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Skiing the Frozen Continent of Antarctica: Part 4 (Land Ho!) | 02/15/2010, by BrennanLagasse
In Part 1 of "Skiing the Frozen Continent of Antarctica", Dark Star gets the opportunity of a lifetime to go backcountry skiing in Antarctica. Part 2 (The Martial Glacier) picks up with a ski report from his first turns of the trip in Ushuaia, Argentina. Part 3 (The Drake Passage) details his adventure heading South.
Today was going to be a monumental day, I knew it. I woke up to the Quark staff leader over the intercom saying, "Good Morning Everybody. It's an absolutely gorgeous day in Antarctica, and you should probably bundle up and head outside to take a look". Throwing clothes on and grabbing my camera I jumped on deck to lay sight on what I had dreamed that I would be able to see at some point in my life; Antarctica. It was more than I could ever describe in words.
Icebergs were floating all around us, some as large as multi-story buildings. Off in the distance there was a penguin rookery, evidenced by the dark marking on the snow and the thousands of small black creatures moving about.
The mountains, were, unreal. Really, at least compared to anything I've ever seen including Alaska and the Himalaya, they were entirely unique and jetting right out from the ocean shore into classic peaks. There were more glaciated features than I had ever seen and as I concentrated my gaze and took a closure look with binoculars I noticed there was hardly a line where there wasn't an obvious huge crevasse. Clearly, it was game on!
My pack was already packed and I knew I only needed a couple of minutes to get fully ready to go. We had to wait for the zodiacs to be dropped from the ships' crane into the water, and for the scouting teams to head out to inspect where groups would hopefully be dropped of to ski. Momentarily I lost myself watching a flock of penguins swim through the water just as dolphins do before I heard that my group was going to be the first out to ski and I should be ready in twenty minutes.
Packed and ready, I walked the hallway, turned my key at the peg board which signified I would be off the ship, and helped load our zodiac. I hoped in, and just like that Tom Day got out his camera, Keoki Flagg got out his, and we buzzed away as seemingly everyone aboard the ship watched us cheering as loud as they possibly could. The feeling was massive.
We cruised past some icebergs and slowly made our way towards shore. It was a pretty cool feeling to step off the zodiac onto my 7th continent and I almost caved into the overwhelmingly feelings of bliss I was having before remembering how I got to be a part of this and snapped back into it to get to work. The filmers set up a few shots right away as the sky was almost completely bluebird and they wanted to take advantage of this potentially rare opportunity to get good footage. For those of us that aren't normally a part of this aspect of the ski industry, it takes a lot of time to film and patience is an essential virtue.
It felt good to pack up and start skinning after those first few shots. One of my favorite pictures from the trip was one this initial day of skiing when John, Kip, and Andrew stayed back for a shot of them skinning up with the ocean in the background. After another ski shot was set up for them to descend a nearby peak, we all packed up and shoved off for our own turns back to the ocean. They certainly weren't the sexiest turns I had ever made as my pack was the absolute heaviest thing I have ever carried. Come to find out I may just be a bit weaker than I thought, especially when compared to the massive pack Tom Day skis with regularly, but it was still more cumbersome than anything I had ever carried on my back including any multi-day tour I have ever done. But I was in Antarctica, and part of the lure, I believe, for skiing here is the absolute uniqueness of the location. Taking in the sights as we cruised down felt surreal.
As the pitch steepened for a short shot to the water I felt good, and when I stopped with my last turn, exuding a wall-to-wall grin that hurt my cheeks, I clicked out of my skis to help Tom set up another shot and noticed a couple of penguins were standing right behind me. Incredible.
As we took the last shots of the day, me even helping film some behind the scene shots for an editor of Skiing Magazine, ice peeled off from the nearby ice sheet and crashed with a thunderous roar into the water. Action just kept coming from every angle, and even the water seemed clearer than Lake Tahoe, which is pretty dam clear.
As we loaded the zodiac to head back to the boat some of the icebergs were looked so blue I don't think the hue could possibly be recreated. My brain was on sensory overload. Everything was just too sick to comprehend.
Back at the ship, taking into account most of the passengers were seasoned vets to world ski travel, and in reality no one skied any deep powder of super gnarly couloirs, I kept hearing, "Best day of my life". After another epic meal and some drinks, we got lectured on where we were heading for tomorrows ski journey, to a place known as "Kodak Alley". The stoke level was so high from everyone that evening as we sailed into a literally never ending sunset. Apparently we were 2-3 degrees away from the Antarctic Circle and when I finally went down to bed that night it was 1 a.m. and there was still a glow in the sky.
Read the complete story here:
The Martial Glacier
Crossing the Infamous Drake Passage
The Lemaire Channel
Somewhere off the Antarctic Peninsula
Unloading the Pack in the South Shetland Islands
Ship of Fools
Another Powder Day in Ushuaia and the Epicness of El Chalten