Mount Français


At 2822m Mount Français is the highest peak on Anvers Island. It is also one of the highest mountains in the Antarctic Peninsula area, a local landmark and one of the most photographed mountains in Antarctica. It was named after Charcot’s 1903-05 expedition ship, but its first reported sighting was by de Gerlache, who sailed around the southeast corner of Anvers Island on the Belgica in 1898. The first ascent of Français was by the FIDS team of Hindson, Rennie and Shewry, who climbed a route at the western end of the mountain, from the William Glacier, on November 28th 1955. The trio also made the first ascent of nearby Molar Peak (1065 m) and three smaller peaks above the William Glacier. Rennie, Shewry and Hindson now have three peaks named after them, running along a ridge in the southern part of the island, near Mount William. Hindson had already made an attempt on Français the previous September, with Canty and Hooper, but they retreated, having already made the first ascent of the nearby Mount Helen (1370 m) a few days before. In 1982 a large Chilean survey team visited the area and made what is thought to be the third ascent of Français, another British team having climbed the mountain in the intervening years since 1955. The Chilean leader was Jorge Quinteros, a celebrated Chilean climber and scientist. He had sailed with Bill Tilman years before and on one occasion narrowly avoided disaster after their boat was swept out into the Drake Passage, their rudder having been damaged navigating a Chilean fjord. Also on the team was a young Gino Casassa, who was one of the first Chileans to climb on the big peaks of the Himalaya and who would go on to become a significant figure in Patagonian and Antarctic glaciology. The first ski descent of Mount Français was made by New Zealander Greg Landreth, after accomplishing the fourth ascent of the mountain, in January 1987. This ascent, from the Northanger still under the hand of Rick Thomas, was the first time that the giant peak had been climbed by a private, yacht-based expedition. It was to be more than a decade until climbers stood atop Mount Français again. In 1999 the cruise chip Professor Molchanov dropped Australian climbers David Adams and Duncan Thomas on Wiencke Island for a three month stay in the area, during which time they made fifth ascent of Français, by the Bull Ridge. This ridge is an obvious ‘fish-hook’ shaped feature on the south face of the mountain that is visible to all who sail past down the Neumayer Channel. The two climbed steep ice out of the water to get ashore, before ascending the ridge in a long single-push, undoubtedly energized by the sight of an avalanche obliterating their tracks to the base of the ridge. Adams and Thomas summited in calm, midnight twilight with a marvelous view far south down the coast of the Peninsula. Returning to the edge of the seracs above the water, they found ice movements had drawn their inflatable boats meters up out of the water, leaving it dangling by a solitary ice screw. Mount Français was the objective of a strong group of Australian and New Zealand climbers who arrived aboardSpirit of Sydney in early 2003. One of the team, Rob Rymil was a descendant of John Rymmil, leader of the 1934-37 British Graham Land Expedition that explored so much of the surrounding area. By the time 2003 team arrived on Anvers they had already climbed Mount Johnston via Harris Peak, been up the Reclus Peninsula, made a ski descent of Mount Demaria above Waddington Bay, and climbed around Mount Scott. Getting ashore at Anvers Island, Theo Kossart, Jon Morgan, Stuart Morris and Chuck Olbery crossed between Billie Pack (725 m) and Copper Pack (1125 m) to gain the western side of the Bull Ridge. They climbed this to the summit, completing the sixth ascent of Mount Français, before making the second ski descent of the mountain. An obvious challenge on Français is a traverse from end to end, possibly on skis, and although this has been talk about, it has yet to be attempted. Mountaineering in Antarctica: complete guide travel, Travel Guide – Damien Gildea

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