Expedición Monte Tyree - Antartica

Jan 09

Dispatch #26

Published at 13:17
Dispatch created from email
Hi all,

We were forced back from our attempt on Tyree. Friday and Saturday were nice in camp but with clouds and wind up high on Gardner.
Sunday came clear though, as expected, so we set off in the afternoon up the 'normal' route on Gardner.

We'd done this route two years ago, summiting Gardner and re-surveying it, but now we had heavier packs as we hoped to set a small camp high on the east side of Gardner from which to launch an attempt across the adjoining
ridge to Tyree - the original way Tyree was climbed in Jan 1967. The weather was fantastic, maybe too hot, and we climbed strongly, feeling great, and made good time up to a point high on the east side of Gardner.
Finding a nice flat spot we pitched the Bibler at 4120m, only a bit later realising that we were only 20m or so from the remains of the 1967 high camp, where we found a Thermos, wands and various foodstuffs. The wind was gusting a bit by this time but things still looked good and we were really positive.

We spent a long time melting snow for water, having drinks and something to eat, then trying to get some sleep. Pachi and Camilo both brought their sleeping bags, I just lay in the middle in my down jacket and Primaloft pants with my feet wrapped in another jacket - all toasty warm, even waking up too hot. Clearly it was getting windier outside but there were long lulls too, so we still felt confident. Probably only a half hour before we got out to start, around 2pm on Monday, Tyree clouded over quite quickly from the west, the summit disappeared and lots of cloud moved in, now with some snow blowing in the wind.

We decided it was not on, we'd have to go down and try again later, but agreed to recce the route ahead a bit anyway for next time.
This we did, though not too far, as it was clear we needed to climb higher before descending to the adjoining col, and the weather was getting worse. So down we headed, now pretty much in total whiteout, following the GPS. But at the point we turn west to descend off the plateau, we decided to take the opportunity, as meagre as it was, to head north across the big plateau and make the first ascent of Mt Ryan, a newly-named and designated peak at the northern tip of the Gardner massif. This was a very easy climb from this side, though the southern side is extremely steep and overhung with a massive cornice, so we were quickly on top and running the GPS.

More descending in whiteout brought us to our turn-off but now the winds had blown the snow off vast sections of the plateau and we had to cross a big expanse of concrete-hard slippery blue ice. One section we actually rigged an Abalakov ice thread and did an almost-horizontal rappel across.
The surface was just too slippery and a fall here would be way too serious, as the slope gently dropped away out of sight. With that done we found our way back down into the top of the big couloir and made good time down, though it was a bit hard on the knees as always. The weather actually cleared up nicely on the way down, making us think we'd made a terrible mistake, but we could still hear the wind howling up high in the clear sky and it crapped out once again later. We regained the tents at 2am Tues after another look at the 1966-67 cache, now very exposed by more wind and less snow. That whole area is now much more exposed than it was two years ago, with lots of crevasses now obvious (and some only thinly bridged) and much more of the cache visible.

So we've been resting and eating ever since, the weather was forecast to be bad for a couple of days, with severe winds up high. We can't see the top half of the mountains right now and we've had light snow for most of the last 24hrs. We can only stay a couple of days more before we have to leave, we've already extended beyond our original date, so if it doesn't get better in the next 48hrs or so then it's all over.

AUSPOS processed our data from Mt Epperly, with the result that Epperly (minus the rock pinnacle!) is 4508m high. So probably 4511m high including the pinnacle. This puts it in 6th place overall, though the 4528m for Kirkpatrick (currently #5) is possibly too high (18m too high ???: -) Our preliminary height for Mt. Ryan is around 3890m but this will change.

- a breakfast Captain Scott would die for. Biscuits and butter washed down with a jug of tea.
- Damo near the top of the Gardner couloir
- Pachi beneath the big serac at the top of the Gardner couloir
- the sun "setting" over the big gendarme at the side of the Gardner couloir. Antarctica beyond.
- us three in the tent for two
- Camilo and Pachi with Tyree rapidly disappearing in the background
- Damo and Pachi climbing to the virgin summit of Mt Ryan in bad weather
- Our high camp at 4120m on the east side of Gardner, looking northeast.

Waiting, waiting, (hoping) . . . .
  • Name: Tyree Camp
  • Elevation: 2320 m
  • Latitude: 78° 2310South
  • Longitude: 86° 943West


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