Photos: Making first ascents in Antarctica

Antarctica is famously the coldest place on earth — but it's a rich mine of un-skied mountains.
By Marc Schwarz

In just a few days, a team of budding explorers will set sail on the adventure of a lifetime — a ski-mountaineering trip to Antarctica to explore unclimbed and un-skied mountains. What makes the trip unique, is that they will sail there, across one of the most treacherous seas on planet earth.

Phil Wickens has been leading expeditions to the frozen continent for 16 years. “The landscape is truly spectacular, and many of the mountains are still unclimbed,” he says.

Although there are lots of smaller peaks close to the sea, the real gems are further inland. “We reach them by dragging sleds, then set up a camp from where we can ski the mountains with lighter packs. This is where the best skiing is, and 2,000 vertical metres of powder snow can be the reward!” Here's a selection of his shots from over the years. For more info on upcoming trips, visit www.ski-antarctica.com.

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The roughest seas on earth
The expedition sailing the roughest seas on earth.
The roughest seas on earth Famous for being the roughest seas on Earth, the Drake Passage separates the Antarctic Peninsula from Cape Horn. All the expedition team take turns on watch for the four days it takes to sail to Antarctica. © Phil Wickens
Sailing through floes and icebergs
The crew is sailing through floes and icebergs.
Sailing through floes and icebergs As the yacht enters the ice the team takes it in turns at the top of the mast to find a route around the floes and icebergs. © Phil Wickens
Ice locked sea
The boad anchoring surrounded by ice
Ice locked sea Early in the season there is often a lot of sea-ice locked into the fjords and bays, which the crew can moor against using climbing ice screws as anchors. © Phil Wickens
A cornice with a view
The Alpine Club team ascending Mt. Cloos
A cornice with a view The corniced central summit of Mt Cloos overlooks the famous Lemaire Channel. Although many cruise ships transit this spectacular channel, this prominent mountain remained unclimbed until a team from the (British) Alpine Club made its first ascent. © Phil Wickens
From summit to sea
Toby Johnson handling the steep summit.
From summit to sea Toby Johnson from the Eagle Ski Club negotiates the steep summit pyramid of Bruce Island, which rises steeply out of the entrance to Paradise Harbour. © Phil Wickens
The coldest climb
The Alpine Club team ascending Mt Inverleith.
The coldest climb At 2,038m, Mt Inverleith is one of the higher peaks on the Antarctic Peninsula and, due to heavily crevassed glaciers, a hard mountain to reach. The Alpine Club team made the first ascent after two days of climbing its north face. © Phil Wickens
White desert storm
Petter Nyquist digging out the camp.
White desert storm Successful mountaineering in Antarctic sometimes necessitates sitting out the storms that circulate the continent. Petter Nyquist digs out the camp during the Amundsen Antarctic Expedition. © Phil Wickens
The Team pulling sleds into the mountains
The crew fighting against the rough weather.
The Team pulling sleds into the mountains At the end of a hard day pulling sleds into the mountains, the Harbour Glacier on Wiencke Island channels the wind of an approaching storm. © Phil Wickens
“Can someone put the kettle on?”
The team is returning to the sea after three days of climbing.
“Can someone put the kettle on?” Spirit of Sydney is dwarfed by the ice cliffs of the Harbour Glacier as the team returns across the sea ice after three days of climbing on Wiencke Island. © Phil Wickens
Going where no man has gone before
The team is hiking up an unclimbed and unnamed mountain.
Going where no man has gone before After three days of sled-hauling along the Breguet Glacier the Amundsen Antarctic Expedition break trail towards a shapely unnamed and unclimbed mountain. © Phil Wickens
Approaching Mt Cornu
The team is skirting the Breguet Glacier.
Approaching Mt Cornu The Eagle Ski Club team skirting enormous crevasses that cut the edge of the Breguet Glacier during the first ascent of Mt Cornu. © Phil Wickens
Skinning up unnamed mountains
Members of the Eagle Ski Club Antarctic Expedition hiking up to the peak.
Skinning up unnamed mountains Members of the Eagle Ski Club Antarctic Expedition work their way up the central peak of the group of unnamed mountains that overlook the south side of the Sikorskiy Glacier. © Phil Wickens
Spectacular ski descent
A Member of the Eagle Ski Club Antarctic Expedition skiing down the Sikorskiy Glacier.
Spectacular ski descent The previously unclimbed mountains on the south side of the Sikorskiy Glacier give spectacular ski descents, with a stunning Antarctic backdrop. © Phil Wickens
Earning turns on the Hotine Glacier
The Alpine Club team accessing the Hotine Glacier.
Earning turns on the Hotine Glacier Accessing the peaks of Antarctica is often the hardest part of a climb. Here, the Alpine Club team access the Hotine Glacier via the steep slopes beneath Mt Cloos. © Phil Wickens
First ascend Mt Nygren
The Alpine Club team first ascending the Mt Nygren.
First ascend Mt Nygren Mt Nygren is a prominent Peak at the head of Delconcle Bay. After establishing a camp on the Hotine Glacier, the Alpine Club team made the first ascent via the East (left) ridge. © Phil Wickens
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