This was my seventh crossing of the Drake Passage and it was almost a perfect average of conditions – a bit of 40+ knot winds, some rocking & rolling, but then lots of fairly smooth sailing as well. Very few broken dishes or violently sick people.
Like all Ice Axe trips, this one was a blast with lots of good adventure, skiing and a great group of people. We ended up being thwarted by high winds for one missed day of skiing, but were able to get out to a Polish science base instead.
One of the things that makes skiing in Antarctica so fun, especially from a guide’s perspective, is that it requires a lot of on the spot sight-reading of new terrain. This is complicated by the lack of trees, buildings or roads, which make the scale and angle tricky to assess. Throw in some crevassses, flat light and beach landings, and suddenly things start to get interesting.
This year I was skiing with four friends who I had either skied with in the past, or had met before. This was good as we had a lot of tricky skinning conditions, including slicing our way up icy slopes, complete with kick-turn swithcbacks, which can often be a recipe for a team meltdown, but never happened. While I’m not a big fan of ski crampons, I’ll grudgingly admit that they might be of use down here, but, as Ray Jardine said, “If you need something and you don’t have it, then you don’t need it.” We didn’t have ski ‘poons, but survived without them.
Most of the group has cleared out, but a few of us are hanging around, shopping for penguin trinkets and departing on the 24+ hour flight back tomorrow.