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The 'Unlimited' Twin Peaks Expedition

The 'Unlimited' Twin Peaks Expedition

Apr 2015

The 'Unlimited' Twin Peaks Expedition, bagging peaks in the Arctic.

In a nutshell

Unlimited Twin Peaks Expedition – a first ascent of a 1860m high Antarctic peak, preceded by an ascent of Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica.

Category: Team, assisted.

Adventurer: Iain Buchan, 65.
Residence: Nottingham Road.
Birthplace: Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape.
Profession: Entrepreneur.
Previous big adventures: The Unlimited Child South Pole Expedition.

Adventurer: Zack Buchan, 37.
Residence: Durban.
Birthplace: Durban.
Profession: Entrepreneur, Business Strategy Advisor.
Previous big adventures: The Unlimited Child South Pole Expedition, The Unlimited Kitesurfing Expedition.

Adventurer: Barney Buchan, 35.
Residence: Durban.
Birthplace: Durban.
Profession: Head of a software development company.
Previous big adventures: The Unlimited Child South Pole Expedition.

Adventurer: Dr Peter Berning, 67.
Residence: Plettenberg Bay.
Birthplace: Cape Town.
Profession: Medical doctor.
Previous big adventures: Race to the North Pole; The Unlimited Child South Pole Expedition.

Adventurer: Ken Watt, 32.
Residence: Durban.
Birthplace: Durban.
Profession: Lawyer.
Previous big adventures: None.

Expedition: Summiting Mount Vinson (4 892m) and the first ascent of Mount Peace (1 860m).

Duration of expedition: 10 days, continuous.

Completion date of expedition: 9 January 2015.

Sponsors: The Unlimited.

Highlights: The privilege of being the first people to ever stand on the top of a virgin peak in Antarctica. We were climbing in freezing conditions (-25 degrees Celcius) and the adventure aspect was mind blowing as there was no designated route. We had to discover each section, make decisions, back track where necessary, and thrash out a route from nothing. This included scaling a 950m ice wall with a 40-degree slope on fixed ropes and each carrying 22kg. It was an amazing experience to summit both peaks, but the opportunity to do it as a family (with close friends) made it unforgettable.


We made the decision to return to Antarctica during our first expedition on the frozen continent when we trekked the final 111km to the South Pole. Antarctica draws you back. For our second expedition, we decided to take on the challenge of climbing Mount Vinson – the highest peak on the continent and the coldest and most remote of the Seven Summits – arguably Antarctica’s ultimate experience. (Iain Buchan)


To summit two peaks in Antarctica, Mount Vinson and an unclimbed peak in the Ellsworth Mountain range. 


The unique part of The Unlimited Twin Peaks Expedition was the climb of the second peak. While the mountain range has been photographed, due to its remoteness there are still unclimbed peaks there. As the land lies under permanent ice it is impossible to read the terrain from aerial photographs. So we had to make the route ourselves, doubling back when necessary and taking precautions for travelling in areas that were crevassed and prone to avalanches – the two biggest dangers that face mountaineers in Antarctica.


It took two years to plan the trip partly because of the short summer weather window in Antarctica. We also wanted to ensure we had the necessary preparation under our belts – which included summiting two 4000m plus peaks in Europe.


The greatest dangers were falling into crevasses and avalanches, so climbers were roped at all times. The cold was also a major challenge as the temperature seldom climbed above -20 degrees Celsius.

Back-up plan

The team was accompanied by two seasoned Antarctic guides at all times.
The team and the guides also had satellite phones with them so that in the case of an emergency they could make contact with the base camp at Union Glacier. 


The expedition was privately funded with additional sponsorship received from the naming sponsor, The Unlimited.


As well as photographic proof, the two guides can independently verify that the team reached the summit of both peaks.

Scariest moment

Approximately 40m from the summit of the previously unclimbed peak that we we named Mount Peace, we had to walk out on to a large section of blue ice at a slope of 60 degrees. It was so steep that only one or two crampon spikes were holding our weight. The guides went out ahead and secured the ropes, but the last three climbers all slipped and fell. Thankfully it was okay because they were secured with taut ropes and the rest of the team were able to bring them back up to safety. (Iain Buchan)

What was the biggest lesson

That you have to be purposeful and meticulous. Antarctica has claimed lives, but if you don’t take risks, it is (relatively) safe.

Any amazing person that you met on the trip

We met the most remarkable people on our trip including a mother-daughter team who had climbed all Seven Summits and a man who went blind on Everest – along with the Sherpa who guided him down.




Adventurer 2015