Ski Antarctica 2013

A trip comprising sailing a 60 foot yacht down the Beagle Channel, across the Drake Passage and to the peninsular of Antarctica for ski mountaineering. Making land fall where either good anchorages allowed us to set up a base, or being dropped off by zodiac and dragging provisions for a few days for a camp and a ski ascent of our objectives.

We climbed 4 peaks, 3 being first ascents, one first British, first ascent of a couloir Scottish grade 3 and a failed (but valiant) attempt on a big peak. We had sea kayaks and took a couple of trips in the cold but clear sea. Brushing past towering icebergs in a kayak is something else. As were the whales. Three humpbacks circled out boat on the outward passage, and 10 on the way home. Utterly incredible. They came so close we were covered in their exhaust plumes when they surfaced within 6 feet of the boat and penguins by the thousand, all un-phased by our presence. Awesome.

The sailing across the Drake was something else. I didn’t think I would ever set foot on a yacht again. But I do. The experience is overwhelming. We landed on Cape Horn on the way back as if the trip hadn’t been spectacular enough before. And when we made the small port of Puerto Williams in Chile, we partied until 6 in the morning.

There were 9 of us. Matt and Megan (skipper and Mate). Phil the guy who put it together, Sean from the US, Matt from New Zealand and I were the ski mountaineers. Talat was a brain surgeon from Turkey, who along with Barry and Sue, two retired Brits, were there for the sailing.

Yachts leave Ushuaia in Argentina each season to sail to Antarctica on charters. Phil in the Alpine Club has been doing the ski trips for a few years now and the whole experience was slick, cool and totally absorbing. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And next? Possibly South Georgia and do the Shackleton Traverse. Why not.

Glenn Wilks

The full version & photos will appear in the next newsletter 

First Ascents in Greenland, 2013

John Starbuck was in Greenland in Spring 2013. A chartered flight took him and fellow expeditioners to the East coast of Greenland where, in the past, the flight would have then taken the expedition members into the interior mountains.  However, due to increases in flight safety margins, this has become inordinately expensive so a new alternative of using snowmobiles from the coastal airstrip was tried.  This meant going about 3 months earlier than normal to be sure of the sea being frozen and enough snow cover on the tundra.

The snowmobiles were pushed to their logistical fuel limits with a 12 hour snowmobile journey across Jameson Land to the foot of the Oxford glacier, which was to be ascended by the snowmobiles in about 15 minutes to establish a base camp at about 1000m.  However, the snow was "bottomless" waist deep powder residing around huge boulders and too difficult for the snowmobiles to handle. So the valley and glacier were, instead, ascended on skis, towing pulks, to establish a base camp.  Conditions were extremely cold and waist deep powder snow made the going very arduous, including rope and pulley hauling the pulks up the 45 degree glacier snout.  All of this took 5 days instead of 15 minutes!

Very high avalanche risk conditions prevailed above the base camp, seriously curtailing climbing opportunities. A couple of technically easy first ascents were made, mainly on skis and then the last few hundred feet floundering up waist deep powder snow.

A fellow expedition member took some video footage and has compiled two youtube postings (the skis trails don't look very deep but, step off the skis and you went in full leg depth); the first covers mainly the flight and snowmobile journeys and the second covers getting to, around and above the base camp:-  and

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