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The Far Side - Exploring the Larson Valley

The Far Side - New routes and fine skiing in the Larson Valley and beyond

It's no secret why our Climb Antarctica and Ski Antarctica Experiences have grown hugely in popularity since ANI's move to Union Glacier. The surrounding mountains, glaciers and valleys offer a playground of new territory and unclimbed routes, as can be seen from recent trip reports.

Nick Lewis, ANI Owner and Mountain Operations Manager, told us, "The eastern part of the Heritage Range is an area that promises to open up new options for exploration. I spent hours poring over maps and aerial photographs during the off-season, studying the area around the Larson Valley, on ‘the far side’ of Mount Sporli."

Then in December 2013, Nick along with Rob Smith, ANI Senior Guide and Travel Safety Manager, headed off to check out the area. They were not disappointed by what they found.

The first challenge was to find a route over the col at the head of the Larson Valley. Once that was achieved, the duo had access the eastern side of Mount Sporli. They established a new route up the south summit (first climbed by Ralf Laier’s team in 2011), descended back to their skis, then made the first ascent of the previously unclimbed north summit of Mount Sporli by a beautiful mixed ridge of rock and ice.

In the following days, Nick and Rob made a thorough exploration of the ‘Larson Ridge’ – the line of moderate summits bordering the northern edge of the valley. They climbed and skied a line on the south face of the easternmost summit, then skied into the Rennell Glacier, onto Inferno Ridge and then back to the westernmost summit of the Larson Ridge. From there, the duo skied a steep but very elegant line on the south face, snaking between crevasses and seracs. South faces tend to hold some of the best snow in the Antarctic and this one was glorious, with a few inches of powder over a nice firm base. They saw that the very wide face of Larson Ridge holds a lot of potential for more first ascents and descents.

“We were really impressed by the potential of the area" said Nick. "This corner of the Heritage Range has something for every kind of mountain traveler, from novice climbers wanting to develop their skills. to experienced ski-mountaineers looking for adventure."

A week later, after an exploration of the Flanagan Glacier on the eastern side of the Rennell, Nick and Rob, along with Simon Abrahams, one of ANI’s IFMGA Guides and Rob’s fellow Travel Safety Manager, made the first recorded ascent of a new route on the north face of Mhire Spur. Summiting around midnight, the trio were stunned by the views on offer – Vinson, Sporli, Union Glacier and the Soholt Peaks dominated the horizon, with dramatic peaks and glaciers in all directions.

In Nick's words, “The long shadows and golden light on the top of Mhire Spur were breathtaking. Despite more than 60 years of Antarctic experience between us, we all agreed that 'it doesn't get any better than this!."

Climb Antarctica Trip Reports:

History Repeating
Ed and Lydia Litton's Climb Antarctica/Mount Vinson Trip Report

The Heritage of Discovery

Photos from Flickr:
Panorama of the Larson Valley
Nick Lewis on South Summit of Sporli
Sporli's fairytale south summit, showing the tracks of the second ascent
Rob Smith and Nick Lewis on Sporli's South Summit, after its second ascent
Nick Lewis radioing Union Glacier Camp from the south summit of Sporli
Looking toward the south summit of Sporli and Union Glacier beyond
South Summit of Mount Sporli and Union Glacier in distance
Crenellated ridge on north side of Sporli
Looking out from Mount Sporli
Nick Lewis on the first ascent of Sporli's north summit
Nick Lewis on the first ascent of Sporli's north summit
View from Sporli's north summit towards Larson Valley, Rennell Glacier and Vinson
Vinson Massif with the peaks of the Rennell Glacier in the foreground
Nick Lewis on the north summit of Mount Sporli after its first ascent
Rob Smith in front of 'West Pyramid' in the Larson Valley
Larson Valley panorama
Rob Smith approaching the summit of Mhire Spur with Mount Sporli in the background
View from summit of Mhire Spur towards the Larson Valley, Rennell Glacier and Mount Vinson in the distance
View of Mount Sporli from the summit of Mhire Spur
Panorama from the summit of Mhire Spur showing Mount Sporli and Union Glacier