Sailing, climbing and kite skiing in Antarctica
This is the question most asked of Andrew Lock, Australia’s king of high-altitude mountaineering. Andrew is part of an elite group of alpinists who have climbed all 14 of the world’s 8000-metre peaks. Having completed this immense challenge, and without the use of supplemental oxygen, it’s fair to wonder what adventure could compare?
The answer – Antarctica. Andrew’s favourite adventure destination. There are countless remote and unclimbed peaks to satisfy his need for isolation and his desire to be totally self-reliant even in the most challenging environments.
So, in January, Andrew and a small group of friends set sail from Ushuaia in Argentina aboard a 66-foot (20m) aluminium yacht bound for the Antarctic Peninsula. They hoped to sail as far south as the ocean, and the relatively fragile ship, permitted before going ashore to ski inland in search of first ascents.
The Drake Passage is notoriously rough, but they made the crossing safely only to have an unpredicted storm toss them onto rocks near the coast, damaging the propeller and starter motor. The delay while they made repairs necessitated a change in plan. They settled on a range of smaller, more accessible peaks on Anvers Island. None had been climbed before. All required technical skill and self-sufficiency.
Over 10 days the small team of four skied inland. What they couldn’t carry in backpacks, they dragged behind them in sleds. They kept their equipment simple, using lightweight propane butane stoves to melt water and freeze-dried food and high-calorie energy bars for meals. They packed out all their waste.
They successfully climbed Mt Nestor and Mt Achilles in the Palmer range of mountains and new routes on other peaks including Mt Helen and Mt Menelaus. They also established a major new route and traverse of the two highest summits in the range, Mt Francais, 2760m, and Mt Agamemnon, 2577m. Where possible they climbed up and skied down.
Andrew said the “new route up the Zeus Ridge of Mt Francais followed by the traverse to and descent of Mt Agamemnon was the highlight. These peaks rise straight out of the sea, so we had an ascent of 2800m followed by a mostly ski descent.”
They used kites to return, a relatively new but thrilling experience for Andrew. Reaching speeds of more than 20km/h they were able to make their rendezvous deadline with the yacht. They sailed back into Ushuaia early in March, keen for a hot shower and a good meal.
Check out footage of their incredible adventure here:
Andrew is a popular keynote speaker– addressing corporate and community audiences on his adventures and the lessons inherent for any successful enterprise – setting goals, staying motivated, dealing with setbacks, building resilience and self-sufficiency, leadership and more. For more information about Andrew’s presentations head to Australian Geographic Presents.