**All photos in this article are from Ice Axe Expeditions’ 2017 Antarctica trip.
Powder & Sunshine.
It took less than 2-days to traverse the most notorious open ocean passage on Earth, the Drake Passage, to Antarctica.
Crossing the notorious Drake passage was moderate on the voyage down with 50-70 knot winds and some solid rocking and rolling. On the night of October 30th, winds got as high as 90 knots and it was a pretty darned rough.
The weather continued rough as we approached the South Shetland Islands. Big waves were exploding off the bow of the boat with such spectacular sprays that we were getting faceshots 50-feet up on the upper deck.
Conditions were too rough for skiing in the South Shetland Islands, so we continued on to the Antarctic Peninsula.
On the way down, we saw seals, whales, enormous amounts of birds including the largest flying bird on Earth, the enchanting Wandering Albatross. One day while were were visiting a penguin rookery, we saw a pod of 20 or so killer whales roll through the icebergs and give us an incredible show. One whale even swam straight at one of our inflatable boats and ducked underneath it at the last moment giving our clients and guides inside a unforgettable thrill.
This trip was by far the most fantastical ski trip I’ve been on in my life. Skiing great lines down to a smooth as silk ocean full of icebergs that dwarfed our 331-foot ship was simply surreal. The constant penguins, whales, seals, and birds only add to Antarctica’s already potent flourish.
Although I’d been on this trip twice before, for the first few days, the scenery just wouldn’t register in my brain. It all looked like a photograph, like a postcard, like somewhere I’d never get to go, like a hallucination. After 4 days of brilliant sunshine and sparkling icebergs, I began to fully understand exactly what I was taking in all around me all the time. Once I finally gained some perspective, I was able to fully drink this place in and it tasted wild.
Good skiing, penguins everywhere, daunting ice-cliffs, yawning crevasses, powder snow, corn snow, scorching sunshine, flipping icebergs, loud cracking icebergs, crystal clear water, seals, killer whales, fin whales, a 5 star floating hotel, amazing meals, a raucous Halloween party, and the Polar Plunge made this trip almost too much to reasonably mentally digest.
During our six days on the Antarctic continent, we skied 4 different islands, touched down on the Antarctic Peninsula 2 different times, and visited one research station.
2016 ANTARCTICA TRIP SKIING DETAILS:
***Note: Many other lines were skied and landing zones utilized on this trip. In the report below, I only outline the skiing and riding that myself and my clients experience.
Day 1: Charlotte Bay on Antarctic Peninsula & Cuverville Island
- My group skied 2 runs above Charlotte Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula itself. This was the one day on this trip where the weather wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t terrible either. Overcast skies, temps around 32ºF, no wind, lower visibility, fairy tale snow lazily falling down throughout the day.
- In the afternoon, the whole boat went over to the Cuverville Island Gentoo Penguin rookery and got to check out tons of penguins doing all sorts of hilarious things. While on Cuverville we saw a pod of Orcas sneak by. Some groups saw them up close including some extremely close encounters.
Day 2: Paradise Bay on Antarctic Peninsula
- We awoke to new snow on the deck and reports of 4-6″ of fresh powder on land. Our first run was straight up powder! Our second run was in the same zone and was another terrific powder run. Run #3 was from near start of Run #1, but better fall line and we took it all the way to the Chilean Base. This was a VERY cool run. I’ve never ever had a run like it. Satin silk pillow hummocks separated uniformly by about three feet that exploded on impact. Between the hummocks was the older, skied up snow that was stiff but soft and responsive. We ripped down at near full speed hooting and hollering all the way down whilst harvesting as much powder as humanly possible.
- Upon returning to the Chilean Base where we’d landed, I saw something that I thought was a strange wind line on the ocean. At second glance, I realized that it was a Penguin River. Thousands of Gentoo Penguins were lined up and flowing into the mini bay like a river. Once they arrived, they were hucking themselves up onto the snow and then parading all together over towards the buildings of the base. This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed. They were jumping up to 5-feet out of the water with ease and appeared to be levitating. Simply unreal to watch.
- After skiing, we cruised down the majestic Neumeyer Channel before slicing through the chute-like Lamaire Channel. The vistas in these regions are difficult to understand. Jagged peaks, heaving glaciers, gaping crevasses, glassy waters. Our journey ended when we encountered fast sea ice before the end of the Lemaire channel. Our captain allowed us to linger for bit before we began our journey north again, back to open waters.
- Weather started out challenging with low clouds, snow, low to no vis. Visibility improved as we climbed and filtered sunlight gave us great light and visibility. Temp was 0C at 6am. Moderate wind all day from the south. Stiff wind kept things cool and snow good and continually buffed out the snow. All day was filtered sunlight that rocked and was full on at times.
Day 3: Ronge Island
- To start the day, we climbed to the top of 2,111-foot peak in the middle of the island. Impressive views from the summit. Long, fun ski down through powder and some harder snow. We then traveled to the north side of the island where there was some incredibility stunning views combined with steep skiing, via a long corny, sunny run. We did two runs in this zone and it was a highlight of the trip. The views here were mind-bending… We just made the cut off time of being back on the ship by 6:30pm after having left the ship at 8am. Terrific day with lots of penguins. This day was clear, sunny, windy at times, dead still at times. Hot at times. Cold at times. Sun all day.
- Outdoor BBQ luau dinner was the ultimate aprés ski treat. Glüg wine, a whole BBQ pig, and all the fixin’s while staring at some of the most sublime scenery on Earth.
- The sunset this night was phenomenal. Long. Red. Full moon. Stunning.
Day 4: Nansen Island
- Gorgeous, sunny, hot corny day. Skinned to the summit of the island and skied down to the Shark’s Fin. From the Shark’s Fin down to a large valley. Climbed the valley up to a notch with terrific views back to our boat and some impossibly tall icebergs.
- After skiing we took a boat ride over to a shipwreck from 1915 at Enterprise island. Crystal clear water.
Day 5: Livingston Island
- 2-3″ of new snow on harder, smooth snow underneath – cloudy in the morning with clearing in the afternoon with some sun. We took a long skin to the top of main hill. Great ski back down to the water. Boat ride over to rugged south side of the island where we climbed a steep couloir with crampons and ice axes. Ski down was crazy fun with the snow getting softer and better the further down we skied.
- We headed over to Half Moon Island and the Chinstrap penguin rookery after skiing and saw some wildlife scenes straight out of the BBC’s Planet Earth series. We saw the legendary “Kevin” – the Macaroni Penguin who has been seen chilling in the middle of a Chinstrap penguin rookery each of the past 5 seasons. We also saw a Weddell seal pup nursing with his mom. We even saw two Giant Southern Petrels kill and eat an injured penguin. The whole scene at the Chinstrap rookery was intense and more fascinating than any wildlife show I’ve ever seen.
- Amazing day.
- Halloween party this night was rowdy and fun
Day 6: King George Island – Admiralty Bay
- This was the perfect way to wrap up a spectacular trip. Sunny, hot, not wind, up to 10ºC (50ºF). I started the day with a guide scouting mission to landing B and checking out a few humpback whales.
- We got permission to ski a non-glaciated zone that we’d never skied before. This made our travel fast and fun. No ropes were need here due to the lack of glaciated terrain. The snow was in excellent corn condition and the skiing was terrific. Wide open faces, chutes, and some very fun convoluted terrain marked the day. You could hear skiers and riders hooting all over. It was hot, fun in the sun spring skiing and everyone was in love with the day.
- Many groups saw leopard seals this day from the inflatable boats. We saw some crab easter seals on our boat ride. We saw lots of glacier calving this day – likely due to the heat.
I can’t express how incredible, intense, luxurious, and unique this trip is. Incredible views and skiing, in-your-face wildlife, ridiculous luxury anytime you’re in the ship, and a relentlessly unique experience . There is simply nothing like Antarctica. It truly is a world unto its own.
Ice Axe Expeditions will be cruising to Antarctica to ski again in November 2018. 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 100+ photos below tell the rest of the story.
Thanks to everyone.
Such an unreal trip…
ANTARCTICA PHOTO TOUR:
Hucking penguins. image: the crew