Trip Report: Skiing the Antarctic Peninsula w/ Ice Axe Expeditions
Miles Clark |
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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…
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
2014 ANTARCTICA TRIP SKIING DETAILS:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.