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The Craddock Massif in Antarctica’s Sentinel Range, viewed from the west, showing (A) Rutford (ca. 4450m). (B) Bugueno Pinnacle. (C) Rada (4402m). (D) Craddock (4368m). The route to the summit of Rutford was climbed solo by Jed Brown on December 9, 2006, while the line marked on Craddock was climbed on December 7, 2005, by Chaplin and Gildea, followed the next day by Bugueno and Rada. [Photo] Damien Gildea

The Omega Foundation expedition has just made the first ascent of what was previously the highest unclimbed summit in Antarctica’s Sentinel Range. In December 2005, while continuing their previous GPS work on the Vinson Massif, the Omega Foundation sent Manuel Bugueno (Chile), Steve Chaplin (UK), Damian Gildea (Australia, on his seventh expedition to the Continent) and Camilo Rada (Chile) to climb and measure Tyree, Gardner and Craddock, three of the highest peaks in Antarctica. Craddock lies to the south of Vinson and before 2005 had been climbed only once. On December 7 that year Chaplin and Gildea climbed the west face of Craddock via a new route and planted a Trimble 5700 GPS on the highest rock summit at the southern end of the massif. Bugueno and Rada repeated the new route the next day, retrieved the GPS, and processed the data at base camp via the Australian government AUSPOS website, accessed via laptop computer and Iridium satellite phone. This determined that Craddock is only 4368m, 282m lower than the previously published official height. From the summit they could see that the Craddock Massif had both an unclimbed central and north summit, which appeared to be higher. On their descent Bugueno and Rada deviated to climb the central summit, now Mt Rada, which they measured as 4402m.

In the intervening year the Omega Foundation, in cooperation with the United States Geographical Survey, has produced a fine new topographical map: the 1:50,000 Vinson Massif and the Sentinel Range. In August 2006 the USGS Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (ACAN) approved 48 new names for features in and around the Vinson Massif. These appear on the new map, where the northerly top in the Craddock Massif has been designated an independent summit and named Mt Rutford, with an estimated height of 4450m.

Gildea and Rada returned in December 2006, this time accompanied by Jed Brown from the USA and Maria Paz Ibarra from Chile, the latter one of South America’s leading female mountaineers. On December 9, from a high camp below Rutford, Brown soloed the ca. 2000-meter west face in a rapid four-and-a-half hours, set up the GPS on the highest point and then traversed south to the previously unclimbed rock spire going by the name of Bugueno Pinnacle. In excellent weather Ibarra and Rava repeated the route early on the 10th and retrieved the GPS. Previously all four members of the expedition had made the second ascents of both Atkinson and Slaughter, two lower neighboring peaks. We await confirmation of the new altitudes, but there may be only one unclimbed mountain remaining in Antarctica that is higher than Rutford.