Icetrek Antarctic season

Mountain Poles

A 6th season guiding a team from China to the South Pole and a solo kite-ski expedition in Queen Maud Land
This is my 6th year guiding a Chinese team to Antarctica. We fly from Cape Town to ALCI Airbase on the Princess Astrid Coast of Queen Maud Land and then by vehicle to our base at Oasis Guesthouse in the Schirmacher Oasis. The two main objectives over the 10-day trip are a flight to the South Pole with a camp on the plateau and a visit to the Emperor penguin rookery at Atka Bay. Aside from this we have many side trips including climbing local peaks and a walk to the Ice Tunnel at the edge of the Lazarev Ice Shelf. I was in the party that discovered the tunnel in 2010, quite an amazing find.

Following the China trip I’m taking off for more than two weeks on a solo kite-ski trip from the airbase to the Drygalski range in the Orvin Mountains. Nestled in this range are the iconic peaks of Ulvetanna and Holtanna which I’ve never seen despite being in the region so many times. It’s around 165km in a direct line to the mountains which in ideal conditions I could cover in a day of kiting. I want to do some simple climbs and circumnavigate the range to see the mountains from every angle. If time permits I’ll then head east, following my nose, and the wind, to explore a string of similar ranges that make up the Orvin Mountains.

The Drygalsi range is a relatively popular destination with most teams flying in to climb or photograph, but aside from a Norwegian team that skied out to the mountains and back from the airbase the route is pretty fresh. I don’t think anyone has kite-skied there before. Arctic Trucks have driven a variation of the route before but I’m not using any of their info, I want this to be as much a trip of discovery as possible. The route is of course pocked by crevasse fields, many of which I can see on Google Earth and I intend to skirt these where possible, but aside from that info, and the locations of the airbase and Ulvetanna, I won’t be using any maps, just flying by the seat of my pants! I’ve rigged up a self-arrest system on the sled in the event I fall into a crevasse.

This is somewhat of a kiting rebirth for me. I did a lot in my early career – across Greenland in 1995, to the South Pole from McMurdo in 98-99, across the South Patagonian Icecap in 2000 and some in Iceland in 2003 – but have been re-inspired by the recent colossal trips of Geoff Wilson, Dixie Dansercoer and Eric McNair-Landry. These guys have firmly established kite-skiing as the most efficient, not to mention exhilarating, form of polar travel, and I feel a strong need to take it up again. In March I’ll take my daughter Mardi on a 10-day kite-ski trip in Svalbard. The winds there are not as steady or predictable as Antarctica, but it will be fun nonetheless, and a buzz to be out there with Mardi.

As usual I’ll be posting pics and updates at www.icetrek.com.

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