Trip Report: Skiing the Antarctic Peninsula w/ Ice Axe Expeditions

Miles Clark |
Brabant Isle, Antarctica.
Brabant Isle, Antarctica.  Nov 9th, 2014.

On November 9th, 2014, I set ski boot on the continent of Antarctica for the first time in my life.  Within 5 minutes of being on land, a monstrous (about the size of 3 houses) iceberg began to moan, crack, and then flip over less than 100 yards away from where we stood.  Within 6 minutes of being in Antarctica, I found myself running uphill, away from the ocean to avoid a potentially huge wave that the flipping iceberg threatened to send our way.  Welcome to Antarctica rookie…

Lazy fighting Gentoo Penguins. Antarctica.
Lazy fighting Gentoo Penguins. Antarctica. photo: the crew

93 skiing clients and 24 mountain guides set sail in the 331-foot Sea Adventurer from Ushuaia, Argentina (furthest south city on Earth) for the Antarctic Peninsula with Ice Axe Expeditions on November 6th, 2014.  It took 2 days to traverse 600-miles of open ocean in the notorious Drake Passage.

Charles tearing up the lower slopes of Mt. Victoria, Brabant Isle, Antarctica. photo: snowbrains.com
Charles tearing up the lower slopes of Mt. Victoria, Brabant Isle, Antarctica. photo: snowbrains.com

The Drake crossing was uneventful on the way down and Beaufort force 12 (50-foot seas and 100+mph sustained winds) on the way home.  The ride home across the Drake was rough and unforgettable.  Hundreds of bird followed us as we crossed the Drake each way including the largest wingspan bird on Earth (11ft, 6in), the mighty Wandering Albatross.

We encountered a group of around 60 humpback whales on our 2nd day of the Drake on our way to Antarctica.  The captain stopped the ship and the whales paraded around the boat for 15 minutes.  “Unreal”.

Humpback Whales in the Drake Passage. photo: Juha Virolainen
Humpback Whales in the Drake Passage.  We saw about 60 of these guys in a big group on the way down.  The white/blue in the water is the white flipper. photo: Juha Virolainen

This ski trip to Antarctica was by far the most interesting trip of my life.  Skiing great lines down to an ocean full icebergs that dwarfed our 331-foot ship was surreal.  For the entire first day, the scenery just wouldn’t register in my brain.  It all looked like a photograph – like a dream.  It took a couple of days to fully understand exactly what I was taking in all around me.  When I finally gained some true perspective, I was able to fully drink it in and it tasted wild.

Climbing up an unnamed peak on King George Isle on our last ski day, Nov. 14th, 2014.
Climbing up an unnamed peak with crampons on King George Isle on our last ski day, Nov. 14th, 2014.

Good skiing, penguins everywhere, daunting ice-cliffs, yawning crevasses, powder snow, flipping icebergs, copious whales, crystal clear water, leopard seals, a 5 star floating hotel, amazing meals, a vicious Black and White party, and the Polar Plunge made this trip almost too fun to psychologically digest.

Gorgeous Iceberg in Antarctica's Chiriguano Bay, Brabant Isle. photo: Ariana Snowdon
Gorgeous Iceberg in Antarctica’s Chiriguano Bay, Brabant Isle. photo: Ariana Snowdon

In our six days on the Antarctic continent, we skied 5 islands and touched down on the Antarctic Peninsula itself.  Skiing conditions were spring-like the first day, crunchy the second, chalky the third, then full on Powder on the 4th and 5th day.

Gerlache Straight, Antarctica. Sunset.
Gerlache Straight, Antarctica. Sunset. Nov. 9th, 2014.  photo:  the crew

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2014 ANTARCTICA TRIP SKIING DETAILS:

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Brabant Isle's Chiriguano Bay. Red circles = landings/pick ups. Red arrows = lines skied. Google doesn't have good imagery here...
Brabant Isle’s Chiriguano Bay. Red circles = landings/pick ups. Red arrows = lines skied. Google doesn’t have good imagery here…  The farm on the right, Mt. Victoria on the left.

Day 1:  Chiriguano Bay – Brabant Isle

  • 2 runs in the “Farm,” then crossed the bay on a Zodiac and skied off the shoulder of Mt. Victoria.  Mt. Victoria held good scratchy skiing off the shoulder then this terrific triple rollover, perfect corn covered terrain right to the beach.  Sunny, windless, perfect weather.  About 35ºF all day.
Damoy Point. Hut located on Bay. Red circle = landing/pick up. Red arrow = line skied.
Damoy Point. Hut located on Bay. Red circle = landing/pick up. Red arrow = line skied.  Mt. Jabbot.

Day 2:  Damoy Point – Wiencke Isle

  • 1 long run off Jabbot Peak.  Many Gentoo Penguins, visited the British Antarctic Survey’s Damoy Hut.  Stormy, snowing, very windy weather.  About 32ºF all day.
Paradise harbor with Lamaire Isle to the left and the Antarctic Peninsula to the right.
Paradise harbor with Lemaire Isle to the left and the Antarctic Peninsula to the right.

Day 3:  Paradise Harbor – Antarctica and Lemaire Isle

  • 1 windy, scratchy run on the peninsula, then 2 great, steep, powdery runs on Lemaire Isle’s Mt. Rojas.  Great skiing on Lemaire.  Snowing, windy, blowing snow.  About 32ºF all day.
Half Moon Isle floating above Livingston Isle. Red circle = landing/pick up. Red arrows = lines skied.
Half Moon Isle floating above Livingston Isle. Red circle = landing/pick up. Red arrows = lines skied.

Day 4:  Half Moon Bay – Livingston Isle

  • 1 great powder run down an open slope.  1 long sweeping powder run down another long slope with an enormous and open crevasse at the top.  1 ridiculous powder run down a steep face with a spicy crevasse crossing.  Last run was a pure powder run – woulda been a great pow run anywhere.  Snowing, not too windy, cloudy weather.  About 32ºF all day.
Half Moon Isle floating above Livingston Isle. Red circle = landing/pick up. Red arrows = lines skied.
Half Moon Isle floating above Livingston Isle. Red circle = landing/pick up. Red arrows = lines skied.

Day 5:  Admiralty Bay – King George Isle

  • 1 crampon/ice axe summit with splendiferous views and a long winding powder run down to a wide open glacier.  1 more great powder run down a steep peak with a long run out right to the beach for pick up.  This was our last run of the trip and it was a memorable one.  Snowy, sunny, quickly changing weather.  About 32ºF all day.
Guide Dan Starr ripping perfect corn in on Brabant Isle, Antarctica on Nov. 9th, 2014.
Guide Dan Starr ripping perfect corn in on Brabant Isle, Antarctica on Nov. 9th, 2014.

CONCLUSION:

I can’t express how incredible, intense, luxurious, and unique this trip was.  Incredible views and skiing, intense wildlife, luxurious anytime you were in the ship (except in the Drake Passage and during the Black and White party), and a relentlessly unique experience (I had to keep a log of all the “firsts” that I experienced on this trip).  There is simply nothing like Antarctica.  It truly is a world unto it’s own.

Adelie Penguin and whale bones.
Adelie Penguin and whale bones on King George Isle.  photo:  the crew

Ice Axe Expeditions will be cruising to Antarctica to ski again in November 2015.  I’ve been invited to guide the trip again and I’d love to share this experience with you and yours.

If interested, please email me here for the ski trip of a lifetime:

Contact@SnowBrains.com

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There’s really nothing more that I can convey to you in words about this place.  I’ll let the 60 photos below tell the rest of the story.  Many of the photos below are from our great clients.  Thanks to everyone.

ANTARCTICA PHOTO TOUR:

Force 12 Drake Passage madness on the way home. Big spray. photo: Ode Siivonen
Force 12 Drake Passage madness on the way home. Big spray. photo: Ode Siivonen
Todd AwfulFocker leading a team to the summit in Antarctica.
Todd AwfulFocker leading a team to the summit in Antarctica.
Getting loose at the Black and White Party onboard the Sea Adventurer.
Getting loose at the Black and White Party onboard the Sea Adventurer.
Skiing steep pow on Livingston Isle. photo: Juha Virolainen
Skiing steep pow on Livingston Isle. photo: Juha Virolainen
The most intense rainbow I've ever seen. Beagle Channel, Argentina/Chile. photo: snowbrains.com
The most intense rainbow I’ve ever seen. Beagle Channel, Argentina/Chile. photo: snowbrains.com
Mountain guide Per Ås hucking his meat from the 4th Deck into 32ºF waters off King George Isle.
Mountain guide Per Ås hucking his meat from the 4th Deck into 32ºF waters off King George Isle.  photo:  Forrest McCarthy
Ice Breaking in Sunset in Gerlache Straight, Antarctica in Fip-Flops. photo: snowbrains
Sunset in Gerlache Straight, Antarctica in Fip-Flops. photo: snowbrains
Down climbing an unnamed peak on King George Isle on November 14th, 2014.
Down climbing an unnamed peak on King George Isle on November 14th, 2014.
Leopard Seal + Teeth. photo: Arian Snowdon
Leopard Seal + Teeth. photo: Arian Snowdon
Climb on. Antarctica.
Climb on. Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Chinstrap Penguin in Antarctica.
Chinstrap Penguin in Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Our Antarcitca guides know what's important. 10,000 year old Glacier ice freshly harvest for whiskey drinking.
Our Antarcitca guides know what’s important. 10,000 year old Glacier ice freshly harvest for whiskey drinking.  photo:  the crew
Gerlach Straight after the Day 1 of skiing on Nov. 9th, 2014.
Gerlach Straight sunset it perfectly glassy waters after the Day 1 of skiing on Nov. 9th, 2014.  photo:  snowbrains.com
32ºF water is cold, according to Eric's face.
32ºF water is cold, according to Eric’s face.  photo:  the crew
Gentoo Penguins patrying.
Gentoo Penguins patrying.  photo:  the crew
Gerlach Straight after the Day 1 of skiing on Nov. 9th, 2014.
Gerlache Straight after the Day 1 of skiing on Nov. 9th, 2014.  photo:  snowbrains.com
Weddell Seal. photo: Mike Libecki
Weddell Seal. photo: Mike Libecki
My excellent clients on Brabant Isle, Antarctica on Day 1 of skiing, Nov. 9th, 2014.
My excellent clients on Brabant Isle, Antarctica on Day 1 of skiing, Nov. 9th, 2014.  photo:  snowbrains.com
Ice Breaking in Sunset in Gerlache Straight, Antarctica in Fip-Flops. photo: snowbrains
Ice Breaking in Sunset in Gerlache Straight, Antarctica in Fip-Flops. photo: snowbrains
Humpback Whales in the Drake Passage. photo: Juha Virolainen
Humpback Whales in the Drake Passage. photo: Juha Virolainen
Guide Doug Workman focusing on staying dry on the Zodiac ride.
Guide Doug Workman focusing on staying dry on the Zodiac ride.  photo:  the crew
Whale bones on Chiriguano Bay on Brabant Isle, Antarctica, Nov. 9th, 2014.
WhatWhale bones on Chiriguano Bay on Brabant Isle, Antarctica, Nov. 9th, 2014.  photo:  Forrest McCarthy
Iceberg revealing blue in Antarctica.
Iceberg revealing blue in Antarctica.  photo: the crew
Weddell yawn in Antarctica.
Weddell yawn in Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Blue iceberg in Antarctica.
Blue iceberg in Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Working for some steep turns in Antarctica.
Working for some steep turns in Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Dance Party at the Black and White Party onboard the Sea Adventurer.
Dance Party at the Black and White Party onboard the Sea Adventurer.  photo:  the crew
Weddel Seals and the Sea Adventurer.
Weddel Seals and the Sea Adventurer.  photo:  the crew
Adelie Penguins jumping from ice block to ice block on King George Isle.
Adelie Penguins jumping from ice block to ice block on King George Isle.  photo:  the crew
Skiing in Antarctica. photo: the crew
Skiing in Antarctica. photo: the crew
Seth Morrison holding a rainbow in the Beagle Channel on our first day of the cruise on November 6th, 2014.
Seth Morrison holding a rainbow in the Beagle Channel on our first day of the cruise on November 6th, 2014.  photo:  david rosenberger
Gorgeous ski terrain in Antarctica.
Gorgeous ski terrain in Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Getting loose at the Black and White Party onboard the Sea Adventurer.
Getting loose at the Black and White Party onboard the Sea Adventurer.  photo:  the crew
Stellar cupped blue ice in Antarctica. photo: Ariana SnowdonStellar cupped blue ice in Antarctica. photo: Ariana Snowdon
Stellar cupped blue ice in Antarctica. photo: Ariana SnowdonStellar cupped blue ice in Antarctica. photo: Ariana Snowdon
Glacier ice and whiskey. The living onboard the Sea Adventurer ain't so rough...
10,000 year old Glacier ice and whiskey. The living onboard the Sea Adventurer ain’t so rough…  photo:  snowbrains.com
Slow for penguins! Not a normal thing to say in skiing, unless you're in Antarctica. photo: Juha Virolainen
Slow for penguins! Not a normal thing to say in skiing, unless you’re in Antarctica. photo: Juha Virolainen
The Sea Adventurer proving she's an ice breaker in Gerlache Straight, Antarctica.
The Sea Adventurer proving she’s an ice breaker in Gerlache Straight, Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Esa and seals in Chiriguano Bay on Brabant Isle, Antarctica, Nov. 9th, 2014.
Esa and seals in Chiriguano Bay on Brabant Isle, Antarctica, Nov. 9th, 2014.  photo:  esa
Chiriguano Bay on Brabant Isle, Antarctica, Nov. 9th, 2014.
Chiriguano Bay on Brabant Isle, Antarctica, Nov. 9th, 2014.  photo:  the crew
Miles and clients claiming it in Antarctica. These Zodiacs are how we got around.
Miles and clients claiming it in Antarctica. These Zodiacs are how we got around.  photo:  the crew
Mamood getting comfy on a snow day onboard the Sea Adventurer.
Mamood getting comfy on a snow day onboard the Sea Adventurer.  photo:  snowbrains.com
Gentoo Penguin in Antarctica.
Gentoo Penguin in Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Biggest gear pile I've ever seen. Over 100 skis in there. Ushuaia, Argentina.
Biggest gear pile I’ve ever seen. Over 100 skis in there. Ushuaia, Argentina.  photo:  the crew
Humpback Whales in the Drake Passage. photo: Juha Virolainen
Humpback Whales in the Drake Passage. photo: Juha Virolainen
Stunning double rainbow in the Beagle Channel on our way to Antarctica.
Stunning double rainbow in the Beagle Channel on our way to Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
A fuzzy shot of our 6 days in Antarctica.
A fuzzy shot of our 6 days in Antarctica.  photo:  snowbrains.com
Sunset in Gerlache Straight, Antarctica.
Sunset in Gerlache Straight, Antarctica.  photo:  snowbrains.com
Guide Jules Hanna and the Gerlache Striaght, Antarctica. photo: snowbrains.com
Guide Jules Hanna and the Gerlache Striaght, Antarctica. photo: snowbrains.com
Adelie Penguin and lighthouse on King George Isle, Antarctica.
Adelie Penguin and lighthouse on King George Isle, Antarctica.  photo:  snowbrains.com
Weddell Seal, Antarctica.
Crabeater Seal, Antarctica.  photo:  the crew
Rainbow. Beagle Channel, Argentina/Chile. photo: snowbrains.com
Rainbow and sailboat. Beagle Channel, Argentina/Chile. photo: snowbrains.com

17 thoughts on “Trip Report: Skiing the Antarctic Peninsula w/ Ice Axe Expeditions

  1. So great to see this photos. Went a couple years ago. Once on the boat, I don’t think I realized it would come to end. I just wanted to keep sailing and skiing with all these cool people. The wildlife, the skiing and the people…such a special trip. We got a Drake’s Crossing Huricane too- total blast! Boom!

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  2. Hey Miles thanks for sharing. This looks like the trip of a lifetime. I’m looking forward to seeing what Snowbrains puts out there this season and I hope this place blows up in a good way. You guys put out great content and deserve the recognition!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words and support, Grant. Much appreciated. We’re just hoping it’s a big snow year for North America. C’mon winter!

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  3. Shit Howdy!

    Exotic, ethereal, enchanting.

    You’ve been around the world skiing and surfing, but nothing of this stature.

    Impressive!

    MB

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  4. Great write up Miles. It was indeed a superb trip and I feel lucky to have been part of it. It was great meeting everybody and what great photos.

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  5. Miles, thank you for your wonderful trip report, it truly reflects everything we experienced. I am still in awe of all the wonderful sites we visited and the fact that we skied in this totally surreal landscape.
    See you in Tahoe, Rike

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  6. Thanks, Miles for a great trip report with some fabulous pics! Antarctica was truly a surreal place to ski. I hope our paths cross again before too much time passes!

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    1. Robbie, it was great hanging out with you in such an incredible place. I’m sure our paths will cross again soon. Come out to Tahoe sometime.

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