Skip to content
Home » Climbing Notes » WEST SUMMIT OF FENRIS


Josh Helling caught in the glow of the midsummer Antarctic sun on the Helling-Libecki Route (VI 5.10 A4, 2,150′), West Summit of Fenris, Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. [Photo] Mike Libecki

We had drooled and fantasized about actually standing amongst the Orvin Fjella Mountains in Dronning Maud Land, and finally, after much optimism (and going into debt), the dream materialized. On December 4, 2003, Josh Helling and I stood in front of some of the biggest granite walls and towers in the world in a place that could easily be called the most remote climbing area on the planet. The landscape blazed in flame as sunset quickly turned to sunrise in the continuous daylight of the Antarctic summer. In a surreal moment, we began to digest the fact that we had sixty days to do whatever we wanted in this playground.

For the first month we circumnavigated the Orvin Fjella walls and towers and scoped for the most aesthetic crack systems on the ancient, sheer granite faces. As we reconnoitered the area we giddily bagged peaks, ice climbed, kite skied and loved life. Eventually, we decided to climb a crack system we found that led to the West Summit of Fenris.

On New Year’s Eve we started a climb that lasted for just over sixteen days on the west face of Fenris, a very stunning line that split the monstrous triangular tower. Unfortunately, the quality of the rock was poor; more than half of the route was quite rotten, crumbly and deteriorating. There were also some sections that were quite the opposite, offering some of the best splitter cracks and amazingly solid granite I have seen. It was as if there were two entirely different kinds of rock. Twelve out of fourteen pitches had demanding offwidth or squeeze sections that proved to be very spicy and challenging due to the necessary subzero free climbing (in frozen rock shoes) and crumbling granite. I lost a big toenail and suffered my first (pea-size) frostbite on one of my toes from this necessary evil. Of course, The Year of the Ram costumes prevailed on the summit. We called our route the Helling-Libecki Route (VI 5.10 A4, 2,150′).

— Mike Libecki, Salt Lake City, Utah