Trip Report: Skiing Sunny Antarctica With Ice Axe Expeditions 2019

Ripping down Weinke Island. image: snowbrains

Sunshine.

Copious amounts of gorgeous, revealing sunshine.

2019 was my 4th trip in a row to Antarctica where the trip was mostly sunny!

We skied powder, soaked in mind-bending vistas, ate delicious food, hung out with penguins, watched whales fly, and smiled a whole helluva lot.

If interested in skiing/riding Antarctica, please email me:

Contact@SnowBrains.com

Taylor. image: Kevin Thompson

It generally takes me about 4-days to truly understand what I’m looking at when skiing in Antarctica because the views are so strong and so different from anything I’ve ever seen.

My rope team in 2019 consisted of 5 intelligent, young, beautiful ladies who could all charge both uphill and down.

We were all over the place.

Brittany claiming 10,000-year-old glacier ice that was soon to be floating in whiskies. image: snowbrains

We laughed a lot, we hooted a lot.

It feels like cheating to be in such an intense, frozen landscape when the warm sun is barreling down allowing you to appreciate every square inch of the place.

97 clients and 24 mountain guides from 18 different countries set sail in the 331-foot newly remodeled (including 2 new more powerful, quieter Rolls Royce engines) Ocean Adventurer from Ushuaia, Argentina (the furthest south city on Earth) with Ice Axe Expeditions on November 3rd, 2018.

Antarctic Art. image: the crew

It took us less than 2 days to cross the most notorious open water passage on Earth – The Drake Passage.

When you first arrive in Antarctica and see the towering masses of ice – the icebergs, the ice cliffs, the glaciers – you’re stunned.

You’re unsure. 

You’re baffled.

Leopard seals are badass. image: the crew

Then, it all starts to make sense.

You start to wind your way through the icebergs, up the glaciers, around the ice cliffs. 

Your perspective changes.

Good times. image: the crew

You change.

Forever.

Antarctica.

Ronge Island secret spot. image: snowbrains
Ice Axe Expeditions Antarctica 2019.
Charlotte Bay, Antarctic Peninsula.
Bluff Island.

On day 1 we rolled out to Charlotte Bay to a zone we call the “Blue Room”.

The weather was mostly cloudy and windless and our first run turns were powdery and fun.

The weather improved after our first run.

Our 2nd run was a cruiser to set us up for a long fun run right back to the beach and back to the boat for lunch.

During lunch, the boat moved us northwest to Bluff Island.

On Bluff Island, we did one big long fun run and the sun began to poke out just a little.

The Team stoked on ski day 1. image: snowbrains
Weinke Island.

In the morning we were the first to land in a very special zone of Weinke Island that I’d never been to before.

This zone is wide-open with huge views and terrific skiing.

We skied two laps off the top and loved every minute of the sunshine, views, and entertainment we received via the US Antarctic Research Vessel the Nathaniel Palmer chugged past us.

After lunch on the boat, we jumped over the other side of the island and got in some high quality corn skiing with more stunning views.

Amazing weather this day.

Unknown shredder on Weinke Island. image: snowbrains
Brabant Island with Mt. Victoria on the left and the Farm on the left of Chiriguano Bay.

This was a wild, sunny, gorgeous day.

In the morning we went for the shoulder of Mt. Victoria.

Just as the final, steep part of the climb began, I didn’t like how firm the snow was and I pulled the plug.

Olympians Danny Davis, Elena Height, and backcountry badass Nick Russell did not pull the plug.  

Stien Retzlaff guided them directly up the very steep face of Victoria and they all successfully made their way down.

The snow was hard, the pitch was 50º+ looking and our group simply sat and watched the show in awe.

Meg and the boat. image: the crew

I took two clients and rescued a runaway ski that another group had lost and that was a fun mini-adventure down near the edge.

In the afternoon we rode to the other side of Chiriguano Bay to The Farm and went for a nice, sunny ski down a big face.

On the way up, one of our group lost their ski and it went careening all the way down to the flat.

We began to ski down and luckily, guiding legend David Marchi grabbed the ski and brought it back up to us.

From there we had a gorgeous corn snow ski back to the shoreline.

Mt. Victoria and crew. image: Kevin Thompson
Paradise Bay.
Ronge Island and my shhhh secret run…

This day was marked by stunning, brilliant sunshine, and penguins everywhere.

We hiked up part way to our initial goal before I decided I didn’t like how firm the snow was.

We skied a short, groomer-esque run down and around the corner to where some of our friends were skiing to have a look.

Around that corner, the snow was softer and we say people splashing snow as they skied down.

We charged up and got ourselves into that sunny corn snow and had a run to remember.

We skied down a superb face in great, steep corn snow with large crevasses on either side of us and a huge rock tower to our left.

Lisa about to hit the beach after a steep, corny, gorgeous run on Ronge Island. image: snowbrains

The run went on and on and we ended up on a gradual apron at the bottom where we could catch out breath.

From there it was back to the boat for a delicious buffet lunch.

After lunch, we jumped out at Ronge Island.

This is my very favorite place to ski in Antarctica.

We didn’t have a ton of time here so I ran with my team of ladies to my favorite run on the north side of the island in the blazing afternoon sun.

We found just what I was hoping for:  steep, corn snow that held it’s steepness continuously right to the water.

The snow was great, we ripped turn after turn and challenged ourselves on the steepest run of the trip.

Everyone crushed the run and we ended up standing right on the beach in the sun listening to the sounds of the wind bashing icebergs into the land.

Some of our group took this afternoon off and enjoyed the heck out of a relaxing evening with the monstrous Gentoo Penguin colony on the nearby Culverville Island.

Ronge Island goodness. image: snowbrains
King George Isle and Admiralty Bay.

Finally, we got some rough weather in the South Shetland Islands on King George Isle.

The day was windy, rough, and wild.

The wind was very strong and invigorating.

We had to turn back from one goal after reports that winds were knocking people over.

Instead, we found a wind-protected pocket on the edge of the big glacier and did two laps there and it was marvelous.

The wind made for nice wind-buff snow and we enjoyed soft turns and good times.

That wind really made us feel alive!

That night, we experienced the infamous White Party…

Antarctic Cormorant. image: the crew

On our final ski day, we had to pay for all that amazing sunny weather.

Winds were too high to launch the Zodiac inflatable boats.

We hunkered down in the boat, ate gourmet food, socialized, relaxed.

The Captian decided to head home around mid-day and we began our voyage across the notorious Drake Passage.

The passage home wasn’t too bad and little did we know that we’d show up at the infamous Cape Horn with good weather…

Day 6 storm. image: Kevin Thompson
From the Antarctic Peninsula to Southern South America.

We got a special treat on this trip on our way home.

Good weather allowed us to approach Cape Horn and come within 2 miles of it.

The Chilean Coast Guard gave us permission and we were pumped.

Ripping winds, strong tides, shallow shoals, and horribly large waves have sunk innumerable ships off Cape Horn.

A large sculpture of two Albatross stands guard over their souls at the Cape Horn Lighthouse.

Tahoe Todd leading a strike mission. image: snowbrains

I can’t express how incredible, intense, luxurious, and unique this trip is. 

Incredible views and skiing, in-your-face wildlife, ridiculous luxury anytime you’re in the ship, a fascinating social scene, and relentlessly unique experience.  

There is simply nothing like Antarctica.

Sunset on the Ocean Adventurer. image: snowbrains

It truly is a world unto its own.

Ice Axe Expeditions will be cruising to Antarctica to ski again in November 2021.

I’ve been invited to guide the trip again and I’d love to share this experience with you and yours.

If interested, please email me here for the ski trip of a lifetime:

Contact@SnowBrains.com

Back deck dance party. image: snowbrains

I’ll let the photos below tell the rest of the story.  

Thanks to everyone.  

Such an unreal trip…

Leopard Seal. image: the crew
Jaime claiming it. image: snowbrains
Lisa on Weinke Island. image: snowbrains
Skimmer. image: Kevin Thompson
Extreme weather crew photo! image: Kevin Thompson
Perfect hair. image: Kevin Thompson
Expedition Leader Solen. image: Kevin Thompson
Team MiLadies rocking up Weinke Island. image: snowbrains
Sunset in the Lemaire Channel. image: snowbrains
Brittany smile ripping. image: snowbrains
Close shave. image: snowbrains
Blue! image: snowbrains
Arch art. image: Kevin Thompson
Fur seal. image: Kevin Thompson
Blues. image: the crew
Miles, Erica, & Meg stoked after a ski rescue. image: the crew
Stein hucking. image: the crew
Brittany ripping down Weinke Island. image: Jakub Demacek
Meg and the boat. image: the crew
Our fearless leader Solen. image: Kevin Thompson
Crevasse. image: the crew
Lisa about to hit the beach after a steep, corny, gorgeous run on Ronge Island. image: snowbrains
Gorgeous. image: snowbrains
Penguins all over the Chilean base. image: snowbrains
Erica slides. image: snowbrains
Our team headed up. image: snowbrains
Todd getting an assist. image: snowbrains
The very old food found in the British Lockroy hut on Weinke Island. image: snowbrains
Highlight. image: the crew
Fired up! image: the crew
The infamous White Pary…
Miles & crew up high on Weinke Island. image: the crew
Jakub hucking into 32ºF water. image: the crew
Climbing up. image: Marla Barker
Sunset in the Lemaire Channel.
Leopard seals are badass. image: the crew
First climb of the day. image: the crew
Complexities. image: the crew
Our boat. image: Kevin Thompson
Hucking meat. image: Kevin Thompson
Meg ripping down Ronge Isle. image: snowbrains
Cheers! image: snowbrains
Sunset. image: snowbrains
Expanse. image: snowbrains
Erica happy amongst penguins. image: snowbrains
Lisa to the beach after a fun one on Ronge Island. image: snowbrains
Hot tub delight. image: the crew
Sunset in the Lemaire Channel. image: snowbrains
Snowing hard on our voyage home. image: snowbrains
Imposing views. image: the crew
My rope team. Jill, Brittany, Meg, Lisa, Erica. image: the crew
Erica ripping it on Weinke Island. image: the crew
Miles probing out safe zones. image: the crew
Lisa! image: the crew
Da gurls. image: the crew
The very most ripped guy on our trip. Olf. image: Kevin Thompson
Guide. image: Kevin Thompson
Shane. image: Kevin Thompson
Happy campers. image: snowbrains
Stunning views thru the porthole. image: snowbrains
Lifeboat sunset. image: snowbrains