Livingston Island, South Shetlands, Nov. 17, 2011

For our final Antarctic ski day I am back with Forrest and out early at 9AM. It is a bright sunny morning, but the landing sites are limited. Ours is fairly far out in the bay because we are going to work our way back to a closer pickup over 2-3 runs. There is a bit of a swell hitting the beach and our first attempt does not stick. Then the Zodiac is broadsided by a wave high enough to hit me on the shoulder as I am in the back of the Zodiac. Fortunately the jacket is waterproof and my boots were buckled with shell pants over them as a precaution. Next try we stick the landing and scramble out. Norbert gearing up as the a Zodiac leaves the area.

Norbert is wearing down some after 6 days but still hanging in there. Tom and I are fairly similar both climbing and skiing. The 2 skiers Forrest added in my absence, Jerry and Jen, are a bit faster climbers. Thus I am taking fewer pictures today as I do not want to hold people up.

It is hot on the first ascent in the sun and I am soon down to minimal layers and spring gloves. But of course there is wind for the last 100 vertical or so and I have to zip up and use warmer gloves again. This upper section was stripped hardpack and Forrest said we would have used ski crampons if it had been longer. After Mammoth/Shasta I would have cruised up this section with ski crampons but took it very deliberately without them. Below the short icy section the snow skied beautifully, a thin soft layer over a packed but not icy subsurface. Tom skiing and Forrest filming here.

Slightly lower down

In the distance is Half Moon Island with another cruise ship in its bay. Its passengers are visiting a penguin rookery there.

For our second run Forrest spots a steep face of 35-40 degrees. We need to put the skis on our packs and climb with crampons and ice axe. It’s much steeper than Shasta but surface snow is softer and Forrest kicks in a bootpack for us. Nonetheless I am glad to have had the prior experience. Norbert has not done this before and has some difficulty. I am behind him and thus not too tired when we get to the top.

Of course it is windy up there and no longer sunny either. Andrew McLean’s group climbed the same peak from a different direction and Forrest sees them from below. By the time I get up there Andrew has skied down a tight couloir and the last of his group are dropping in.

Their turns are very loud. We have the same icy subsurface under the broader face we will be skiing but from the climb up I think we have more soft snow on top of it.

By the time I gear up Tom, Jerry and Jen are gone because Forrest had to help Norbert up. I traverse in and see a lot of scraped snow on the 40 degree pitch. It is one of those situations where you think a lot about that first turn but after executing that one the rest come progressively easier. Tom said for what it is worth that they all felt that way and that I looked more comfortable on that slope than he was.

Meanwhile Norbert is beat from the bootpack and does not have so much experience skiing that kind of snow and terrain. So Forrest puts a rope on him for security and lets him sideslip down the steep upper part until he is comfortable enough to ski.

Norbert looks very comfortable down here

Forrest skiing as another guide bootpacks up.

We ski down the broad intermediate slope below us.

Then we have a short skin over a gentle ridge so we can ski to our pickup. As on day 4 the low elevation snow is all good, similar to groomed skiing with a thin layer of new on top.

2,270 vertical for the day, 9,710 vertical in Antarctica.

Liz was out with Kim and a few other women. They skinned up from our pickup point area to a rock outcropping.

They did 2 runs, both with excellent snow conditions.

Liz had finished lunch well before our group returned to the ship ~2:30PM. I thought I would rest a bit, then take the expected Zodiac tour to the penguins on Half Moon Island when the other ship moved out. So I declined an immediate Zodiac tour in the bay which Liz took. Bad decision, as the other cruise ship never moved out so we were not allowed to go to the island.

Liz’ Zodiac tour found some intriguing icebergs.

And a seal leaving its floe for a swim

Liz was freezing when she got back to the ship. You need to dress much warmer for Zodiac tours than for skiing.
berkshireskier wrote: Thanks for posting the photos, Tony. Great shots. The trip looks amazing. Just out of curiousity, what was the cost the expedition. I assume NOT cheap?
If you see a big cruise company like Princess or Royal Caribbean with an Antarctic itinerary, they are scenic cruising only. You are not allowed to land more than 100 people in Antarctica at one time. Therefore any trip with landings is a small expedition ship for a minimum of 10 days, and no they are not cheap. There were a very few inside cabins for $6,900 but we were in the porthole cabin for $7,600 per person. This price is very much in line with what I've seen for other Antarctic small ship cruises that do not involve skiing. Sometimes those cruises may package in airfare from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and maybe a couple of hotel nights. When you consider that Doug Stoup must get approvals from the Antarctic Treaty Organization for potential ski sites and bring 18 guides on the ship, I was frankly relieved that the trip did not cost more.

For the Ice Axe cruise you will also have to pay your own airfare to Buenos Aires (~$1,000), probably at least one night there and then Argentine airfare down to Ushuaia (~$400). We had 2 nights in Ushuaia and the Ice Axe package included one of them plus a dinner. If you do not own AT gear you must buy all of that plus harness, crampons, ice axe and a few other mountaineering incidentals. If you're starting from scratch there like Liz was you're probably looking at ~$1,500 minimum in equipment.

For dedicated skiers we recommend this trip highly. This time there were only 6 non-skiers among the passengers. Doug Stoup consulted every day with the ship Captain and with Quark Expedition leaders to find the best weather for landings and best ski sites. Plans were changed on the fly frequently. This is a customized level of service rarely seen on cruise ships.