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Antarctica Season Begins with First Ascent of Mt. Ashley

Mt. Ashley (1145m), on the island of South Georgia, was first climbed in late October by Caradoc “Crag” Jones and Skip Novak. [Photo] Caradoc Jones

Mt. Ashley, the highest peak in northwestern South Georgia, has been climbed for the first time on record by Caradoc “Crag” Jones of Wales and Skip Novak, an American citizen living in South Africa. The 1145-meter peak is relatively accessible from the coast but had received little attention previously, as it lies outside the Allardyce and Salvesen ranges.

In late October the pair, perennial visitors to the island over the last two decades, returned once more aboard Novak’s yacht, Pelagic Australis. They disembarked onto Salisbury Plain and set up base camp on October 29. Despite poor weather that night, they left at 4 a.m. for a summit attempt, skiing south up the Grace Glacier. They stashed skis at the headwall and climbed mostly snow and ice to a col. Here they scouted the four peaks that form Ashley’s summit crest. Climbing southeast to skirt the nearest peak, they found steep ice and summited the second peak, “only to realize upon looking behind them that the first one was obviously higher,” Alpinist correspondent Damien Gildea reported.

Jones climbs toward the summit of Mt. Ashley. [Photo] Caradoc Jones collection

Jones and Novak turned around and ascended the broad ridge to reach the true summit, belaying the final 100 meters. The ascent, from base camp, took nine hours. Six hours of descent through thick mist and snow–the pair needed their GPS to find the col and their skis–brought them back to the Pelagic Australis.

The southern aspect of Mt. Ashley slopes gradually down to King Haakon Bay, a significant launching point in expedition history; it was there, in May 1916, that Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley began their legendary traverse of the island.

Source: Damien Gildea, with information and photos from Caradoc Jones

Novak on the summit of Mt. Ashley. [Photo] Caradoc Jones