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Lionel Daudet, en route on the first ascent of Sheridan Peak (ca. 900m), South Georgia. Alpinists Philippe Batoux, Manu Cauchy and Lionel Daudet have joined three sailors on a three-month, sea-supported climbing mission to the island. Since their arrival on October 8, so far the team also has made the sixth ascent of the island?s tallest point, Mt. Paget (2934m), and the third ascent of Surprise Peak (ca. 955m). [Photo] Courtesy of EXPEDITION GEORGIA SAT 2007

A French mountaineering team comprised of Philippe Batoux, Manu Cauchy (aka Doc Vertical) and Lionel Daudet (featured in the October 3, 2007 Weekly Feature) joined French expatriate Isabelle Autissier–a famed sailor based, with her specially modified sloop, the Ada 2, out of Ushuaia, Argentina–and her two mates, Agnes Lapeyre and Tristan Guyon, to embark upon a sea-supported ski mountaineering expedition to the distant island of South Georgia. The expedition will continue until early January, but thus far the team has completed the first ascent of Sheridan Peak (ca. 900m), the sixth ascent of the island’s tallest point, Mt. Paget (2934m), and the third ascent of Surprise Peak (ca. 955m). Alpinist will continue to cover the expedition as subsequent information becomes available.

The team arrived in Grytviken, a settlement populated solely by seasonal museum employees, on the evening of October 8. Finding the weather amenable to travel they skied up the Nordensjkord Glacier toward the Allardyce Range and Mt. Paget. They established their first camp at ca. 500 meters without digging a hole or building a wind break, which resulted in a damaged tent.

The next day, tent repaired, the team continued skiing up the glacier, fighting strong winds until the afternoon. The team established their second camp at the end of the day, after skiing as high on the glacier as they were are able to pull their pulkas–Scandinavian sleds designed to be short and low-slung to accommodate either a dog or skier.

At 4 a.m. on October 11, after an extensive reconnaissance of the mountain, the team began their ascent of Mt. Paget. They climbed a direct variant of the January 1995 northeast face route, which was the peak’s fourth ascent.

Daudet reported that “The route is varied, with a snowy ridge, a few rocks, and the ‘crux,’ a large, 500-meter ice slope at 60 degrees (75 degrees maximum) leading to the final slope at 15 degrees with very hard blue ice. The summit was perfect: no wind, great blue sky and an unlimited sea of clouds below.”

Where the 1995 team descended the northeast ridge, the French team rappelled their route, using predominately v-threads. When they had descended down through the cloud layer, they found that 25 centimeters of fresh snow had covered their tracks. As they had not anticipated this, their return to camp took them some time.

The next day, the French team moved their camp to the base of Mt. Sheridan, a low unclimbed peak. They climbed a new route named L’arete des 70 ans (AD), owing to the fact that the successful ascent was made on Daudet’s father’s birthday.

Daudet reports, “We reached the summit at noon, with a nice view on the Nordensjkord fjord. Unfortunately the Nordensjkord peak was hidden in the clouds.” They had hoped to get a glimpse of the peak, which is on their list of proposed climbing objectives. However, the weather presented them another option. They quickly nabbed the third ascent of Surprise Peak by a new route, grading the 900 meters of sustained rock and ice French D. Should the weather continue to hold, the team has until January to accomplish its various climbing goals speckled across the length of the island. They will travel mostly by ski, supported by the ship.

South Georgia is the largest–at ca. 106 miles in length, west to east–of a group of islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean known as the South Georgia group. The islands are part of a larger British Overseas Territory ca. 864 miles east-southeast of the Falkland islands in sub-Antarctic waters.

Sources: Veronique Daudet, Across South Georgia at the Summits, AAJ