Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Charlotte Bay

So our first day on skis would turn out to be our only dull day, but we still had great visibility, fresh snow, and no wind. It actually doesn't snow much in Antarctica, so any fresh is a bonus. It was also going to be our only day skiing on the actual landmass of Antarctica proper (the Antarctic Peninsula), with the rest island based landings. 

After a few years, Iceaxe has got the drill down to a fine art. Each zodiac has 2 guides with 8 skiers in an ordered procession, a conga line of folks with skis and packs on to and then off the inflatables at (usually) 3 designated zones which have been set by scouts earlier that morning. It's back for a huge lunch after the morning's climb, and then a different zone for the afternoon's climb and ski. The other two in our group are kiwi mother and daughter, Lucy and Fern, who know Mark, and will become great friends.

The 2 parties in each zodiac will usually follow a similar climb, and there's heaps of 2W radio co-ordinating the whole day with the bridge. Most landings are, by topography, penguin rookeries - and there's frequently a lazy seal involved as well. The penguins actually seem to enjoy the zodiacs and they're often dolphin-ing around their wakes. They are too cute, and you never get tired of penguin perving!

There are more humans who have summited Everest than have skied in Antarctica. And so the first time your ski boot touches Antarctic rock is a buzz. Everything is pristine, virginal, and the blues are otherworldly. Everyone who is there wants to be there, and the energy is infectious and amazing.

Whilst there are some incredible skiers and boarders on this trip, including several Olympians, there are also many average folk like me who are just happy to be there, and others who are happy snowshoeing or kayaking with the Quark guides. There's a few parties who haven't done a whole lot of ski-touring before, so demonstrating that this trip is really open to most folk. There's an elderly Kiwi in his 70's who skis like a gun, and another French lady in her 70's who, whilst admitting a preference for chairlifts (not unlike my wife!), is, like all of us, utterly ecstatic to be there. There's also a big Hotham contingent this year with Bill Barker, in fact our humble little hill is possibly the most represented ski resort on the whole boat of mostly Americans.

I lay my first tele turns on the frozen continent and it feels special.

On the way home we pass some crazy icebergs. Antarctica is the world's largest sculpture gallery. You sometimes see, feel, and frequently hear glacial carving, and have to watch for waves if you're in the zodiacs.

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