Dec 5, 2009
By Chris Davenport
Andrea Binning’s climbing and skiing expedition into the wilds of Antarctica is now in its second week. The Australian big mountain skier is with her husband Stian Hagan and big mountain legend Chris Davenport. Chris is getting regular updates out and here is the latest from the deep, cold, mountainous, continent:
This 800 foot face has been ticked off – not sure if it was a first descent.
FIVE DAYS OF CLIMBING AND RADICAL DESCENTS
We’ve had five days of successful climbing and skiing so far, with 11 days to go. The weather has been splitter with clear sky’s and warm temps, allowing us to safely climb and ski some of the most stunning peaks on the Danco Coast south of the Lamaire Channel. This place continues to blow my mind with sheer stunning beauty. If I were to combine all of the most scenic places I’ve ever been into one, the Antarctic Peninsula has to be it.
Earlier this week, Stian, Andrea and I set out to climb the notoriously steep Harbour Glacier and summit Jabet and Needle Peak. Near the top of the climb, the angle pitched up over 60 degrees and the climbing became really difficult. We had set out in the morning hoping for an easy warm-up day, but quickly found ourselves in the business. Since none of us had brought double axes, we sent the Viking slayer- Stian Hagen up on lead to fix an anchor on top of the ridge. Stian climbed with confidence, that is to say until his crampon fell off. Stian calmly replaced the lost points, continued up over the lip, and buried a picket on the ridge. The rest of us jugged the last 30 feet of the couloir as the sugary snow began to collapse.
Chris davenport, all smiles as he approaches the summit at Mount Mil.
When it came time to ski we had to make a decision. Descend our climbing route with a rappel on crappy snow, or chance a really steep descent on the south face. We chose to ski in the sun, both for the sake of the film and photos, but also because half the face was loaded with new snow. For the first run of the trip in Antarctica we were close to in over our heads. The pitch was 52-54 degrees and the snow variable. We dropped in one by one and actually found some mid-boot powder for 2/3 of the line. For me it was an intense run and a real leg-burner, but also very rewarding to have it in the bag.
The next tour led us to the summit of Mt. Mill. Mill is one of the principal summits on the Danco Coast, weighing in at 9,695 ft. and named after Sir James Mills, who apparently helped tow the expeditions’ ship to the peninsula in 1908. I had been eying this line since we were at the Argentine Islands last year. The overwhelming views, 5 star corn snow, and breaching whales in the bay as we descended conspired to overload our scenic senses, and I must say I am at a loss for words to describe to depth of the beauty that surrounds us here.
Chris getting ready to ski down from the summit of the Duseberg. Mt Shackleton is in the distance.
Later on we tried to climb and ski Mt. Scott, but after three hours of climbing and skinning, and only 200 meters from the summit, we got stuck in a cloud. The cloud decided to park itself for the rest of the day, so after a two-hour wait that felt like scuba diving in a bowl of milk we decided to ski down. Skiing in a whiteout is never easy, especially on a glacier ringed with deep cracks. But we made it down to better visibility and worked some film shots on the lower glacier.
Chris at the beginning of another steep climb.
The next day Stian, Andrea, and I hit the shore at 9:30 and began the steep climb up the south ridge of the Duseberg Buttress. This peak is the last major peak on the coast south of the Lemaire Channel before the huge ice shelf that comes off both sides of Mt. Shackleton. After an hour and a half we hit the summit ridge and logged a very likely first descent off the Buttress. We were hoping things would soften up on the face, and waited two hours on the summit for that to happen. But some afternoon clouds threatened to ruin the visibility and shooting so we decided to give it a go, even though 55 degrees of firm neve is a little disconcerting.
Chris Climbing the summit of the Duseberg Buttress.
Stian and Andrea, 1000 feet above the ice shelf and still climbing.