The first Austrian expedition to Queen Maud Land comprised Karl Pichler, Paul Koller, and me. Our goal was to ski east from the well-known Ulvetanna Group in the Fenriskjeften to the Holtedahlfjella, Kurzefjella, and Conradfjella. In November we flew from Cape Town to Novo Airbase and from there were lifted by Twin Otter to our starting point near Holtanna base camp. Our route, traversing some of the most spectacular rock and ice scenery in the world, was challenging. On the way we climbed 15 summits, of which 11 were first ascents.
We repeated Tungespissen (2,277 m), Mundlauga (2,455 m), and Sandneshatten (2,208 m). The first two, relatively close to Ulvetanna, were first climbed in January 1994 by Norwegians (AAJ 1996), the last in 2006, again by Norwegians (AAJ 2007). Sandneshatten in the Conradfjella involved friction climbing on granite at UIAA II and III, though the final few meters to the summit were exposed and UIAA V. We used the rope for both ascent and descent.
Our most prominent first ascents and new named peaks were Tiroler Spitze (Tyrolean Peak, 2,201m, S 71°52'15.8", E 8°55'00.6"); Österreichspitze (Austrian Peak, 2,177m, S 71°52'27.9", E 8°54'50.6"); Himmelsleiter (Stairway to Heaven, 2,232m, S 71°51'19.8", E 9°00'12.7"); Kamelbuckel (Camel’s Hump, 2,184m, S 71°50'28.1", E 9°00'01.5"); Trutzburg (Stronghold, 2,528m, S 71°55'23.6", E 9°01'38.8"), and Gipfel der Stille (Peak of Silence, 2,550m, S 71°54'59.2", E 9°03'28.1"). Tiroler Spitze involved real rock climbing up to UIAA IV; we had to remove our warm expedition outers and climb in inner thermal boots. Other summits were not difficult; some involved rock scrambles. We completed all ascents during November.
We had outstanding weather for our three weeks in the area, with brilliant blue skies and only one day when we were hit by a severe katabatic storm that produced winds in excess of 100km/ hour. Daytime temperatures were between -15° and -20°C; the lowest we recorded at night was -36°C. However, the air is dry, and while skiing during daylight hours in strong sunshine we could be sweating at -15°C. This was my 11th polar expedition, many as a IFMGA qualified guide, and with new ideas I am inspired to return in the near future. If you are interested in taking part in an exploratory ski trip, please contact me at Christoph.firstname.lastname@example.org