A seven-man expedition from the Alpine Club, organized by the experienced Antarctic traveller Phil Wickens, has picked off six first ascents on the Antarctic Peninsula, including what may have been the highest unclimbed peak on the northern mainland of the Peninsula.
Derek Buckle, Mike Fletcher, Stuart Gallagher, Richmond MacIntyre, Olly Metherell, Wickens and Dave Wynne-Jones, sailed with Spirit of Sydney to the southern sector of the Lemaire Channel, from where they hauled pulks inland for two days up the Hotine Glacier to establish a camp at 850m
From here they made the first ascent of Nygren (1,454m) and an unnamed peak that it erroneously referred to as Mt Shackleton on a new British Antarctic Survey map.
Shackleton has been climbed a number of times in recent years but 'False Shackleton remained virgin. The climbers have proposed the name Mt Faraday for this 1,476m peak, after the nearby, former British Antarctic Survey base.
Then, in a perfect weather window they made the first ascent of Mt Matin via the South West Ridge.
This peak, which was named by the French explorer Charcot after a newspaper, had been designated an altitude of 1,369m on existing maps. The team found it to be more than 1,000m higher at 2,415m, making it possible the highest summit on the northern Peninsula mainland (Parry and Francais to the north are higher but lie on islands).
Camp was then moved to the base of Mt Cloos, which forms the steep east side of the Lemaire Channel, and ascents made of both south and north summits. The latter, and higher, gave steep and objectively threatened climbing close to an active serac barrier.
The team then sailed to the south side of the Ferguson Channel at the entrance to Paradise Harbour, where they made the third ascent of Banck. Then it was on to Andvord Bay to make the first ascent of Inverleith (2,038m) via the broken north face. This was a well-known objective and another high virgin peak close to the coast.
At the time of writing Spirit of Sydney has returned across the Drake Passage though not yet landed in South America. However Phil Wickens was able to communicate the success of the expedition, one of the more productive Peninsula expeditions in recent years according to Antarctic guru Damien Gildea, by satellite phone.
More information on the golden opportunities for first ascents in Antarctica can be gleamed from Damien Gildea's superbly illustrated and informative new book, Mountaineering in Antarctica, available from the BMC online shop.
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