Christoph Höbenreich describes his expedition to New Swabia - a mountain region in East Antarctica that is still little known among mountaineers and claimed by the Norwegians as Dronning Maud Land - as "heaven and hell at the same time". Together with his partner Rupert Heim, the experienced mountain und polar guide spent three weeks in this bizarre mountain world!
The unknown dreamland of New Swabia.
The Wohlthat Mountains in New Swabia were discovered by the German Antarctic Expedition in 1938/39 and are now visited by various nations mainly for scientific purposes. Among mountain and ski enthusiasts the remote region is (yet) hardly known. Away from the consciousness of most adventurers, this area seems almost extraterrestrial - especially the blue fields and rock towers rising hundreds of meters above sea level make New Swabia a very special place. "You probably can't get any closer to exploring another planet," says Höbenreich. In January 2023, the Tyrolean, always driven by curiosity, started the expedition together with his partner into one of the most exciting mountain landscapes on our planet.
Two men, 150 km, 5 first ascents.
For Höbenreich, this was already the 15th expedition to Antarctica and the 6th to New Swabia. The goal: to explore mountains and glaciers under their own power, to find a new route through the Humboldt and Petermann Mountains and to ascend some peaks of mountains and nunataks for the first time.
In total, the two spent three weeks on skis in Antarctica and faced the challenges that the coldest, driest and windiest continent on earth had in store for them: From gorgeous weather to severe, catabatic polar storms of over 100 km/h. Hidden crevasses and the danger of frostbite, snow blindness and fire in the tent required constant attention and caution. The remote landscape, the vastness and the indescribable beauty of the untouched wilderness, on the other hand, brought unforgettable memories.
"The peace, the silence and the solitude, but also the incredible remoteness gave me some of the most precious moments and experiences," says Höbenreich. "We covered about 150 km in a mountain range in New Swabia that is yet hardly known and partly never visited by humans, explored impressive landscapes and climbed several peaks for the first time. We climbed into gigantic wind gullies that were several kilometres long and hundreds of metres high or deep. The largest wind gullies on earth! We crossed blue ice glaciers swept bare by the katabatic polar storms, which would easily fill the "Inntal". Actually, almost every day offered a highlight. But if I had to pick my personally most outstanding one: the first ascent of two peaks of a high mountain massif in the central Humboldt Mountains, which I named "Nanukspitze" and "Denalispitze"."
The most adverse conditions require the best material.
Know-how, strong nerves, good preparation, experience and appropriate equipment ensure survival in these remote border regions of the earth. "In Antarctica, you obviously need several pairs of gloves - from thin fleece gloves to robust work gloves to thickly insulated finger gloves and mittens. The Zanier gloves, designed for alpine winter use, have also proven themselves very well in Antarctica, like the Wildspitze," says Höbenreich.
Known as a favorite for years, WILDSPITZE.TW not only convinces members of the Austrian Mountain Rescue with functionality and robustness. Cold-resistant thanks to TIROLWOOL® insulation, the MERINO lining keeps hands warm and dry even in particularly sweaty situations. Comfort and stability thanks to goatskin and 4-way-stretch FLEX. HOOK loop for easy stowage on the backpack.buy now!
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Paradoxical signs of climate change.
"A visible sign of recent climate change and the rise in global temperatures in recent decades is the sometimes dramatic decline in snow and ice cover in parts of the polar regions, especially in the Arctic. The only exceptions are probably the high polar, dry zones of the Antarctic continent and especially the inner high plateau of East Antarctica, by far the largest ice surface on Earth," Höbenreich reports in Polar Journal.
"When comparing the mountain ranges of New Swabia today with the aerial photographs of the German Antarctic Expedition 1938/39, I was fortunately NOT able to detect any striking changes that would suggest a decrease in ice cover here. On the contrary! Paradoxically, East Antarctica has been cooling for many years. Even with a climate-induced temperature increase, we would rather expect an increase in snowfall, which is supported by individual indications in the southern part of the mountain range. Therefore, we don't yet have to fear that the high mountains and glaciers of New Swabia will lose their magic and beauty as quickly as is unfortunately happening to glaciers and high mountains in many other parts of the world."
Expeditions in the mountains, and especially in Antarctica, always bring challenges. But "Only those who leave their comfort zone can push their limits and gain new experiences. And that's where the magic happens!" - Höbenreich.
Photocredits: Christoph Höbenreich | Product photos: Spice