A combination of wind, rain, and limited visibility has prevented a group of young New Zealand explorers from attempting to climb one of the most remote mountain peaks in the world.
Millie Mannering (24), Sam West (29), Lily Green (20), and Sasha Cheng (30) along with world-renowned mountain guides Lydia Bradey and Dean Staples and Antarctic Heritage Trust Emeritus Executive Director Nigel Watson, were to attempt a history-making two-day climb of South Georgia’s Mount Worsley.
The team was chosen by the Trust for this year’s Inspiring Explorers Expedition™. They were to scale the 1105-metre Mt Worsley (named after New Zealand explorer Frank Worsley) and would have been just the second group in the world to make it to the top.
Antarctic Heritage Trust Executive Director Francesca Eathorne says poor weather made the ascent impossible but all was not lost.
“We urgently sought permission for the team to undertake a smaller, one-day ski and climb expedition to ascend Mount Hodges, in the mountain range behind Grytviken. After a successful climb the team have returned to the ship filled with stories about their experience.”
Members of the Trust’s Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ Mount Hodges climb team L-R: Inspiring Explorers Lily Green and Sasha Cheng, mountain guide Lydia Bradey, Trust Emeritus Executive Director Nigel Watson and Inspiring Explorer Sam West. © AHT
Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ climbing team ascending Mount Hodges. © AHT/Sam West
Grytviken is a hamlet on South Georgia and formerly a whaling station. It is also the resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Millie Mannering says it was incredible for the team to put their crampons on and explore some of South Georgia’s coastal mountains.
“From the summit we could see right into the interior of the island. We watched as a weather system came through and enveloped huge towering peaks with crazy sharp ridgelines. It looked foreboding, exciting and inspiring. Below us, we could see icebergs that had travelled from the Antarctic continent making the moment remarkable and special. Not many people can say they have skied to Shackleton’s grave, which is where we finished our expedition,” says Millie.
Sam West says the climb was unique in many ways.
“While we were on the summit, people on the ship below could see us up on the ridgeline, which was pretty cool. We could also hear elephant seals snorting and groaning with the sound being blown up by the wind from hundreds of meters below.
“On the top it really sunk in how remote we are, how lucky we are to be here and be able to climb. So few people get to do this, making it very special,” says Sam.
South Georgia itself has the greatest density of wildlife on earth with estimates of 30 million breeding birds, including 7 million penguins, 2 million fur seals and half of the world’s southern elephant seals.
Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ climbing team on Mount Hodges. © AHT/Charlie Thomas
All 22 young explorers are working on group outreach projects, supported by the Inspiring Explorers™ Programme Partners – MetService and Royal Society Te Apārangi.
Francesca is onboard the Antarctica21 ship, the Magellan Explorer touring South Georgia Island with the Inspiring Explorers.
“There was some initial disappointment that they wouldn’t get to scale Mt Worsley but the experience they’ve had has undoubtedly been eye-opening. At the end of their expedition, they stopped at Shackleton’ grave to pay their respects – a fitting ending to the day,” says Francesca.
The expedition honours the centenary year of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s final expedition (Quest 1921–1922), which journeyed to South Georgia and marked the end of the heroic era of Antarctic exploration.