Expedition Watch: Climbing the Wolf's Tooth

The Drygalski Mountains. Photo:

The realities of an expedition to Antarctica, where temperatures fall to -50 degrees and the wind can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, are harsh. At night, for example, explorers must pack all those things they don't want to freeze into their sleeping bags. "Even your pee bottle," climber Leo Houlding said in a dispatch. "Or you won’t be able to empty it and might have to boil it up with your morning brew, as my tent-mate Jason did several times in Greenland. Not pleasant."

Houlding and five teammates are headed to Antarctica in mid-December to climb Ulvetanna. While tackling the peak will be a supreme technical challenge, the crew will also have to grapple with keeping their supplies in good shape. It will take four hours a day at an MSR stove just to melt enough ice for their water, and having access to that ice involves even more work. "Because huge stretches of Ulvetanna are dead vertical, much of the time there won’t be any snow to collect as we climb," said Houlding in a dispatch. "So we’ll have to melt enough snow at base camp to fill a 120-litre barrel, which we’ll haul up behind us, chipping ice out of it with ice axes every time we cook or make a cup of coffee in wall camp."

Here's a bit more* about the niceties of Houlding's expedition:


Self-portrait on Mount Asgard Photo: Leo Houlding

WHO: Leo Houlding has climbed El Capitan, Mount Everest, and Baffin Island's Mount Asgard. The 32-year-old Brit will be accompanied by a team of five climbers, including documentary filmmaker Alastair Lee, who will be making a movie about the ascent. The other team members are Sean 'Stanley' Leary (USA), Jason Pickles (UK), Chris Rabone (UK), and Dave Reeves (UK)

WHAT: The team plans to climb Ulvetanna, which means “the wolf’s tooth” in Norwegian, in the Orvin Fjell mountains of Queen Maud Land in eastern Antarctica. The 9,612-foot peak has a 6,500-foot northeast ridge, of which 4,265 feet requires a vertical ascent. "It is the most technically demanding peak on the harshest continent," said Houlding in a dispatch.

"I suspect the intense cold and strong winds will be our most bitter foes. Also apparently the rock quality is not great, reportedly it can be quite crumbly," Houlding said in an email. "Though prepared I think it best not to dwell on these points, best to focus the awesome beauty of the peak."

WHEN: Houlding and his team will depart for Antarctica on December 16, 2012, and return home on February 2, 2013. Houlding expects to be in Base Camp for 38 days. After the team attempts Ulvetanna, they will move on to other peaks in the Fenris group if time allows.

WHY: “Since I first heard of this otherworldly peak more than a decade ago I have dreamed of amassing the skill, strength, and support necessary to reach this most elusive mountain," Houlding said in a press release. "Ulvetanna presents me and my team with a truly formidable challenge, which is exactly what draws us to it."

"A more perfect mountain I cannot imagine, a great wolf's fang piercing the white desert of the Antarctic plateau. It is the hardest summit to reach on the harshest continent, combined with the beautiful aesthetics it creates a magical challenge," he said in an email. "If you continue down a path in search of ever greater adventure it will inevitably lead to the ends of the Earth and the corners few are privileged to explore."

FOLLOW ALONG: Berghaus Blog

SPONSORS: Berghaus

*This post was updated after it was published with more information from Houlding, who e-mailed us on November 28.

—Joe Spring

Filed To: Climbing
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