by Robert Frohlich
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”
– John Muir
[Escura Inlet, Admiralty Bay, King George Island 62. Degrees 09 South/58degrees 32.6 West]
I ascend Escura Inlet’s steep hills. It doesn’t take long before amagnificent view of King George Island blooms between two ridges. I marvel at the perfection in contrasts: burnt umber cliffs, outcroppings of lichen-colored rock, and a broad sweep that leads to the delft blue of Admiralty Bay. The brilliant water reflects the deep color of the sky, slicing into the white of surrounding snowfields. The Southern Ocean seems to wear a different shade of blue each time I see it azure to the slate gray and emerald green that often presages a winter storm. In the early light of morning, Antarctica glitters with excitement, while late afternoon deepens the milk of magnesia hills into a calm expanse. With each day, each hour, Antarctica changes, and so do I.
But Admiralty Bay is far more than a beautiful place to experience restorative solitude or marvel at kaleidoscopic displays of color. Antarctica just isn¹t about the high reaches – it¹s a beacon for a type of tribalism seldom seen at any other extreme expedition.
Over 35 Squaw Valley and North Shore residents are aboard the Clipper Adventurer: From well-known professional guides Ben Mitchell, Tal Fletcher, Jason Mack, Tom Waclo, Glen Poulsen, Kevin and Jessica Quinn, CJ Warre and Ming Poon; SV ski coaches Dick Banfield, Scott Flint and Jeff Lampert; videographers Tom Day and Liz Rodgers and team photographer Keoki Flagg; and Warren Miller Production ski talent Kip Garr and John Morrison.
Then there’s Squaw Valley Institute board members Russell Poulsen and John Wilcox (proudly announcing himself as oldest member of this voyage); Snowboard high priest (on film assignment) Jeremy Jones; Squaw Valley residents Reb and Nancy Forte and Barbara and Fred Ilfeld and Tahoe Forest Hospital nurse Kathleen Cohen; legendary mono-board skier Lee Dube and famed Squaw Valley rippers Meaghan Wheeler, Jean-Marc Landau and Adrian Benson. And finally, of course, there are the untamed www.unofficialsquaw.com boys Ralph Backstrom, Greg Martin, and Mattias Sullivan, Patrick Ribelli and Tim Konrad.
Sometimes it feels like a shipboard college campus reunion watching Banfield making gnarr turns on a 46 degree pitch, or Keoki and Tom Day with all their cameras and ever smiling Scott Flint making jokes and all the guides walking around with their pickets and ice screws as out of a National Geographic page.
And then of course there is leader Doug Stoup larger than life putting out fires, corralling egos, encouraging folks to pursue their dreams and cranking some righteous turns himself way up high on steep distant ridgelines. It was Stoup and his assistant Karen Stanley (another North Shoe resident) that put this thing together and in the process created a Squaw Valley alumni party. It makes you proud to be back in the saddle and a Squaw Valleyite and I¹m not just talking about the beer drinking and backslapping after dinner.
Admiralty Bay, aside from massive snowfields, is also home to the biggest collection of scientific stations in Antarctica, including the Polish scientific research station the Arctowski.
The low gravel shores in front of the station are home to lounging fur and elephant seals. Adele, gentoo and chinstrap penguins all frequent the beach because they nest in abundance in the colonies on the nearby surrounding hills.
The beach is great for discovering whale bones and other remains such as skulls, ribs and jawwbones.
The station is named in honor of Henryk Arctowski, the geologist on Adrein de Gerlache’s Begica expedition of 1897-99.
Here, we met Anna, a marine biologist from the Polish Academy of Sciences. In her seventh year of research and work at the Polish Station our interview went kind of like this:
TT: Do you ever miss the food from your homeland?
ANNA: I love “Dogas,” a special Polish recipe that includes sauerkraut, sausage and mushrooms. When we buy supplies during the summer season from the cruise ships I can usually find all the ingredients to make some.
TT: Do penguins or any of the other species ever become possessive or familiar with you after time the way a dog or cat would?
ANNA: Penguins have no idea about your personality. They are very distant in that regard. Life in a penguin colony is noisy and dirty, with adults calling and displaying to one another, chicks squeaking as they beg for food and the birds commuting from sea to nest with meals while the other guards the nest. They really have no time for you. Some of the birds will gather around you, like sheathbills, but mainly because they are not afraid of you.
TT: Do you ever get lonely or beat down by the Antarctic weather?
ANNA: There are huge blizzards and winds that gather over 260 kilometers, but you never feel in danger. With the Internet you can contact friends and family. It’s no longer as in long past where the only communication was by radio.
TT: Have you ever watched any of those horror movies that take place at a station in Antarctica like “The Thing” where self-absorbed personality challenged scientists wake up some creature in a crevasse from 50,000 years of sleep who becomes really teed off and starts eating everybody?
ANNA: I have never seen such a thing. After all I’m pretty busy at our station studying Starfish and such, but it sounds good. We should rent that film.
The ICE AXE S.A.T:
Q. Name two countries where you can throw a snowballa cross the equator.
A. Kenya, where the equator passes over the shoulder of 17,057-foot Mount Kenya, and Ecuador, where it bisects 18,996-foot Cayambe.
THE ICE AXE PROFILE
5 Questions with John Wilcox
John Wilcox first took to the slopes at the ripe age of 30. His first day at Alpine Meadows he broke his ankle. “Fortunately, I’d had a few runs, enoughto get me hooked before the injury,” John admits.
Forty-three years later, the Squaw Valley, California resident is Ice Axe Expeditions oldest team member in Antarctica. A former Stanford grad and successful businessman from Palo Alto, John is far from retired. He presides as President of the Board of the Squaw Valley Institute, serves as Director of the Squaw Valley Service District and is a board member for the Squaw Valley Museum Foundation. When not skiing the peaks of the white continent John enjoys his time with his two loves wife Barbara and faithful companion Australian Shepherd Lexi.
On Aging and Skiing
As you age you sometimes worry about not being able to do some of the things you’ve enjoyed doing in the past. Luckily, at my age, I haven’t slowed down all that much, but I know one day down the road I may not be attempting what I can accomplish at this stage. When that happens I’ll have to start going out into the backcountry with a different group of friends who are all much younger than me at present.
On His Favorite Ski Line
It has to be the north side of Lassen Peak in what is called the “Devastated Area.” It’s a long steep pitch, around a 2,000-foot descent. A couple of years ago in May I had a particularly wonderful bluebird day. The snow wasn’t quite corn, but more like little crystals that made a crunching sound under foot. It was beautiful snow.
On His Favorite Beatles Music
I love the Beatles, but I listen mostly jazz. Give me the Modern Jazz Quartet, Oscar Peterson, Ella and Duke anytime.
On Living In Squaw Valley
What makes Squaw Valley such a great place to live isn’t just about its mountains and skiing. The community is made up of a variety of people. Back in the city we hung out basically with people of similar age, wealth and education. Squaw Valley is a hodge podge of different backgrounds and age,wealth and experience where everyone nevertheless is still equal. And what characters!
On Going to Antarctica
What grabbed my attention more than anything was all the great people who came along. It was an incredible see and ski adventure, but it was the camaraderie and team members that made it exceptional.