Epperly, mentioned above.

South Georgia now sees a number of short quasi-crossings, usually by commercially guided groups, that are marketed as relating to the celebrated crossing of the island by Shackleton, Crean, and Worsley in May 1916—even though modern visitors take a shorter and easier route, and have not just navigated 800 miles across the Southern Ocean in a 20-foot open boat, after escaping their ship being crushed in Antarctica. Traversing the long-axis of the island is significantly harder than these short crossings and has only been done once as a continuous journey, by Grant Dixon, Angus Finney, Pat Lurcock, and Jay Watson in October 1999, who preplaced three caches along the route before starting. Their route was somewhat similar to that taken by the French this season. Most of the length of the island was also traversed, in separate sections, during the period 1951–56 by various parties under the leadership of the late British cartographer Duncan Carse, who did most of the exploration and mapping of the island during this time.

My additional sources for the above reporting on South Georgia: Grant Dixon, Pat Lurcock, Skip Novak, www.alpinist.com,http://yannick.michelat.free.fr/GeorgiaSat_News.htm, www.sgisland.gs.

Damien Gildea, Australia