Antarctica first ascent / Marek Holeček and Míra Dub battle Bloody Nose up Monte Pizduch
On Winkle Island, Antarctica, Marek Holeček and Míra Dub made the alpine style first ascent of Bloody Nose up the hitherto unclimbed Monte Pizduch located in the Mount Wheat massif. Carried out from 6 - 7 January 2018, the Czech mountaineers climbed alpine style for 33 hours, breached difficulties up to M4/WI5+, 95° and crossed four individual summits. Holeček, who climbed a new route up the Southwest Face of Gasherbrum I (8080 m) in 2017, provides the report.
Our target was Mount Wheat with four individual summits forming the Wall Range. It is located on the 30-kilometre-long Winkle Island, close to the Antarctic mainland, separated from this by a narrow strip of ocean. I had seen this peak when I climbed in Antarctica for the first time, back in 2014. At that time we managed a neat first ascent up a nameless peak of Anwers island which we called Monte Samila. It was about 1500 meters of difficult climbing up ice and unstable firn. We boarded our yacht after 24 hours of fighting and the return itself was quite dramatic. Afterwards we sailed to the above-mentioned Winkle Island but the weather was not on our side, thus we had no time for climbing. However, the island with its virgin summits registered indelibly in our minds. There was nothing we could do but return.
The new story begins to unfold on 27 December 2017, when our 17-meter yacht sails from the port of Ushuaia in Tiera del Fuego, Argentina. I will keep the narration about crossing the stormy Drake Passage for some other time. We will skip the few days of sailing through the stormy ocean and also the following zigzaggery among the ice floes in the fabulous Peninsula landscape. After ten days, on January 5, 2018, we finally anchor at the bay of Port Lockroy.
The next day at around noon we are transported from our yacht to mainland by a small boat. My climbing partner is my friend Míra Dub. We reach the foot of the face on skis before 2 p.m. and at half past two we start ascending the steep firn. The line ascent follows an icy couloir in the granite massif, which gets steeper and steeper towards the summit until it finally becomes vertical. The worst part lies in store, right above the vertical section where a huge snow cornice has formed. Honestly, I’d been worried about this from the very beginning. How shall we overcome it? This is an unanswered question and in order to find out we have to try and breach it. Moreover, its icy greetings could have hit us in the couloir anytime.
Hours of climbing pass by and the difficulties gradually increase. Meanwhile, in the late afternoon the sun turns towards our face and small avalanches of ice and stone fragments begin to rattle down from above. One stone finds Míra’s nose. Fortunately, there is only a little blood and we can continue.
At around 11 p.m. we reach the vertical sections. It airy and the ice is not very good. I climb the entire 30 m vertical section without any ice screws. Only two sporadic pieces of pro are placed in-between the belay far below my feet. This section takes a lot of effort and nerves. However, I don’t yet know yet that the following pitch involves mixed climbing up broken granite and fluffy, unconsolidated snow.
Time is running out, the cold is beginning to grab a hold and our strength diminishes. After a few more hours of difficult climbing I am standing in front of the crux. The snow cornice above my head is laughing at me, derisively, while I search for the way out. Finally I venture into the least overhanging section of this inflated cottonwool. The climb-through is a terrible experience, my feelings are quite hard to describe. The whole face lay below my feet and I had the feeling that neither ice-axes nor crampons would hold on to anything.
At 2 a.m. we both reach the nameless summit. From the valley the fog is rolling in steadily and in a moment the views disappear and everything is hidden in white darkness. We cook some tea and pitch our small tent. We have neither sleeping bags nor mattresses, but at least the tent shelters us against the wind and chill. Four hours later the fog is torn apart and we quickly pack up and walk along the ridge. We look for a suitable descent but the walls to each side are quite steep. Another problem is that the ridge is bordered by cornices that block the view down and prevent a reasonable descent. We have to cross the entire ridge comprised of four summits and after several unsuccessful attempts to descend we finally find way through the wild glacier.
We end the adventure down at the ocean after 33 hours. We are picked in small boat by our mates from the yacht. Both of us are happy because all worked well and it was an amazing day in Antarctica. Onboard the yacht, while sipping the first bottle of wine we finally forget our concerns, fatigue and stress of the previous days. Together with our friends we laugh into the night.
by Marek Holeček
The first ascent on the individual southwest summit, which we named “Monte Pizduch 1000 m”, situated in the massif of Mount Wheat 1200 m. The name of the new route is “Bloody Nose” and it was climbed in the alpine style. During the search for the descent we crossed the complete ridge of four summits. It took 33 hrs, January 6-7, 2018.
Location: Winkle Island, Antarctica/Peninsula.
Climbers: Míra Dub and Mára Holeček
Difficulty: ED+ (M4/WI5+ and in one spot 95°).
Length of the ascent: 850 m