French climb coveted line in Antarctica

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 09/03/2010
The North West Ridge of Mt Parry. Lucas Trihey

One of the biggest unclimbed objectives on the Antarctic Peninsula recently fell to experienced French alpinists and world travellers, Mathieu Cortial, Lionel Daudet and Patrick Wagnon.

The North West Ridge of Mt Parry, which rises 2,520m straight out of the ocean, was the goal of an MEF supported expedition led by New Zealander Lydia Bradey, the first women to climb Everest without oxygen.

Also on the team was ski patroller Penny Goddard, who has dual British and New Zealand nationality. However, the French beat them to the peak.

Daudet and friends were on the yacht Ada II, owned and skippered by the famous female sailor Isabelle Autissier, current president of the French section of WWF, the world's leading environmental organization.

After crossing the Drake Passage from South America, Autissier anchored the boat for eight days in the sheltered waters off the Melchior Islands to the west, waiting for a good weather forecast.

She was then able to enter Lanusse Bay and drop the climbers on the west coast of Brabant Island. From here they climbed the first 1,150m of Parry’s North West Ridge until stopped by bad weather and snow conditions.

After waiting 39 hours in their tent, the three climbed the next 1,000m without too much problem, finding an elegant line with no objective danger but plenty of crevasses. However, the last 500m proved the crux. Soft wet snow hampered progress and it took Wagnon four hours to overcome the final 100m of instability to the summit.

The French descended to shore in 19 hours, only to find that Autissier was unable to collect them due to high wave activity. Normally the wait would not present a problem, as the team had shelter and food. However, very shortly after they received the news, an enormous wave struck the beach and swept away food and equipment. It nearly swept away Daudet, who was drenched.

The three quickly constructed a snow cave and shivered through the night, finally rejoining Ada II in the relative calm of the following morning.

Parry was first climbed in 1984 by a British Joint Services Expedition led by Chris Furze. This expedition took place in three phases but Furze and three others spent a year on the island living largely in tents. During this trip many ascents were achieved including Parry, which was climbed by seven members from the east via relatively gentle slopes. Five Chileans repeated their route in 1993.

On their way south to Brabant Island, the French stopped off at Smith Island, the highest in the South Shetlands, and made the second ascent of Mt Foster (2,100m) via a new route on the previously unattempted North West Face. The three completed the ascent in a very long day, arriving on the summit at 2am.

The first 1,000m proved relatively straightforward but above it became a little more precarious and at one point Cortial took a 15m fall. Further up, as Daudet was moving around the base of an overhanging serac, the whole structure collapsed and cascaded down the face. The Frenchman, uninjured, was left hanging on the rope.

They named their route Le Vol du Serac and then spent 15 hours returning to the shore and comforts of the boat. Foster had first been climbed in 1996 after several previous attempts.

It was Smith Island that the great British explorer Bill Tilman was trying to reach in 1977 aboard the yacht En Avant, when he was lost in the Southern Ocean.

The French climbed various other new routes during their journey south, making their expedition one of the most successful to the Peninsula in recent years.

Thanks to Damien Gildea for help with this report
 


« Back

Post a comment Print this article

This article has been read 778 times

TAGS

Click on the tags to explore more

RELATED ARTICLES

Ray Colledge 1922-2014
0
Ray Colledge 1922-2014

Long time Alpine Club and BMC member, Himalayan and alpine veteran, Ray Colledge died on the 10th April aged 91.
Read more »

Mercier and Pesce free Chris Bonington's route on the west face of the Plan
0
Mercier and Pesce free Chris Bonington's route on the west face of the Plan

Chamonix-based Jeff Mercier and Korra Pesce have made the first free and possibly only the second overall ascent of a little known Chris Bonington route on the west face of the Aiguille du Plan.
Read more »

New speed link-up on the Matterhorn in winter
0
New speed link-up on the Matterhorn in winter

The current trend towards, and increased media coverage of, speed ascents has seen Italian guide, Hervé Barmasse, complete an impressive one-day, solo, winter link-up on the Matterhorn.
Read more »

Post a Comment
Posting as Anonymous Community Standards
3000 characters remaining
Submit
Your comment has been posted below, click here to view it
Comments are currently on | Turn off comments
0

There are currently no comments, why not add your own?

RELATED ARTICLES

Ray Colledge 1922-2014
0

Long time Alpine Club and BMC member, Himalayan and alpine veteran, Ray Colledge died on the 10th April aged 91.
Read more »

Mercier and Pesce free Chris Bonington's route on the west face of the Plan
0

Chamonix-based Jeff Mercier and Korra Pesce have made the first free and possibly only the second overall ascent of a little known Chris Bonington route on the west face of the Aiguille du Plan.
Read more »

New speed link-up on the Matterhorn in winter
0

The current trend towards, and increased media coverage of, speed ascents has seen Italian guide, Hervé Barmasse, complete an impressive one-day, solo, winter link-up on the Matterhorn.
Read more »

BMC MEMBERSHIP
Join 70,000 BMC members and support British climbing, walking and mountaineering. Membership only £14.97.
Read more »
BMC SHOP
Great range of guidebooks, DVDs, books, calendars and maps.
All with discounts for members.
Read more »
TRAVEL INSURANCE
Get covered with BMC Insurance. Our five policies take you from the beach to Everest.
Read more »