In November 2009, four adventurers and mountain professionals travelled to the Holtanna range on Queen Maud Land in Antarctica to do the first base-jump ever done on this continent. With the release of the 15 minute long version of their movie, Sam Beaugey revisits this exceptional expedition.
The group was composed of:
- Sam Beaugey, Petzl team member, mountain guide and base-jumper,
- Manu Pellissier, mountain guide and Himalayan climber,
- Sébastien Collomb-Gros, skier and base-jumper,
- Géraldine Fastnacht, snowboarder and base-jumper.
Sam and Manu climbed Holstinnd and Holtanna in extreme weather conditions, with temperatures dropping to - 40°C; Géraldine, Seb and Sam then jumped with wingsuits from these two summits. Holstinnd is the biggest base-jump accomplished on the land of penguins, since it towers a thousand meters above the Syginnbryn glacier.
Sam Beaugey revisits this extraordinary journey
For the ascent of Holstinnd, Manu and I decided to repeat the Norwegian route opened in 1994. This 400m long east facing mixed route starts at the col between Holtanna and Holstinnd. The route stays in the shade for most of the day, so we left late to avoid the biting cold.
After linking a few short gullies, the route wandered through slabs partly covered in ice. After a few nice traverses, we reached cracks that were buried under the snow. A few pitons left behind by the Norwegians showed us the way to the top of the face. It took us 15 hours (round-trip from base camp) to climb this 400m long route, rated M6/6a/A1.
We wanted to try a new route on the southeast face of Holtanna, but sharp rock and fixed ropes don’t bode well, so we ended up climbing the southeast ridge, which is the most beautiful route on the wall. It was opened in 2001 by a group of climbers from Belgium, Switzerland and France.
The route offers a lot of taffonis. We chose the same style of climbing as we had in Alaska: light and fast, climbing in single-push style, taking advantage of the permanent daylight. We didn’t use portaledges or sleeping bags and only brought along a thermos and some food.
We started by fixing two pitches the previous day. We then climbed for 27 hours straight (round-trip from base camp), free climbing up beautiful chimneys in rock shoes to the right of the original line. We then hit a wall of taffonis, which looked deceivingly easy: it took Manu 3hours to climb the first 40 meters...
When the face went in the shade in the deep chimneys, with temperatures dropping to -30°C, we put our warm shoes back on and aid climbed up the classic line to the summit. The cracks got wider and the two n°6 cams came in very handy! We reached the snow slopes after climbing through a nice “letterbox”. We then topped out on the summit next to the diving board on the west face (800 m, M4/6b+/A2).
It’s certainly the most remote trip I have done away from civilization. I will always remember the incredible lights of the austral summer and the ascent of Holtanna with Manu, followed by this unique jump. I waited ten years and suffered a few fractures for this dream to come true, and I thank all those who supported us in making this dream a reality.
-- Sam Beaugey
Video of the expedition:
What to bring for two months on Queen Maud Land?
Over 600kg of food: two servings a day high in fat; 1/5 of the food were freeze-dry meals for bivouacs. The great awarded Chef, Philippe Rochat and his team made us some special high-calorie cakes, dubbed the “Geraldine cakes”. The Maison Carrier in Chamonix provided all the staple food. Our very own Chef, Manu, made us some delicious meals: grilled meats and vegetable from the freezer, Swiss fondue, and chocolate covered fruits...
To protect ourselves from the cold, everything was carefully studied. We had shoes with maximum thermal protection and full down suits to keep us warm: these were a must, and we wore them as pajamas in base camp or used them to belay the leader while climbing. We had lovely neoprene nose-protection to prevent frostbite on our faces and above all, about twenty liters of apricot liquor to relax a little in our living room...
Basecamp was composed of several tents, with a mess tent (kitchen and living room) and tents to sleep in. We also brought along: a survival tent in case of strong winds and a wall tent for bivouacs; 200 rolls of toilet paper and poop bags to leave no trace of our time on this pristine land.
We travelled on skis, snowboards, paragliders, snow-kites and we had 4 pulkas. To ascend the walls, we had no less than 400meters of static ropes, 2 tag lines for rappels, 2 single ropes, 60 meters of Dyneema and over 100kg of hardware. We also had two Iridium satellite phones, an Inmarsat phone, 4 radios and 2 GPS to communicate with the outside world.
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