Satellite-altimeter data over ice sheets provide the best tool for mapping their topography and its possible climatic variations. However, these data are affected by measurement errors, orbit errors, and slope errors. We develop here a three-step inversion technique which accommodates the a priori information on the expected topography and correctly handles and propagates the data errors: it estimates first a large-scale reference surface, then maps the residuals related to undulations, and finally iteratively corrects the slope error. The method is tested on overlapping small fragments of the Antarctic ice sheet, using a sub-set of Seasat data. Finally, a topographic map of Terre Adélie is produced. Over areas of small slopes, the a posteriori error should be of the order of 0.4 m. Using ERS-I data, it is therefore expected that climatic variations in the ice-sheet topography since the introduction of Seasat will be observable.