Ski Antarctica 2015
This blog post is in English for all our new freeski
friends around the globe!
extraordinary and unique to say the least. We got hooked on this trip a year
ago and the excitement has been building up till the day of our departure from
dark and wet Finland on November 4th 2015.
through Frankfurt and Buenos Aires in the afternoon of November 5th. To our
great satisfaction and surprise, also all of our gear arrived on the same
flight. We had taken couple of extra days prior to the embarkation to the
Antarctic just in case, but this time everything went just fine.
and do some skiing in the nearby mountains. The expedition started more or less
with a get together on the eve of the 6th and on the 7th our mountain guides
took the groups to the mountain, just to make sure that everyone has all needed
gear and they know how to use them.
and last minute gearing up. On the morning of November 8th we packed and
checked out the Hotel Albatros and finally at 3pm we boarded the ship Sea
Adventurer. Adventure begins!
Adventurer and Alla Tarasova), was built in 1975 in Yugoslavia and being class
1A ice enforced ship, it was stationed in Murmansk until the collapse of the
Soviet Union. It has been recently renovated and is sailing under the flag of
Bahamas. The ship is owned by a Canadian company called Quark Expeditions.
Quark is the leading tour operator of Arctic and Antarctic cruises and their
experience really shows.
crew. The crew consists of the hotel personnel, sailors and the expedition
team. The expedition team itself is really amazing bunch of expertise and
experience. We have marine biologists, ornithologists, geologist, historian,
medical staff etc. on board to keep us occupied and educated throughout the
trip with cool lectures and answering our questions about whales, penguins,
seals, ice, water and what not. They are also our Zodiac drivers taking us
ashore at the destination.
of IceAxe Expeditions which is specialized in taking people to very remote
places to ski around the world. This trip to Antarctica is the 8th of it’s
kind, but Doug has been on the continent like 17 times before. The company has
18 mountain guides from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Iceland, all over US
and one from Finland (Ode Siivonen). The experience among this bunch of guides
is just amazing. They have done some pretty awesome stuff along and before their
guiding careers. We are in good hands!
the whole boat has been chartered to us. So most of us are here to ski, but
some have brought along family members who will spend their days hiking, snow
shoeing and making Zodiac cruises while the most of us are on the mountains.
The conditions were fairly good and not too rough weather. As we are closing in
to Antarctica we get to see ice bergs, seals and even a pod of humpback whales.
All a long the crossing, the different albatrosses and petrels are flying
around the ship keeping us company. Life on board is pretty busy with either
eating or a presentation happening about every other hour. The presentations
that the Quark experts are giving us are really interesting about the Antarctica,
its history and nature.
introduced to the extreme environmental aspects. Our backpacks are vacuumed and
our ski boots are disinfected to make sure that we do not import anything to
the continent that does not belong there. Protecting the continent is top
priority and the tourism is under strict rules and is closely monitored under
the Antarctic treaty.
we reach the Southern Shetland islands on the North-West side of the Antarctic
Peninsula. Unfortunately also some rough weather has reached us and we need to
stay in a holding pattern in the Gerlach Strait until lunch, before we can
finally board the Zodiacs and get to go ashore. Our group is going to the
landing site Bravo for the first taste of Antarctica snow. Looks like we are
taking it off easily as the terrain is quite moderate for what we will have
ahead of us. Nice skin up and ski down before we call in the Zodiac to take us
the landing site Alfa. The slope is bit steeper and we have to turn back before
the summit as the weather is closing in and we are afraid of loosing
visibility. So we ski down in flat light, but Ode keeps us away from the crevasses.
We’ve done it, skied in Antarctica!
certainly make the most out of it. All groups are out really early in the
morning and we get to ski some really scenic slopes. We also visit a shipwreck
from the whaling days before we have to move on. We are making quite long
distances between the skiing objectives and anchor for the nights. The
expedition team gets up at sunrise, which is at 4am and the guides are sent ashore
to scout the landing sites around 6, if the weather permits. Our wakeup call on
the ship is usually at 7am and we head out just after breakfast between 8 and
9. Our skiing sessions last approximately 4 hours, so it is not like we are out
on the slopes all day. Good thing is that we have many skiing days.
day due to really bad weather. Winds exceeding 40knots in gusts and close to no
visibility with heavy snow. But it’s not like we remain on board all day. We
get ashore to visit an old research station at Port Lockroy. The station is no
longer occupied, but serves as a museum. Few weeks after our visit there will
be some museum staff arriving to manage the museum for the duration of season.
We get to visit the main building as the mountain guides dug the living
quarters out of snow. Actually the station is occupied. There is a penguin
colony right there around the buildings. Gentoo’s are all over the place and it
is really cool to just sit down in the snow and watch them go by and do their
stuff. Great experience.
our way we sail through Lemaire channel, which is really picturesque place. It
is a narrow channel with steep stonewalls rising right from the sea several
hundred meters tall. We are the first vessel through the channel this season
and we can see that there is clearly more ice and lots of ice bergs going
further south. We are getting closer to Ukrainian Vernadsky station which is
manned all year around but ice is stopping us. We spend the night anchored by
actually ski on the Antarctic peninsula, so we are doing it on the continent
itself. Other objectives are all on islands just off the peninsula. We ski up
to Mount Mill and make summit at 740m. The last stretch to the summit is really
steep and we get to do some true ski mountaineering bootbacking up with
crampons on and hanging on to the ice axe. Sweet!
smooth and very hard packed on the ice. Yep – all the skiing is on glaciers, so
we skin up and stay roped as long as we switch on to the skiing mode to make
down the hill. We see serious crevasses, but the skiing objectives has been
selected based on information from earlier trips and there is not that much
dodging we have to do. Amazingly no one drops in to a hole – thanks for the
guides for that!
making our way North again. We reach 65* 15″ degrees, and this is the
furthest in south we get. The crossing of the Antarctic circle is not possible
on this cruise, but maybe next time!
spectacular show. A family of 5 Orcas, a.k.a. Killer Whales swim past the ship
and we get to witness how these great creatures make their way towards the
penguin colonies of the Peninsula to feed.
Danco Island in a beautiful sunset.
full of snow and visibility near zero. But it only lasts through the morning
and we get ashore finally. And what is it that we find? Pure Antarctic powder
snow about foot deep. This is something that we did not anticipate at all and
we skin up the long hill giggling and excited about the first run down. Well,
actually the first descent is not that good, but later we get some really good
runs in the deep and soft snow. So much fun!
catch some more excitement in form of the polar plunge. Yes, we get to dip into
the Antarctic sea and yes, you bet it is cold water!
will end with the much awaited “White party of the white continent”.
Everyone has brought white costumes for the party and it’s “party on,
South Shetland Islands as we will start our voyage back across the Drake in the
evening. But before that we still get one day of skiing. We climb the steep and
crevassed mountain sides with great snow conditions. Also here it has been
snowing recently, so we get to do some good skiing in the fresh snow again. One
time we need to return back from a bootback hike due to increased possibility
of avalanche. This is actually the only time an avalanche is a concern. Few
good runs and we are ready to head back to the boat.
continent enjoying a beautiful sunset with some magnificent icebergs.
journey coming south. Eating, drinking, going through photos and videos and
enjoying the presentations. Eventually the weather conditions deteriorate
significantly and we get in the middle of hurricane class storm with wind
speeds up to 65 knots. On our second night we wake up at 1.30am having lots of
flying objects in our cabin. We have to secure all belongings and try to hold
on to the bunk.
banging on the ship with extreme winds. Captain needs to adjust the course just
to make the sailing bearable. Unfortunately this means that we will not have
the opportunity to see Cape Horn.
back to port Ushuaia. Once we are finally back on solid ground we see the
sister ship, Ocean endeavor, also a Quark ship. She has a huge hole on the port
side. It turns out that she had hit an iceberg by the Peninsula earlier that
week at 3.30am. It must have been scary as hell to hear the general alarm and
put on the life vest and go on deck in the middle of the night. Luckily she
made her way over the Drake safely, but it was a rude ending to that cruise. It
could have been us!
of way and during the next day. We are staying in Ushuaia for three days
enjoying the town and sights near by, like hiking in the Tierra del Fuego
everything we got to experience. It has been really a journey of a