Saturday, October 22, 2011

Anticipati​ng Antarctica

Back in May, I mentioned that this year’s big trip is to Antarctica for celebrating the 11/11/11 birthday of my travel buddy, Ed. Well, the trip is almost upon us.

The plan is for the two of us to meet up on November 2nd at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas (me flying from Oregon, and Ed from Arizona), and then flying on into Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we have to switch to the domestic airport across town (we’ll probably take a taxi), and then on to Ushuaia, at the very southern tip of Argentina. We should make it to that town around 6:30 in the evening, enjoying the spring season, which should be well under way, down there. In a move that is a little against our tradition, we’ve reserved a hotel for the whole time that we’ll be down in that town.

Ed and I were talking about the location of Ushuaia – it’s at the 55th parallel in the southern hemisphere. I couldn’t find any notable towns in Canada that appear on the corresponding parallel in North America. It’s sort of the southern tip of a little finger of Alaska, and is halfway through provinces like British Columbia and Alberta. In Europe, it’s a little north of Belfast, Ireland, and runs pretty much through Newcastle in the U.K. It’s roughly the southern tip of the Scandinavian Pennisula, and runs through the southern part of Russia. It’s just fun to consider where we’d be in the northern hemisphere if we were near the corresponding parallel.

We expect that we’ll be doing some hiking and exploring while in the area, and then we get on the One Ocean Navigator (also known as Akademik Ioffe) on the 8th with about 94 other passengers. I’m hoping that we’ll have a night of calm channel travelling, before the 2 days of rough Drake Passage crossing in order to get to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula – an arm of land that looks as though it was torn off from the mainland that lies to the east of the peninsula. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to actually touch the continent on Ed’s birthday on the 11th. If everything goes as planned, we expect to spend up through the 17th doing sea kayaking, snowshoeing or hiking, and at least one night camping out. The whole point of going with this particular company was to be able to be active while down there. We may or may not get to cross the Antarctic Circle. We’re expecting that the weather and existence of ice in the water to play a big part in determining where, exactly, we’ll be going after getting to the peninsula area. And no, I won’t be doing any climbing while there, which is sad, as there are quite a few nice mountains, in Antarctica, and some on the peninsula, itself.

I think it’s on the 18th, we have to turn around and head back to Argentina. We’re expecting to go from the boat to the airport on the 20th, and spend the entire day getting over to Mendoza, Argentina, where Ed wanted to spend a few days. I’m hoping that we’ll get a whitewater rafting trip in, while there, before we take off on the 25th for the long trip back to the US, which is routed through Miami, Florida.

We’re both hoping that between what we’re bringing, and what the boat is providing (waterproof parkas and bibs, Wellington boots, and dry suits for the kayaking), that we’ll always be nice and toasty warm. Besides, it’ll be Spring! In spite of the season, something that I read mentioned that the water is just about 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celcius), so I’m really, really, really hoping that there will be no splish-splashing around in the water!

They say that we’ll take about 4 or 5 times as many photos as we plan on taking, so I hope that I’ll have enough memory in my camera. I’m also hoping that Ed will take his normal array of spectacular photos. I’m beginning to expect that I’ll have the crappiest camera on the boat, but it’s small, supposedly waterproof and shockproof, so it quite suits me with the paces I put it through. . . .

Don’t expect any email while I’m down there!

Oh – I have written up some of my summer climbs, but they’ve all been written as trip reports, or discussions on, so written for consumption by mountaineers. If you’d care to take a gander at them, they’re at: Failed Glacier Peak climb, Steel Cliff Route up Mt. Hood, and the last response on Adams Glacier route up Mt. Adams. This last climb was one of my favorites this summer, since it was technical, involved a lot of route-finding through the crevasses, with no assurance of success, and had fabulous weather. My partner was also able to take what I thought was a great picture of me on a snow bridge, in the middle of a huge crevasse in what we were hoping was a route out of the crevasse field:

(can't seem to bring this photo in, for some reason - have to figure it out, later. meanwhile, it's at this location)

Looking forward to touching the, and my, 7th continent,