Weekend Warm-Up: Katabatic

Freddie Wilkinson hauls his sled across an icy surface polished by katabatic winds. Photo: Cory Richards

When you think of Antarctica, a lonely traveler inching across an ocean of ice with a heavy sled may be the first image that springs to mind. But the vast continent is also home to the largest number of unclimbed peaks on earth. Mountaineers have been trying their luck on virgin ground down south for decades, including legendary names such as Messner and Bonatti.

In 2012, National Geographic sent four American climbers off to a remote and untouched mountain range. Flying into the Russian base of Novolazarevskaya in the north part of the continent, Mike Libecki, Cory Richards, Freddie Wilkinson and Keith Ladzinski headed for a cluster of granite towers in a previously unclimbed eastern part of the Wohlthat Mountains in Queen Maud Land.

Held back at the Russian base by poor weather, they, of course, had to indulge in that most time-honored Russian tradition of quaffing several shots of the local moonshine. When the weather broke, they were flown out to the edge of the range and left at the mercy of one of the “last mountain frontiers on terrestrial earth.”

They were skiing around the spires to scout out possible climbs when the katabatic winds that often rage across the continent pounded them and their base camp, and forced them to fight to save their expedition.

Watch the video at the link below to find out if the winds got the better of them or not…

KATABATIC: Exploring Antarctica’s Unclimbed Peaks

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK specialising in adventurous travel and expeditions, such as mountaineering, polar travel, and ocean crossings. Ash juggles a day job as a public health scientist with this second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, national and international outdoor and adventure magazines, and various websites. Bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

Alongside writing, Ash also spends some time undertaking his own adventures, and completed a 640 km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in 2018. His next arctic journey is a 700 km trek along the coast of Baffin Island in Canada.

Read more at www.ashrouten.com

Leave a Reply

5 Comments on "Weekend Warm-Up: Katabatic"

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Very cool!! So totally isolated. Beautiful suffer fest.


Luckiest guy on the planet!!!

Daniel J Herrera

WOW!! Hats off to them!! They are exploring untouched region for the first time by modern man.


Great pic by Cory Richards of the “katabatic” scalloped surface of Antarctica. After several web dives, I’ve somewhat learned what “katabatic” means, and look forward to using it in a sentence. Thanks Ash, for making geography relevant to attitude, altitude, and expedition results!


Just Checking. Good word: “katabatic.”