From November 1 through November 18, a group of skiers will be living aboard a ship off the coast of Antarctica, including a camera crew and athletes from Warren Miller Entertainment. They'll be taking Zodiacs ashore to climb and ski the southern-most mountains in the world. Check here for regular updates from life on—and off—the ship by Skiing magazine's senior editor Sam Bass.
And here are a few quick updates from one of the athletes, John Morrison:
Days 1-3 of the trip have been very enjoyable. We’ve been skiing above the town of Ushuaia here in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. The snow and terrain keeps us heading back for more day after day. Day one started with a climb of Cerro Martial, a 5000 foot peak above town. After a beautiful look around we enjoyed some stellar turns back into the valley. The day continued with some outrageous couloir skiing and ended with food and drink amongst good company here in town. Tuesday was again spent working the couloirs with Tom Day and Keoki Flagg. Today, Wednesday, was a ‘blue bird day’ and Kip, Andrew and I found some great lines to ski up the ‘2nd valley’. Kip nailed a dynamic line on the headwall with all kinds of exposure, slough, and technical turning. What an amazing crew to be a part of and an amazing place to be. Tomorrow we gear up and load up for the ultimate objective, Antarctica.
Days 4-5 - We are underway aboard the ‘Clipper Adventurer’ and enjoying a relaxing time at sea. After a smooth transition from Ushuaia to the ship we clinked champagne glasses together as the ship left the dock for the trip down the Beagle Channel on our way to the rock and roll of the Drake Passage. Seas were in the range of 4-5m and very disorganized. For hours the ship tossed about with little rhythm. Time between meals is spent topside enjoying the fresh air and watching the many sea birds that follow the ship. Petrels and Albatross dart across the ever-changing seascape riding the currents of air that swirl about the waves. My next item of business is to pack up for a team equipment check to make sure we are prepared and on the same page for the conditions we will encounter once on land. We make landfall in the morning and I am excited to ski on the great ‘White Continent’.
Day 6 – We woke up this morning in Antarctica! Our first experience on the continent was fantastic. We were treated to a sunny day with a light to medium breeze. We made landfall in a spot named Scirva Cove, an Argentine research base surrounded by Glaciers that spill into the sea, and the peaks rise to great heights. We were greeted by hundreds of penguins, and clicked off many photos. The landscape is amazing. We climbed a 3000 foot peak for a challenging ski and some nice shots. The conditions were quite firm, but manageable. This is the first place I’ve ever been where the peaks look steeper once you are standing on top. The run ended at the water’s edge where a Gentoo Penguin walked up for a hello, …amazing.
Day 7 – Neumayer Channel. Stunning. We are in the shadow of a 9000+ foot peak that dominates the landscape. Line choices are numerous. Our first run proved to be one of the firmest, steepest lines I’ve ever descended. By late afternoon, the sun worked it’s magic! We found a 50+ degree couloir that had softened perfectly. On the right track now.
Day 8 – Half Moon Island – Down day. Whales, seals, penguins, and great company.
Day 9 – Livingston Island. Another great day! We woke to a cloudy and ominous looking sky, which soon cleared for yet another brilliant, sunny day. Temps, however, were significantly colder. We started the day by walking through a Chinstrap Penguin colony- unreal. A short ice climb up the end of the glacier and we were on our way to the peaks above. The temps seemed a touch cold for good sun softening, so we aimed for slightly lower angle hoping for better snow but still found firm on anything over 25 degrees. Oh well, the steep and firm is still fun and the scenery more than makes up for it. This place is truly mind blowing.
Notes from the Film Crew:
Well, we just had two mind blowing days down here on the peninsula. An unusual high pressure system sat over us for 48 hours creating two days that our ship captain told us were one out of a thousand. The mix of blue bird skies, ices bergs as far as the eye can see and stunningly jagged, glaciated peaks has been a visual overload.
Our first day on shore we filmed a steep little line that brought the athletes right down to the waters edge. It also made for some good hiking shots, with crampons and axes needed to get back to the top. From there we hiked off into the backcountry, aiming for a line that had about a one hour approach. Surprisingly the snow conditions were
descent. Any aspects that had been baking in the sun for 3 or more hours had a great surface of corn. Those that had not on the other hand were a mix of hard snow and blue ice.
Yesterday we had another productive day of shooting. The lines could be spotted everywhere from the boat, but we had a difficult time finding a good access point as most of the shore is lined with 100 foot high seracs. Just about everyone in our crew has mentioned how the pitches here turn out to be much steeper than initially perceived
and our first landing point proved to be just that. What looked to be a 35 degree slope turned into a full on front point and two ax climb. Not something we wanted to do with our packs!
Eventually making it onto the glacier, we were able to shoot two amazing lines with a mountain and water backdrop. We filmed some great summit shots at the top of the 2nd run and then made a slow, (fairly gripped descent for me at least) down the 45 to 50 degree slope, shooting along the way.
The one low point to yesterday was a skier in another group fell thirty feet into a crevasse. Luckily he came out of it with only a broken tibia. It was a solemn reminder to us of the dangers of traveling in this area. The crevasses are everywhere and some are very well hidden; roped up travel, while it seems like overkill at times, I think is a must. In order to get the skier evacuated we are now back tracking to the north where he will be helicoptered and then flown
back to Argentina.
So, after the last few days I don't think there will be any lack of pretty pictures ... it has been hard to stop shooting.. (don't worry, the HVX has been working overtime.)
- Colin Witherill