Well, I’m finally back in Aspen and have been up skiing some amazing powder on Ajax the last two days. But on my skins up the hill in the dawn hours, I can’t help but reflect on our recent journey to one of my favorite places in the world to ski, the Antarctic Peninsula. If I was to pick one word to describe all of the majesty of this place I would choose “stunning”. It’s magical in so many ways and continues to inspire me just like it did the first time I visited back to 2008. The experience is incredible, with long, mellow glacier runs, super-steep pucker faces, wild glaciers demanding total concentration, every snow condition you can imagine, insane amounts of wildlife, wild weather, and of course the feared but totally awesome crossing of the Drake Passage. Where else in the world can you find all of that in one packaged trip? Nowhere that I’m aware of.
Another thing that makes this trip so special are the people. I have to first thank the brains and brawn behind the Ice Axe Expeditions team, Doug Stoup and Karyn Stanley. Without their leadership, logistics management, and positive attitudes the trip would never happen. Then there are the guides… a world-class team of individuals with incredible mountain and people skills. Getting to work with these folks is an honor and I always find myself learning a ton from all of them. So my hats off to: Doug Workman, Gregory Mintsev, Andrew Eisenstark, Jason Mack, Rich Meyer, Andrew McLean, Kim Havell, Angela Hawse, Todd Offenbacher, Forrest McCarthy, Howie Schwartz, Jorge Kozulj, Marco Gaiani, Stefan Palm, Per As, Jim Delzer, Kris Erickson, Alain Ledoux, Ben Mitchell, Nicolay from Kamchatka, and Glen Poulson. You guys are the BEST!
And then of course there are the clients, 100 inspired individuals who committed themselves to this epic journey and discovered a new place and new things about themselves and their abilities. They allow us as guides to lead them into some incredible locations and ski lines unlike any they have skied before. My group consisted of Joe Campbell, Abdur Chowdhury, Bruce Cummins, and Keoki Flagg. Keoki shot like a million images during the trip, many of which you can see below. Thanks to all of you for trusting in me and way to be solid out there in the mountains.
All right, since I have so many incredible images to share I’m going to annotate them and let them in part tell the story.
Every day starts with a 6 am guide meeting on the top deck of the Sea Adventurer. Here Doug Stoup discusses the days objectives.
Leading my group up to the summit on Nansen Island. Wilhelmina Bay behind. Photo Keoki Flagg.
Me, Keoki, and Abdur take a break and transition to skins for another run above Andvord Bay. Obviously we love our Vapur Anti-Bottles!
On approach to some of the trips coolest objectives. A number of teams skied the first descent of Mt. Narwhal (I made that up) on lookers right.
Two rope teams approach the steep and intimidating face. Everyone spent time discussing and evaluating the HUGE hanging cornice and agreed it was far enough from the climbing route to allow safe passage.
Joe Campbell, Doug Stoup, and Keoki Flagg follow up a very steep face on Bluff Island.
Doug and Joe get ready to transition into ski mode after the steep climb to the ridge. The face behind Doug was one of the craziest, double-corniced nightmares I’ve ever seen.
You can just barely make out guide Doug Workman on top of the Narwhal. The spines were probably unskiable, unless your name is Jeremy Jones!
Myself and Rich Meyer on Half Moon Island getting ready for a short, steep couloir I called the “Delzaster Couloir” after guide Jim Delzer’s first descent. There is our good ship the Sea Adventurer in the distance. Photo Joe Campbell.
Steep turns on perfect snow into the “Delzaster Couloir” on my Kastle TX 97’s with Scarpa Freedom Sl boots.
So what does a guide on the “Ski Cruise” carry in his pack? Well this is mine. Left to right: Smith I/Ox Goggles, Backcountry.com
Buff, Clif Bar thermos, two GoPro Hero 3+ with clamp mount, snow picket and wands, Beal 8.2mm 60M glacier rope, BD cobra axe, BD shovel and probe, BD Alias Avalung Pack, Vapur water bottle, tool kit with all sorts of items including bivy sack, cord, tape, clamps, and ski tuning gear, med kit, guide book, Clif Bars and Shot Bloks, UHF/VHF radio, Smith Overdrives and Frontmans, Spyder Bernese down jacket (in stuff sack), Kastle Hotmelt skins, a Red Bull, BD crampons, BD harness with glacier setup.
Every trip we have a themed party on the ship. This year it was the “White Party” and Jim Delver and I dressed up as the ships pastry chefs. We show off our delicious creations to 9 year old passenger Alexis Chowdhury.
And this post just wouldn’t be complete without the requisite penguin shot. This is an Adelie penguin on King George Island in the South Shetlands.
Guides and clients gather on a rocky point after a visit to the Arctowsky Station, a Polish research base on King George Island.
Some amazing terrain the begs another trip. We are returning in 2014 and these peaks are on my hit list! Photo Keoki Flagg
Crevasses are one of the major hazards we deal with every day. Keoki found this one and I grabbed him by the back of his jacket before he could visit the bottom. Photo Keoki Flagg.
One of my favorite things to do on the Peninsula is pick up a gleaming block of many thousand year old glacier ice on the way back to the ship. It goes very well with Glenlivit, brings out the flavors. I picked it up after we visited the now famous “Blue Hole”, a deep and incredible crevasse that you can safely enter and enjoy.
Written by Vapur Pro Team member, Jake Norton.
After almost 30 trips to the Indian subcontinent over the years, I’ve developed a good tolerance for the local gut flora and fauna. I rarely get sick anymore, and am fairly adventurous with my intake, eating street foods and enjoying local drinks. But, my rule of thumb – backed up by simple visual investigations – is to never drink the water.
“Don’t drink the water.” I was reminded of this saying as I filled my Vapur MicroFilter bottle from the tap in Agra. Those four words have become a trite sendoff for people traveling to the world’s lesser developed spots, an off the cuff warning that the destination doesn’t have the basic facilities we in the West have come to take for granted. For 764 million people globally, “don’t drink the water” is exactly what they wish they could do… but have no choice, for they lack access to safe water in their daily lives.
Such was the case for me and my teammates – Pete McBride and David Morton – as we traveled the length of the Ganges River for six weeks this autumn. Our expedition – generously funded by Microsoft Surface, Eddie Bauer, National Geographic, and Ambuja Cement, and supported by Vapur – was solely focused on telling the story of this most iconic, most revered, and often most reviled of rivers. From the very top of the Gangotri Glacier at the river’s source, we studied the river, conducted in-depth ecology tests of its waters, met with experts trying to save this troubled artery, spoke with the devout who revere her waters as the mother of all water, and saw firsthand its beauty and its challenges for 1500 miles all the way to the Bay of Bengal.
And, we were reminded daily of exactly why we didn’t want to drink the water. Chromium. Lead. Arsenic. Petroleum. Raw sewage. We saw those things, and much more, going into the Ganges nearly from start to finish. An estimated 1 billion liters of untreated sewage enters the river daily from the nearly 400 million people who live along its banks. In the delta on the Bay of Bengal, tens of thousands suffer from arsenic poisoning, resulting in skin lesions and damage to internal organs. The tanneries of Kanpur dump a slurry of chromium and other chemicals into the river, most of it unchecked by the government water treatments facilities.
But, yet, people drink. They bathe. They live on and around and in this holiest of rivers, tapping its nourishing waters for all facets of daily life. And, many get sick. Many suffer a life of disease thanks to the pollution, or a life of servitude trying to bring water to their homes and villages and then treat it before consumption. Having seen it firsthand, and documented the river’s beauty and challenges, the spots where it’s pristine and those where it’s horrifically polluted, we’re now working on bringing the story and the river to life in film and photograph and the written word. We hope that this story can help awaken many to the plight of the river…and all those who depend on it.
As for the water? Thanks to the MicroFilter, I drank it and drank it, fresh from the source, for 1500 miles – source to sea. And I was one of the lucky ones and had the means to clean my water and not get sick.