National Geographic : 1967 Jun
First Conquest of Antarctica's Highest Peaks By NICHOLAS B. CLINCH Photographsby members of the American Antarctic MountaineeringExpedition THE ANTARCTIC COLD stabbed viciously at our bodies, and what we saw dropped our ebbing confidence still lower. Mount Tyree loomed above us, a hulking summit that would demand respect from the most tested alpinist. Wind-blown snow that fogged its harsh face did little to mask the malice in jagged ridge spines and plunging cliffs. Beside me at 14,000 feet on the icy shoulder of Mount Gardner stood fellow mountaineers with long experience in the Himalayas, Europe, and our own Northwest and Alaska. Tyree, Antarctica's second highest peak, held us awestruck. We had already conquered Antarctica's highest mountain, nearby Vinson Massif. At 16,860 feet, Vinson overtopped Tyree by 570 feet. But compared to this, Vinson had been a Sunday stroll. The temperature was dropping. Twenty below. Twenty-five below. The sun in its endless circle around the sky had slipped behind the broad summit of Mount Gardner. Now eight of us waited 836 Atop the roof of Antarc tica, Peter Schoening and John Evans on December 18, 1966, unfurl flags of the United States and National Geographic Society on Vin son Massif's 16,860-foot summit. The Society, the National Science Founda tion, and the American Alpine Club-with the invaluable support of the U. S. Navy-made possible the ten-man expedition that climbed for the first time Antarctica's loftiest mountains. Flags of the 11 other Antarctic Treaty na tions ring the crest. From left: New Zealand, Austra lia, Japan, Norway, Bel gium, U.S.S.R., France, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, United Kingdom. OPPOSITE PAGE FOLDS OUT Invading a no man's land above the clouds, expedi tion leader Nicholas Clinch struggles to the crown of Vinson. Behind him the pyramidal tip of Mount Tyree appears to float in the sky. The author and his teammates became the first recipients of the Soci ety's new John Oliver La Gorce Medal (page 864). By profession a lawyer practicing in Los Angeles, Mr. Clinch at 36 stands in the forefront of American mountaineers. Prior to his Antarctic venture, he had led two U. S. expeditions to Kashmir for the first as cents of Masherbrum and Hidden Peak (Gasherbrum I). The latter at the time was the highest mountain ever climbed byAmericans.