Text by Jillian Raymond @tahomajillian and Photos by Brennan Lagasse @stateofthebackcountry and Elizabeth Keane
A Dream. It is as simple as that. Walking aboard the Sea Adventurer, waving goodbye to the charming city of Ushuaia as you float away towards the frozen continent is surreal, memorable, and most of all, the trip of a lifetime. If you have been, you know, if you are going this year, you are stoked, and if you wish to go- make it happen- you will not regret it. Stories and glories aside, it is essential that amidst this dream trip and fantasy living for two weeks, that you are prepared. Ice Axe Expeditions, along with Andrew Mclean, provide a detailed gear list and explanations as to why certain gear might be necessary, but here are a few tips from me to you that helped my dream trip stay dreamy.
I was so glad I had…..
My Favorite Skis.
Packing for ski trips can be tricky. Even predicted and researched weather and conditions can change. You pack for spring but arrive to winter and perhaps you can rent, buy, or borrow to make it through. In Antarctica each piece you pack is a commitment and you should ask yourself as you pack, “Is this my favorite _____?”. In the case of skis, I respect the guidelines on the gear list, but when I knew I could only pack one pair I thought, what skis have I skied every type of condition well in, and what skis do I love to ski the most regardless of condition. My answer was easy. I could pack my Abyss Powder Skis from Coalition Snow www.coalitionsnow.com . They are 114 underfoot and at 173 are a commanding, stiff yet responsive ski. In Antarctica you will be touring, carrying skis on your back, and meeting conditions from ice, to corn, to powder. Your skis need to be the skis you know and love, and most of all feel safe and comfortable on in all terrain.
I was so glad…..
I bought a mountaineering harness.
As a backcountry skier this trip was not the first time I had to tour and ski with a harness. When packing I considered the weight and comfort of my climbing harness. With the full-day touring of this expedition buying a lightweight mountaineers harness was worth the money. I found one at my local shop from Black Diamond and honestly, it is worth the pre-trip expense. Thankfully, I never had to use the harness but it is required that you wear it everyday when touring and skiing so the sleek and slim style made for total comfort and did not impact my touring or turns in any way.
I was so glad…..
I packed layers and layers.
Mountain Hardwear’s Dry Q technology was super helpful on this trip. I was able to pack and wear my Q Shield Down Ghost Whisperer when the winds picked up and the storms arrived, but when the sun came out and the winds calmed, the Ghost Whisperer packs-down super small and easily fits in the day pack. For my outer shell I wore my Mountain Hardwear Barnsie Jacket which is toasty with reliable performance; I wanted the hood over my helmet easily when the winds raged plus wanted my thumb holds, powder skirt, and insulation. The same could be said for packing insulated Mountain Hardwear Returnia ski pants. I would unzip the vents when I needed and layer with my yoga tights and long underwear for warmth. Base layers were easily dried out in the cozy cabins and reworn a few times (I am not that sweaty or stinky) but I would recommend new ski socks everyday as a luxury for your tired feet that will be touring, boot-packing, and skiing hard.
I was so glad…..
I packed my helmet and extra goggles.
If you, like me, have gotten used to wearing a helmet in-bounds and in the backcountry, pack it for Antarctica- it is worth carrying and having. Your guides will bring you to the terrain that suits you but even in the mellow-aspects this is high-adventure skiing with multiple exposures and you are traveling on glaciated terrain. Like they say in Portillo, “you only have one brain, take care of it.” I recommend 2 pairs of goggles so you can have one for standing up on the bridge and being in the eye of a storm or lasting longer at the penguin rookery because you are protected from the winds and not get your touring/skiing goggles wet or fogged.
I was so glad……
I brought my favorite jeans, sweatshirt, slippers, and cute tops.
Honestly you will thank me. Après on the boat is so fun and so essential. When you arrive back and you can shower and change into your go-to favorites for the cocktail hour and slideshows you just embrace the cozy living room that much more. The captain’s cocktail, evening dinners, and especially the Black/White ball invite cute and stylish apparel to be worn and enjoyed- if you are like me- in a mountain town those favorite and fun pieces don’t always get to make an appearance so let them be seen! It will also be beautiful in the millions of photograph you take as you cruise through the most photogenic and awe inspiring places on the planet. It is frowned upon to wear flip-flops on the boat for safety, which is a bummer because they are my après -go-to, but thankfully I had some awesome slippers with a slight sole and I rocked them daily with great joy.
And finally I was so glad……
I went on this amazing adventure.
From the port of Ushuaia to the return trip across the Drake you will learn about yourself as a human and an athlete as well as bond with these fantastic people who have chosen to be on board this ship as well. Enjoy Amigos!