This autumn has been a very busy and incredibly amazing in all aspects. In the beginning of October I started getting ready for three different trips and activities around the world. At first the plan was to have a family climbing and beach holiday in Croatia and then have some time off before heading to Argentina and Antarctic where I’d work guiding ski touring for Ice Axe Expeditions. Things started to get interesting when I got a message from my viking freeflyer friend Marius Sotberg from Team Berserk, who invited me to do a week of freely coaching at his famous camp, The Berserk camp at Skydive Spain, Seville. I was very happy to be invited for this and of course could not say no to an offer like that. I knew it would require some serious organising to pull off the schedule like that but it all sounded so good that I had to try my best to pull it off.
So, I ended up skydiving in Seville, followed by a family holiday in Italy and Croatia and after that I’d travel straight to Ushuaia, Argentina and from there to Antarctic! Pretty sick! Between these three trips I’d have only a very limited time at home so I had to pack the gear for all the trips before to be able to bag them all. So after a few days of running left and right and packing I was standing on top of three piles of gear and ready to go big.
Berserk freefly camp at Skydive Spain, Seville
At the Berserk camp the plan was to do five days of jumping, 7 jumps a day with good briefing and debriefing so the people would get the most out of it. We were three coaches, Marius, Kim Törnwall and myself. We’d be jumping 8ways with the same group and then switch the groups every few days. It was so much fun! We had very good flyers and people participating on the camp and the Skydive Spain staff did an amazing job making us fly as much as we could despite some bad weather and unexpected holding because of the Spanish Air force. The camp was a big success and people were happy, me probably the most. Huge thanks to Marius and Kim, you guys are the best! Skydive Spain staff Ana, Corine and Carlotta for getting us up in the air and all the participants who were going Berserk! I hope we can fly and spend more time with this crew because it was for sure very good flying and very good times!
I got home from Seville at Sunday night and the plan was to jump in the car with the girls and start the holiday roadtrip the next morning. I was happy to have the bags packed already and just load them in the car. We headed off in the morning towards Venice, Italy to see some culture and ride in a gondola. Venice was kinda nice but very expensive and touristic. But still it was cool to see some very old history and cruise in a gondola with an original gondolieri who was singing and telling history and stories about the old town and buildings.
Croatia beach and climbing
From Venice we drove to through Slovenia to Croatia and to the national park of Paclenica. We rented a nice apartment from Mr. Dinko and went climbing to this nice canyon with hundreds of routes with very easy access. Super nice spot but catabatic winds from the East were somewhat lessening the experience and we had to dress up like in winter. No drama though since the climbing was so nice, though somewhat polished. But easy access with kids and nice scenery were totally worth the visit.
The real gem of the trip was the island of Hvar and this lovely little resort called Cliffbase. www.cliffbase.com. This very friendly Slovenian dude called Miro had put up the place some 13 years ago, built a refuge in the old harbour and bolted some 130 routes on this amazing sea cliff. It’s like a little climbing paradise by the sea and there’s amazing limestone. Just perfect little spot. You’d have your cafe and watch the sunrise by the sea, tape the fingers at your couch and then walk 5 meters to the cliff, put up a toprope for kids, climb a bit, swim, climb more, eat lunch, climb more, play, swim, climb and repeat. There’s kayaks and canoes to play with as well as a 300 meter traverse above the water with some amazing sculpted limestone. Just perfect! Super easy with kids and very stress free. Holidays.
Antarctic peninsula with Ice Axe Expeditions
November 5th we set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina with our vessel, Sea Adventurer. Double rainbow on the Beagle channel got us happily on the way towards the notorious Drake passage, 600 nautical miles of open water between Cap Horn and Antarctic. Two day cruise on the Drake was very calm and enjoyable with Wondering Albatrosses, Petrels and a pod 20-50 of Humpback whales who were very curious and gave us an amazing show. On the morning of the 3rd day we woke up to a breathtaking scenery of mountains, huge icepack, sunshine, sea and icebergs. We had arrived to Antarctic!
I have been travelling left and right but Antarctic peninsula is by far the wildest and the most beautiful place I have ever been. The scenery is just unreal with more ice and snow than I have ever seen in my life and incredible mountains to ride and climb all over the place. The first day turned out to be the best weather-wise and luckily we got the best out of it. In the morning after a scouting mission we did a nice little run from the shoulder of Mt. Victoria on hard but grippy snow and after a five-star lunch at the ship we hit “the Farm” for the afternoon laps. Excellent spring snow and surprise powder pockets on a very impressive ice-sculpted terrain hit the spot nicely for everybody and down by the Zodiacs there were bunch of happy campers ready to get some more. What a welcome!
Our concept was a mix of ski- and snowboard touring in the wildest imaginable terrain on big mountains and glaciers and then at the same time high-class living on a luxurious ship. We slept in our comfortable cabins on the ship and then in the morning the very capable staff of Quark Expeditions took us to the shore with Zodiacs to ride basically untouched mountains. The contrast of the wild, unspoiled landscape of the Antarctic compared to the high quality accommodation and living on the ship is just an unreal combinaison. A real wild adventure with five-star luxuries and red carpet treatment. Getting spoiled big time.
Our days started with a guide’s meeting at the top of the bridge at 05:50 where we took a look at the mountains and areas where we would be skiing and then we’d continue the meeting with some discussion about different options as well as what kinda hazards there were to take into consideration on each particular spot. We’d send out some scout boats to check the Zodiac landings and coordinates for safe return in case of bad weather etc. There was a lot of weather, swell, tide and wind to take into consideration when planning the day and in order to play it as safe as possible. Our expedition leader Alex was well on top of things and from the bridge of the Sea Adventurer, he ran the logistics and communication centre between all the guides and Zodiac drivers. We were in very good hands. Normally in the morning we’d ski something somewhere, then return to the ship for some lunch and go out again for the afternoon laps in an another spot. This year we had quite a bit of weather, snowstorms and high winds topped up with bad visibility so we were forced to play it very conservative but still managed to get some good fun runs in and even quite a bit of Antarctic powder, which is a rare gem because it does not snow a lot there.
Skiing can be challenging because snow can ofter be hard and icy, the glaciers are big and sometimes very exposed with risk of slipping and sliding on a hard snow, crevasses everywhere and huge seracs hanging all over the place. No letting the guard down here but with safety in mind and playing it safe, one can have some mind-blowing riding in an amazing setting of ice, snow, glaciers, sea, icebergs, whales, seals, penguins and good friends! Don’t expect to ride the best powder runs of your life but the overall experience is something indecent! Here you have to take the difficulty and exposure down a few notches, here you don’t want to fuck up and hurt yourself, the help is far and there’s no helicopter rescue around the corner. But play it a bit conservatively and as safe as one can and enjoy the ride!
Antarctic cruise is not just a skiing trip. It’s more of an experience not to be missed! Besides touring and skiing we had a lot of interesting things to do and see. Every day on the ship we would have very interesting lectures from our Quark crew. From Hadleigh about history of Antarctic expeditions, life on the sea and ice and history of whaling in the Southern seas. Our ornithologist Santiago gave lectures about penguins, albatross, petrels etc. We learned a lot about whales and sea life by our good marine biologist Jimmy. Thanks Hadleigh, Santiago and Jimmy! Awesome stuff! Also lectures and slideshows by other guides were really interesting with some very cool stories and experiences to be shared!
And of course there was a happy hour at the bar at around 17:00 with different themes like Margarita, Mojito, Hot Rhum and a lot of little finger food like sushi etc. before dinner. Oh yeah, the food. Well, this is the only ski touring trip where you will come back home with a heli belly. So yes, food is amazing and there’s a lot of it. “Sir, would you like a 5th dessert..?” “Sure Richard, bring it on thank you!” And a word of warning… There is also the legendary and notorious Black and White party, no more info about that, just come and see for yourself…
And when we wanted or needed to go see some penguins or seals or look for whales or find old, clear ice for our cocktails in the bar or just go for a cruise in-between the icebergs, our fantastic crew of Zodiac drivers took us there for a fun ride! They also showed us some amazing driving- and seaman skills during some very hairy storms and windy weather. Extremely good handling Christian, Sean, Alison, Emily and all the rest of you amazing people!
Did we see penguins..? Yeah, a few… thousand! They were everywhere we went. We’d go to the shore and they’d be there waiting, looking what we were up to and waddling to see us or hop into the sea for some swim and fish. Funny little creatures, they will put a smile on your face, guaranteed! It’s a funny feeling to go up skiing through the penguin rookeries and to see those guys wondering around the icepack doing I don’t know what in the storm there.
For me the trip was just unreal. It’s difficult to come up with enough positive words to describe all the experiences, endless fun, emotions and beauty that we run across during the journey. Next year’s dates are online so waste no time if you want to get a seriously unforgettable experience that’s gonna blow your mind!
It is on! 7.-19. November 2015 http://www.iceaxe.tv/expedition/antarctic-peninsula-adventure-cruise-2015/
Huge thanks for Ice Axe Expeditions, Doug Stoup and Karyn Stanley for putting together this amazing journey and taking me along, Quark Expeditions and especially Alex for their extremely professional organising, working hard to get us onshore and also excellent lectures! Thank you colleague guides for your experience, talent and professionalism and taking a rookie under your wings! And most of all, big, huge, thanks for Mikko, Esa and Kjesti and all the people on board who made the trip as MEGA as it was!
In the meantime, if you want to snowboard, ski or climb in Chamonix during the winter, freefly at the legendary camp FlajFlaj www.flajflaj.com in California in March, take part in the Ice Axe’s Spitzbergen or Greenland ski- and sail expeditions or go heliskiing in Kamchatka with Heliski Russia, just give me a shout and we’ll make it happen. Don’t be lazy, get in there!
All right, be safe, be good, speaks later!