Jimmy Chin on Climbing Ulvetanna, a Brutal 9,600-Foot Ascent in Antarctica

jimmy chin antarctica
Queen Maud Land, Antarctica Jimmy Chin

Above the snow-blanketed barrens of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, about 2,700 miles due south of Cape Town, looms a 9,600-foot peak called Ulvetanna. Translation: the wolf’s tooth. The name’s fitting. It’s one of six jagged, bare-granite peaks that form the Fenriskjeften massif—together resembling a nearly complete set of fangs. A Norwegian team first summited the peak, via the west face, in 1994. But during a recent 17-day expedition to the region with a group of fellow American climbers, legendary mountaineer and Antarctica veteran Conrad Anker and photographer Jimmy Chin sought to blaze a new route up the northwest buttress. Unsurprisingly, with –20-degree daily highs on the notoriously rigorous mountain, the ascent proved no easy task.

 

“I just remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t be able to do this route with anybody else but Conrad,” recalls Chin. Having been climbing together for 15 years, “we have a really good shorthand,” he says.

Still, “the stakes were high.” Owing to the weather, it took about six days for the pair to toil to the top. When they at last reached the summit, they became only the seventh known team to have done so.

“It was everything I love about expedition climbing,” Chin says. “The landscape is just jaw-dropping, and the mountain feels really remote—because it is.” —J.R. Sullivan