21 January 2012

Antarctic Expedition Reflections

Michael Archer and I succeeded with the goals of our trek, that is to ski from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, then to kite-ski back to the coast. The departures of Kathy Braegger and Chris De Lapuente were extremely disappointing, even though it had nothing to do with bad preparation or lack of training. Just bad luck. Not the result I had wanted for my last big sled hauling expedition. They both had planned and prepared for this expedition for several year. (Ruth Strong had planned to go as far as the South Pole, not kite skiing) Michael was the best of travelling companions; level headed, physically strong, and a fantastic "MacGyver" (the member of the expedition who task is it to fix all things with the small available amount of limited bits and pieces in the repair kit) It is the first time I have ever given up my "MacGyver" position! Travelling across Antarctica is in many ways boring; endless white, no wildlife, the Messner Route has almost no mountain scenery. Yet, Antarctica is so vast, huge, pristine (except for the US base at the South Pole), and snow surfaces are always changing. From the start to the South Pole the climb is almost 10,000 feet but it is mind boggling to think that all that climb is on top of ice. The South Pole is located on 10,000 feet of ice. It is an amazing journey. It is a long way, yet we touched just a small section of the continent. The kite-skiiing was often frustrating because of a lack of wind and the fact we did not have all the correct equipment. At the same time, when the wind was good, flying across the surface of Antarctica was an amazing exhilarating experience. We are a couple of men aged 50 plus, with limited kite-skiing experience yet we covered over 1100 km in nine days of kiting. This year other kiting expeditions completed amazing treks, thousand of kilometres in short periods to time. No questions kite-skiing will become more and more popular in Antarctic and other parts of the world were conditions are right. I feel that I am incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to traverse this unique landscape at the bottom of the world. I would to thank all my travelling companions, Kathy, Chris, Ruth, and Michael. I would like to thank Sandra Sullivan for helping prepare the food, especially making more than one thousand chocolate truffles that we ate. Thank you to Tessum Weber for helping with the blog. Thank you to everyone who took interest in following our trek. Most of all, I want to thank my wife, Josée who gathered equipment, prepared the food, and kept track of our progress and supported us in every possible way. Here is a short video of our arrival in Hercules Inlet [caption id="attachment_247" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Skiers pass sastrugi"][/caption]