American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Antarctica, Queen Maud Land, Orvin Fjella Mountains, Holtanna (2,650m), West Face, Ice Age and North Pillar, Skywalk; Ulvetanna (2,960m), Northwest Buttress, The Sound of Silence

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Orvin Fjella Mountains, Holtanna (2,650m), west face, Ice Age, and north pillar, Skywalk; Ulvetanna (2,960m), northwest buttress, The Sound of Silence. When Ivar Tollefsen “discovered” the peaks of Queen Maud Land in 1994 and published reports and pictures, Alexander and I were clear: one day we must go to these granite towers sticking out of the ice cap. Although we were determined, we didn’t have the financial means. How many people can spend 30,000 euros on a two-month climbing trip? By late 2008 our situation had improved and with Stephen Siegrist from Switzerland and cameraman Max Reichel, we flew to Cape Town en route to the Ulvetanna Group. Here bad news greeted us. “Hello, nice to meet you.” It was a French expedition to the same mountains. I wasn’t pleased to meet them, but after an hour I was happier; their objective was Holsttind and not the west face of Holtanna, where we wanted to attempt a big- wall free route. But most important, they were really nice.

Our goal was a crack system toward the left side of the 750m west face of Holtanna. A Spanish team had attempted this line to half-height in 2000, and we discovered a number of bolts; one slab was drilled like a sport climb. However, as a free climbing project it was beginning to look impossible. It was November, and the temperature was -30°C. We were forced to climb in big boots and gloves, while using a mixture of free and aid, fixing ropes at first, hoping December would bring warmer temperatures and give us a chance to free the pitches. However, after storms lowered daytime temperatures to -43°C, we realized our dream was not on, and abandoned fixing. We hauled up a portaledge and continued in capsule style to the summit. The rock was indeed poor but our new route, Ice Age, was beautiful, giving 24 pitches up to 5.10+ A4. This was the third ascent of Holtanna, which was first climbed in 2000.

A week later, in warmer temperatures and on an almost perfect, windless day, we made the fourth ascent of the same peak and its first free ascent, via the stunning north pillar. Our 450m, 10-pitch route climbed a beautiful arête at 5.10-. We called it Skywalk.

The weather deteriorated again, but toward the end of our stay Karl Gabel of the weather center in Innsbruck forecasted two days of good weather: little wind,-28°C, minor snowfall in the afternoon. Not ideal, but something we could live with. On December 11 and 12 we made the first ascent of Ulvetanna's 800m northwest buttress, a ca 20-pitch route at 5.11- A2 60° snow. We named it The Sound of Silence. It was the third ascent of Ulvetanna and proved to be the cherry on the cake.

From information supplied by Thomas Huber, Germany

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