The first option was Irian Jaya to climb and
ski the equatorial glaciers that are retreating rather drastically.
Imagine telling your grandchildren that you once stood on an
equatorial glacier that no longer exists! Plus there was the
adventure of getting there through rain forests and the chance
of meeting native Irianese living a lifestyle not yet dominated
by a western outlook. However we were advised that we risked
endangering ourselves as well as the Irianese by creating a potential
conflict between the Irianese and the Indonesians armed forces.
So a friend looked at Heard Island, Macquarie
and then mentioned Antarctica. That mythical white
and blue place of my childhood dreams, a place I thought I would
never be able to get to unless I got a job at one of the bases
the chances of that as a ski bum and then a sociologist were
We started to find out how much it might cost,
how feasible, how much experience was required to survive such
a remote place. It wasnt cheap, but compared to other holidays
and what we would get in return it seemed like a once in a lifetime
chance. Plus we got to sail from Ushuaia to the Peninsula and
to choose where we wanted to ski or climb. The trip to Antarctica
was finally clinched after I agreed that Tuffley could do the
Argentina Eco-Challenge Race. (Fosters Australia (his team)
came 7th out of 50 odd teams!).
Plus no one would be there!
Turned out that every available cruise ship and former Russian
spy ship was down there catering for the crowds who wanted to
celebrate the new millennium!
How many days was the crossing? where did you leave from and
where was your first landfall?
left from Ushuaia, Terra Del Fuego in Argentina. Stopped at Puerto
Williams, Chile and the sheltered at a small bay around the corner
from Cape Horn for the night. That took two days sailing. We
then stuck our bow out into Drakes Passage and headed for Deception
Island. Four days later we were saw our first iceberg and were
at the Poseidons Gates trying to get into the horseshoe
shaped harbour in Deception Island. No ice not much snow.
Deception Island is volcanic and black. There
are hot springs and beaches to sit in but we opted to find shelter
and eat. That roast lamb, cut from the lamb hanging from the
stern, with roast vegetables was the best meal Ive ever
had! Washed down with a selection of Chilean and Australian red
We went as far south as the lower Argentine
Islands (below 65°) where there is a Ukrainian base. We were
the first yacht to reach this far south. We stopped over night
but had to head north immediately as Roge was worried that we
might get pack ice and freezing temperatures - and be delayed
a few days, which we couldnt afford.
We ended up at one point somewhere below the
65 parallel. Its a long way in a little yacht.
I've done a little sailing myself but never anywhere near the
roaring 40's, it's gnarly down there. How much experience have
you had blue water sailing?
I did have a moment of Oh O! What have
I done about a month before we left. So many sailors love
to tell horror stories about the monster waves, the storms etc.
I chose to ignore them and I thank God I did.
you tell us a bit about the yacht?
47 foot, double steel, single masted yacht. Dont know the
name of the builder, but she was built in Victoria, Australia.
Shes owned and operated by Roger Wallis (great guy, great
captain) and is now up for sale as Roge has purchased his dream
yacht - The Spirit of Sydney (about 60 foot). He will use the
Spirit in the Chilean, sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters.
How long have you been tele skiing? Do you guys ski often?
been teleing since I learned to x-country ski
Where do you ski most at home?
skied each of the resorts, but our favourite is Mt Hotham and
the surrounding terrain, in Victoria. Very variable snow conditions
(havent skied this year has there is barely any snow!),
but last year was awesome. Got to tele heaps of runs that you
normally cant because theres not enough snow. They
call it the powder capital of Australia
well its Australian
powder, definitely not as dry as the stuff in Japan or North
There is a beautiful BC mountain near Mt Hotham called Mt Feathertop.
Great skiing. Or there is Mt Bogong just to the north. Otherwise
theres a variety of back country terrain in Kosciusko National
Park, New South Wales - Blue Lake, Tate, Twynam, Watsons Crags,
Townsend, Leatherbarrel Creek
to name a few.
How did you decide where to ski while you were on this trip?
amounted to sailing or motoring through the channels and noting
the slopes that werent too crevassed and then checking
out landing places. Sometimes the perfect slope beckoned but
the ice cliffs stopped us from getting onto it. Ever seen an
ice cliff collapse? Scary shit! Some of those blocks were bigger
than Tooluka! If we found a place to get onto the glaciers wed
jump into the zodiac and motor onto shore. We used the little
Motorolas to maintain contact with Tooluka. The climbers or traversing
party would take the big heavy duty radio.
We stopped at a Port Lockroy on Weincke Island for a few days
on the way through and the way back and hit the slopes there.
Some of the pictures are from that area. Glorious days and surrounded
by the most spectacular scenery
So how was the snow at the bottom of the world?
variable. On an aborted climb one day we experienced thigh deep
rotten ice and snow, with howling wind with wet wet falling snow.
It also meant crawling across deep blue crevasses (that blue
it hypnotising but youre not allowed to stop and look).
Not a chance in hell of skiing it, too dangerous anyway. This
climb was a risk because the winds could have blown the bergs
and bits into the bay where we landed and would have been unable
to get us.
Certainly the ice did gather but not enough
to make us go back up and take another route. I would have chucked
a wobbly if we did. At about that time I decided that mountaineering
was not my scene. Too much hard work for not much except exhaustion.
At least with teleing you can skin and climb for hours, KNOWING,
that the trip downhill is going to be awesome!
At Enterprise Island (right) where we recovered
from the abandoned climb; we struck clear blue sunny skies and
no wind. It was warm enough to ski in shorts and to strip off
and get a suntan. This is where we celebrated the close of the
old and opening of the new millennium. The sunrise at 4am was
unbelievable. We climbed to the top of Enterprise Island and
watched the orange pink sunlight hit the mountains on the island
behind us. As the light reached us we raced it down the slope
to the water. Magic.
At Port Lockroy we experienced howling gales
(thats when the guys tried to Weincke Island form the north
to the south) as well as beautiful sunny days without any breezes
and scenic views for miles.
Further south on Hovgaard Island we experienced
a cold snap and clear days. Depending on where the sun was we
found breakable crust, unbreakable crust and eventually heroic
creamy sunbaked snow on a steep slope looking out over an iceberg
graveyard - a run that went on and on because our perceptions
of distance was tricked by the clean air. That was the dream
run. Skip, skip, skip, skip etc, etc
When I think of Antarctica I think of bad weather. What were
you expecting and did you get much of that?
is bliss. I kept asking everyone how big are the swells/waves?
Is this bad? And got no definitive answers. I wasnt scared
at any time and there were times when we were skipping across
the sea. The first time we rounded Cape Horn was pretty exciting,
big waves and swell, howling winds up to 60 knots and not much
sail. Loved it. There was also a time in the middle of Drakes
Passage on the way back when we were in a storm and the yacht
was getting thumped. Roge decided to heave to, to let us rest
and take the stress off Tooluka.
The guys experienced a nasty storm when they
tried to ski Weincke Island. Conditions were so deplorable and
crevasses so numerous they decided to cut through Thunder Canyon
(named for the thundering ice falls).
I remained on board Tooluka listening to the
wind scream through her rigging and hearing the manic whirling
of the wind generator. When skiing, we generally only chose days
when the weather was reasonably stable and visibility was good.
The last thing we wanted was an accident or to lose someone.
Did you see much wildlife either ashore or at sea?
of penguins. We helped the British staff at Port Lockroy to count
one rookery - stinks worse than a pigsty and is dangerously slippery
and we still came up with entirely different numbers. An average
of 3 counts by 3 people was taken!
Minke & Humpback whales, Leopard seals,
other cute seals, Skuas, Cormorants
heaps. Antarctica is
a place of overpowering landscape beauty and amazing wildlife
no people, no culture, no languages, no customs. Its different.
Did you come home with stories to tell or what?
bindings busted on my first foray on Enterprise Island. Luckily
Roge was able to help us jury rig a fix. Tuffleys broke
too! Moral of the story BYO spare bindings when tele skiing Antarctica.
Oh yeah, and the cruise ships! Like I said
I thought we would be one of the few down there! However 15-20
cruise liners made it down there that season. One was the Marco
Polo. Its massive. It can carry 600 odd guests, but on
this trip it was carry about half so that everyone could visit
the penguin colonies. Add about 350 staff. Then there are the
numerous bars and restaurants and even a casino. Lets not forget
the live cabaret, the beauty salon, the bank and shops! Luckily
for us (and for the guests) we were invited on board to have
a luxurious shower followed by drinks and then a 5 star dinner
with wine. Compliments of the Captain. We received similar treatment
from 2 other ships.
I was sick initially on the journey over,
but got over it. Tuffley was sick the whole time on the way back.
Sounds terrible but much of the time we were pissing ourselves
laughing from the disgusting sick stories we all dredged from
our memories. Have you heard about the blue cheese one? That
story got Tuffley and then the guy who told the story! Ha!
Lots of sympathy sickness went around. Someone
would sit bolt up in their bunk, bash their head, scramble madly
for their boots and then make a mad dash for the stern without
spraying whoever was at the wheel.
The sound of retching invariably found one
or two others frantically pulling on wet gear and boots and trying
to keep their balance before bolting out to the stern. I found
the laughter stopped me feeling sick. I could tell more
I guess you had to be there to appreciate the humour. The sea
sickness stories have become part of the Antarctic 2000 Trip
Fresh water was scarce so regular baths/showers
were non-existent. If you wanted to get clean at the next stop,
it helped to be part of the fresh water gathering party and ensure
you gathered the extra water that would give you a bucket of
warm water. Some of the guys tried the salt water washing trick
DO IT! Clothes stay damp and get scratchy. There was a problem
with bucket bathing especially when no else did - they stank
to high heaven, especially with all the sweaty male smelly thermals
hanging from the guy ropes strung up below deck. Sometimes its
best to stay stinky so you cant smell how bad it really
Puerto Williams Chilean Naval Yacht Club has to be seen to be
believed! It is a sunken ship at the mouth of a river. Yachts
from all over the world are moored next to it. Inside is a bar
serving Long John Silvers Rum (brutal stuff) and our boys
managed to drink the bar dry. The furniture canted to balance
out the lean of the floor (the ship rests on her side a little
bit). This creates a very surreal entrance as youre still
trying to get over the sea legs, everything looks straight, normal
and yet something doesnt look right because the legs of
the sofas are longer on one side! Theres also a restaurant
upstairs and shower facilities and toilets downstairs outside
the bar. When we were there drinking the bar dry, we noticed
the staff wearing gumboots/Wellingtons. Half an hour later someone
slipped over and we finally noticed that there was 2 inches of
water on the floor against the bar. Apparently because the ship
is sitting in the mud, it is also sinking into the mud. In a
few years time they reckon the bar will have to move up to the
restaurant. Meanwhile the toilets were overflowing and the showers
are half full of cold cold river water - lovely, but a good story!!!!
say. Thanks for shring your trip with us Yvette.