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Punta Billy Budd and Other Ascents

In January 2009 Italians Giovanni Cristofori and Maria Cristina Rapisardi, a globetrotting couple from Milan who spend most of their free time sailing their sloop Billy Budd in Arctic or Antarctic seas, visited South Georgia with guides Luca Argentero and Matteo Pellin. The plan was a leisurely counterclockwise circumnavigation of the island, making touch-and-go ascents from the boat, thus avoiding the need for overnight stay permits. An adventurous and light approach was to be used—no contact between ship and climbers, no on-call weather forecasts.

While the sailing went well, difficult landing conditions and typically unstable weather limited climbing time. Nevertheless, in addition to several repeat ascents, Luca and Matteo climbed four peaks in the Nordenskjold area thought to be previously virgin.

The most interesting was Punta Billy Budd (ca 1,800m), where the long access from the coast was made more interesting by enormous crevasses that required ingenuity to cross. Steeper slopes and crevassed areas led to the base of the main ridge. An avalanche cone, a snow gully, and a 50° snow slope led to three technical mixed pitches, which Pellin found reminiscent of climbs on the Tour Ronde (Mt. Blanc Massif). The overall grade was TD+.

The other three peaks—Punta Luca, Punta Caterina, and an unnamed mountain near Nordenskjold—provided less technical but eminently enjoyable ski mountaineering. Pellin, who has a reputation for exploratory climbing on the south side of Mt. Blanc, feels that South Georgia is a treasure chest of unexplored technical lines.