Back from the Land of Ice
Sunny and 50 degrees F
06 January 2012 | Punta Arenas, Chile
It's been nearly two months but I managed to pry my favorite Terramar Baselayer off and take my first shower in the same amount of time. I'm not going to lie to you, it felt good. And now, at least for the next week or so, I'm happy to be surrounded by things other than snow and ice.
I had an incredible time in Antarctica - my third visit to the continent in the past four years. Working for a company called Adventure Network International as a Polar Guide, my normal contract spans long expeditions to the South Pole. This year, I was given an opportunity to lead a variety of shorter trips: a week at a remote Emperor Penguin colony, a 'last degree' ski South Pole expedition, several short climbs to the peaks surrounding ANI's Union Glacier Base Camp and even a stint at a remote ski way to monitor weather.
All told, these were incredible experiences and I will be sharing many of pictures, videos and stories over the next few weeks. I'm also sorry to have missed wishing you all the best over the holiday season although I was happy to share Thanksgiving with 6,000 Emperor Penguins, Christmas with my South Pole team eating freeze-dried dinners and Clif Bars and New Years at 10,000 feet above the icy Thiel Mountains in DC-3 on our way back from the South Pole to Union Glacier.
While I am looking forward to enjoying another shower, chairs, a couch, going to see a movie with Maria, and all the other accoutrements of the modern world, the end of any big journey always leaves a me with a bit sadness. Antarctica is one of the most incredible places in the world and to not look out at a nearly unending stretch of ice and snow seems odd now.
Then there is the stark contrast of need versus want. On an expedition, your whole world is parsed down to a few fundamental elements: a good tent and SD sleeping bag, my favorite MSR stove, my new favorite Madshus skis. In Punta Arenas, I can eat anything I want (well, Chileans aren't really into veggies - so almost anything), watch TV, read the newspaper, and more - at a moment's notice. Home, a new iphone, a pair of jeans, food from all over the world whenever I want, will soon follow. There is no question that we are all consumers.
Antarctica. Cold and remote. Beautiful and desolate. Its frozen vastness has woven itself into the fabric of my being. I often say that skiing across the ice day after day after day is less a journey toward the pole but rather into it. My goal is subtle: understand this place. Learn from it. Respect it.
To me, my time with the Emperor Penguins was probably one of the more incredible experiences of my life. The first night, I was nearly asleep in my tent and I heard the steady crunch, crunch of foot falls in the nearby snow. It was probably one of my clients walking around, I assumed. Opening my tent door, a whole group of penguins stared back curiously.
I looking forward to sharing my Antarctica with you. Enjoy!
Image: T.I.A. - This Is Antarctica!