28 01 2013
Location: Mavericks, Ulvetanna Base Camp, S 71 49.146′, E 008 21.867′
Temperature: -15 C, clear, sunny and beautiful, 0 knots.
NE Ridge Ulvetanna, 1750m, E6 6b, 5.12, A2 (C2)
We made it! And Louis just did a low fly by in the Basler! Can it get any wilder out here?
Ulvetanna’s fearsome North East Ridge allowed us safe passage up and down from her summit but not without showing a few teeth. We’re back in base camp with all our stuff, the weather is great again and we’re all loving life as we leisurely conduct another great gear faff.
In this endless light I have lost track of the passing of days, measuring time in terms energy spent and distance gained. There have been many 20 hour days of intense, gruelling effort and those spent too exhausted to leave camp.
At times in truly savage conditions we have conducted loads of complicated, scary missions and in the process safely climbed and cleaned all trace of our presence from this beautiful mountain.
We’ve all been pushed to our limits, taken a beating but come out top, well at the bottom thankfully. We have just completed the first ascent of one of the finest alpine/big wall lines anywhere and we are about to eat Steak accompanied by The GlenLivet 18. It does not get any better than this. Nice One boys.
We have done it. A decade of dreaming, a year of planning, a month on the ice, and week on the wall and we have done it! It is just starting to sink in that we have succeeded and are safe.
So to fill you in…
After a second gruelling haul and ferrying a bunch of loads along the drop jaw ridge we established a magnificent well stocked wall camp on the plateau of Great expectations in good conditions. The ledge at the end of the ridge is a feature of the mountain.
Sufficiently large and safe to take off your harness with plenty of space for gear, cooking, hanging out etc.
The two Port-a-ledges hung nicely protected from above by a roof and remarkably sheltered from the increasingly present SE wind on the North side. A bivi spot in a horizontal break right at the base of the headwall – the coffin – was more comfortable than it sounds.
The ominous headwall rises for 400m above. It is only in the sun from 7am until 2pm forcing us to begin the arduous process of brewing, eating, preparing and dressing for battle painfully early. On a countdown schedule we had to make continuous progress to be up and down in time for the Russians to pick us up.
Though we had been discussing a couple of route options from afar, up close the line was unmistakable.
A short blank slab that required 2 hand drilled bolts led to wild climbing up a perfect system of corners and cracks for 200m to a giant roof.
Stanley wriggled his way through the Roof slot of despair and we all braved shade and wind up off widths and chimneys above to reach the epic Snow Petrel pillar below the upper headwall.
That was when the Antarctic conditions we’ve spent so long fearing finally showed up! For three days, high winds, low temps and heavy snow battered us and the mountain. Thankfully we were ready.
Our sleeping bags are rated to -50 C and have been havens.
We had sufficient clothing, kit, strength and motivation to push on culminating in an unforgettable summit day during the worst conditions of the expedition.
We reached the epic, pointy summit in -35 C with wind chill, wearing thick beards of ice, and hearts full of joy. The cloud even broke for 5 mins dousing us in sun as we surveyed the panorama.
On the descent we cleaned the ropes until the Pillar.
The most perfect BASE exit beckoned down the east face, a compelling wingsuit line to a landing zone below the ‘rock’ would’ve completed the dream.
We considered leaving ropes fixed from camp and hoping for better conditions but having seen Ulvetanna growl we were too terrified to wait around to be bitten. We continued down to wall camp cleaning ropes, braced for a scary descent in poor conditions, dreams of flight postponed.
The next day we were all exhausted, intimidating clouds finally broke into the fine weather we have been enjoying since, a God send for the complicated descent. 3 endless days of hard, well executed, dare I say fun work and we are home.
Our out post on this glacier that a month ago felt like the edge of the world, now feels like home. Before the run to ABC felt like a serious day out, on our final load it was an enjoyable 3 hour round trip.
The Sun is now much lower in the sky and it is colder, -17 C earlier.
We are almost ready for airlift and keen to get out of here whilst the flying conditions are good.
The weather gods of Ulvetanna, Queen Maud Land, and Antarctica have been so kind; we don’t want to out stay our welcome.
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