by Robert Frohlich
It hit me about the 14th bite of my spinach and cheese strudel. During the Ice Axe Antarctica 09 Expedition, many wondered why its international guides, made up of 18 of the planet’s most notable skiers, snowboarders and mountaineers, appeared so sluggish on the mountain. Why couldn’t we get to the really distant reaches up forbidden and icy peaks? How come we weren’t climbing that well? Why did we look, sound and play so tired? After all, these guys have been to the top of Everest, Denali, and the North Pole.
Now I know. Our guides eat too much.
Call them the Clipper Adventurer Eating Team or Probe Pole Cordon Bleu. Come and get them. Soup’s on and on and on, with the Ice Axe Expeditions Guide Team. I know because I traveled with them by ship during their trip to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Before we get to the appetizers, remember that Ice Axe Expeditions bill journalists for their meals. Don’t get the idea that objectivity is bought with steak and lobster. It’s just that everyone is served the same moveable feast: A4 ice screw specialists and hungry writers alike.
Take it from a 220-pounder like myself our Ice Axe veteran mountain men are served enough on the road to feed a colony of leopard seals for a week.
Soon after our ship departed from Tierra Del Fuego, of course, everyone was served dinner – a cruise ship buffet stretching from here to Vinson Massif. Naturally, Dave Marchi, Dan Starr and Jason Mack saved room for midnight snacks: a dozen or so chocolate chip cookies, dulce de leche and pounds of Tiramisu. Then it¹s up for a breakfast that would have lasted all winter on Shackleton’s shipwrecked Fram. Each guide ate six fried eggs, a great mass of potatoes and a steak no bigger than a serac. By the time that was chewed and had been washed down to the belly with a couple quarts of hazelnut-chocolate cappuccino, griddle cakes arrived, ten or twelve surmounted by a hunk of butter as big as an iceberg and dripping with melting cornices of chocolate.
Ice Axe guides needed Kip Garr, CJ Warre and John Griber, all right, not for tuning skis, but to help let out everyone¹s tight pants before a forced march to the summit.
Our Ice Axe Guides don’t crampon off into the wild blue yonder as much as go for more Chinese. Call Director Doug Stoup anything but chicken, he might barbecue you. Liz Taylor should have been on the team. Team doctors found out Tucker Patton’s blood type was Ragu.
These guides don’t ascend well because their food has just digested. Then, by all means, it’s on to the ship¹s training table and a late lunch.
As you sit down, there are coolers full of soft drinks and beer. Begin with a Shepherd’s Pie, which requires a 300-pound bench press to hoist. Then served were spaghetti, manicotti, conchiglle al dente, vegetable curry and enough baguette to choke Paul Prudhomme.
Next was a platter of Southern Ocean fish, then a huge Sicilian roast beef quickly reduced to the bone; a mountain of Argentine potatoes, a swamp of Santa Cruz green beans, black-eyed peas and steamed polenta; Then, not just one pack of Buenos Aires chocolate confections, but two packs. And if that wasn’t enough to hold over our guys such as Ben Mitchell, John Metschnig, Hans Salzman and marine biologist Allan Marshall, crème brulee swimming in cream, and figs the size of Mount Francis.
And this only begins a mountain retreat for dinner: Minestrone that has so much bread broken into it that it was more solid than liquid; half a lamb Asado; potato halves filed with cheese sauce, cauliflower in cheese sauce, Alka-Seltzer in cheese sauce. I kept seeing Ice Axe guides in a funhouse mirror. Kevin Quinn, the lead guide, was too busy eating to be interviewed.
I couldn’t stomach another bite. The waiter asked how about some strawberry swirl cheesecake?” I said, “Sure!”
He brought not one, but three pieces! And I devoured them! I felt like all of us were in an Alpo commercial. This Ice Axe team has its cake and eats two.
Sailing back to Ushuaia, we crept into the Beagle Channel, probably because we each had gained ten pounds. Growing restless, our guides waged a food fight such that the captain announced we would heave to if it weren’t stopped. That’s when I spied one last snack pack that had rolled under a seat. Tal Fletcher and Glen Poulsen were fighting over it.
And we wonder why our Ice Axe guides didn’t have the lean, hungry look on route? Although in between meals they led expedition members safely to the most beautiful scenery within the most unimaginable trip of a lifetime, I’m telling you, we feed them too much. At this rate, the only time they’ll ever use their bivy sack is if it’s full of chili.
NOTE: This dispatch was inspired by the delicious offerings of Clipper Adventurer Head Chef Zaldy and staff. No guides died from overeating in the writing of this story.