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Skiing the Antarctic Peninsula, Part 3
Posted on December 1, 2011

First Ascent Ski Guide Kent McBride checks in from a recent ski-guide trip in Antarctica.Story and photos by Kent McBride

Many of the islands along the Antarctic Peninsula offer great lines and faces like diamonds floating on the ocean. Skiing high above large bodies of water gives you a euphoric feeling, as your skis plane off the top layer of snow with each turn.

The glaciers here are like nothing you’ve seen before. They do not always stop at the base of the steeps, as with most peaks with a classic bergschrund (a crevasse, often below the summit, where gravity pulls the ice away from the snowfield that feeds it). In Antarctica, the glaciers wrap and encase the mountain like caramel over an apple. Everywhere there are vast, vertical faces of ice that come right out of the ocean, blocking the mountains with castle-like walls.

The tops of the runs with greater elevation required an ice axe and crampons on the way up and strong edging skills (or hospital bills) coming down. The intensely high winds polish a glaze on the ice that can be seen from a distance.

About every third day we were gifted with blue skies. Fortunately, for those other days when the visibility wasn’t ideal, many couloirs and rocky spines gave us the definition necessary to see our way back down.

The groups consisted of one guide per three to five clients; we were paired with another group of similar abilities. The group total was 10 simply because that’s the number of people that a Zodiac can safely carry. I felt lucky to guide beside Doug Workman and his Jackson Hole, Wyoming, clients. My clients came all the way from Tokyo, and we all had skied together in Haines, Alaska, last spring and a few of us had also skied together in Greenland. We joked that this trip would make us bipolar. Our groups worked well together and we were fortunate to ski some really interesting terrain in an amazing setting.

Author: - Thursday, December 1st, 2011

  1. Dan Hock

    Loved catching a glimpse into your life. Keep it up Kent!

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