American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Mt. Ashley

Antarctica, South Georgia

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Crag Jones
  • Climb Year: 2009
  • Publication Year: 2010

Our main target had been Nordenskjold (2,355m), but we were beaten back below the summit ridge by a typically ferocious South Georgia storm. Sailing back along the north coast of the island in clear weather, we made an impetuous decision as majestic Mt. Ashley came into view. Skip Novak and I decided to make a one-day attempt during what would be our last day on the island. While with a group of Swiss and Italians in 2006, Skip had bookmarked Ashley as a nice unclimbed summit, easily accessible from above Salisbury Plain. We camped ashore on the night of October 29, behind Start Point on the edge of the Plain. It was a filthy night for weather. We got up at 2 a.m. and by 4:00 were skiing up the Grace Glacier. We reached its headwall at 5:30, stashed skis, and climbed to the col. The back end of the range is a broad, undulating glacial slope, overlooking the outer part of King Haakon Bay. After many waits for visibility, we identified what we thought was the highest point, the second of four summits in a chain stretching more than 1.5 km to the southeast. We proceeded up easy slopes to a col between the first and second summits, from where 100m up a steep icy dome led to the second summit. We belayed the last pitch from ice screws.

I waited for a clearing to confirm that we were higher than the distant third or fourth summits, but Skip noted that the ridge behind us, leading to the first summit, rose worryingly for more than 100m until it disappeared in cloud. We descended to the col and climbed the ridge to the first and highest summit. Though spectacular, with vast drops to the north, the broad ridge gave straightforward climbing, and we moved together through hoar-frosted towers to a flat summit, where we took a GPS reading of S 54° 06.963', W 37°21.650', 1,136m. It was 1 p.m. [Ed. note: The southern side of the Mt. Ashley falls gradually down to King Haakon Bay, the starting point for the legendary traverse in May 1916 by Tom Crean, Ernest Shackle- ton, and Frank Worsley.]

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