What's the snow like... Is the skiing any good... How cold is it...
Will I get sea sick... Do I need experience... Is it rough...
What is included... Do I need a visa... What about flights...
Although we ask that you have prior ski-mountaineering experience, you don't need to be an extreme skier! If you are happy ascending with skins and ski crampons, and descending off-piste on slopes up to 35°, then you already have the ski skills to make the most of a skiing trip to Antarctica!
We do our best to ensure that everyone on an expedition team is of a similar skill level and has the same sort of objectives.
Expect anything and everything! It will be early summer in Antarctica, and so the lower peaks will generally have spring snow, while the highest peaks will often have powder or firm consolidated snow. All skiing is on heavily glaciated mountains, above fjords studded with icebergs, so no matter what the snow is like, the backdrop is always spectacular!
Although most of the ascents will be completed on skis, using skins and ski crampons, there may be short sections, particularly close to the summits, where we may need to fix skis to our rucksacks and use crampons and an ice-axe for the final few metres.
Due to the heavily glaciated nature of the terrain we usually rope-up to ascend the mountains. We request that all members are proficient and practiced in roped mountain travel on skis, as well as crevasse rescue. If you do not have this, we can provide the necessary glacier training - please contact us and we will be happy to advise.
With mountains ranging from 500m to 2000m, ascents can take between 3 and 8 hours each day, either from the yacht or from a high base camp. We tailor our objectives according to what the team wishes to do!
Most people are actually surprised how mild it is. Being a maritime climate, the temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula in summer is relatively mild. Usually ranging from -5°C to +5°C, it is similar to winter in Scotland, although on a sunny afternoon it will feel much much hotter.
We take mountain safety very seriously, and are the only operator in Antarctica to run glacier training sessions. All expedition members joining our expeditions in Ushuaia receive a full day refresher training in the mountains above Ushuaia prior to departure. In addition, we can provide additional glacier training prior to starting the expedition.
It is likely that we will have cloudless, still days, as well as periods of thick cloud, white-out and wind. While the Antarctic Peninsula sits close to the path of the depressions that circulate the continent, the large islands along the west coast provide a lot of shelter to the main coastline. Depressions tend to pass quickly, after which the weather is generally settled. The length of the expedition means that we have a good chance of experiencing all weathers, and to be able to make the most of the clear periods when they arrive.
Bad weather tends to mean low cloud and possibly precipitation, but rarely much wind. We have a number of lower ski objectives that are suitable when cloud obscures the highest peaks. And if it is too low for these to be enjoyed, we are always keen to take you sea kayaking, wildlife watching or ice climbing...
Icebird is set up to receive ECMWF and NCEP forecasts using PredictWind via Iridium. This allows us to make relatively accurate weather forecasts for up to 5 days. We also have a vast amount of experience on the ground in Antarctica and are familiar with local weather patterns and what to look out for. When we are camping this weather information is passed onto us from the yacht during our daily radio / satellite phone schedule.
We have a number of handheld VHF radios that are always carried when not aboard the yacht that allow us maintain line-of-sight communication with the yacht for as far as 10km. We also carry a satellite phone in case we are out of VHF range, and we use this on a daily basis to communicate with Icebird when we are camping.
All members will need to supply their own clothing and personal equipment, including skiing and climbing equipment. A full clothing and equipment list will be provided as soon as you book a place. We provide group kit, such as tents, stoves and climbing ropes. We also provide all drysuits and equipment for sea kayaking.
Icebird is a 60ft aluminium-hulled yacht that was purposely designed and constructed for polar expedition sailing. With central heating, showers and a heated panoramic pilot-house, life on board is very comfortable indeed!
Nobody enjoys rough seas, so we time our crossing to Antarctica to give us the best chance of reasonable sailing conditions - moderate winds and a 2-3m swell. Sometimes the wind may be a little stronger and the swell may be larger, and sometimes we may have to motor due to lack of wind. Our timing ensures that our crossing is as comfortable as possible. Tales of monstrous seas are generally told by those who have traveled by ship on a tight schedule!
Although not everyone gets sea-sick, it is best to expect some discomfort. Modern medications are amazing and they work for most people, and after a day or two most people feel a lot better. What’s more, crossing the Drake Passage, and helping to actually sail the yacht across the legendary Drake Passage, is all part of the adventure - and an incredible achievement!
Our first day of sailing is along the sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel, and then south across Nassau Bay to Cape Horn. We will then be in the open ocean of the Drake Passage for just 3 days before we reach the shelter of islands off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
No previous sailing experience is necessary since all instruction is provided. However, we do encourage everyone to help sail the yacht, and to be an active part of the watch system (usually 3 hours on and 6 hours off) and of running the yacht.
We take yacht safety very seriously and follow a number of defined safety protocols. Upon departure we have a safety meeting that covers fire safety, man overboard, emergency procedures, health and hygiene, and watch duties. At all times when on deck every person must wear a lifejacket and be tethered to the yacht.
The yacht is designed for polar operations, has 6 watertight compartments, a specially re-inforced hull and bow for sailing in ice, satellite navigation and emergency systems, and is kitted out with the necessary safety equipment
Combined with our process of educating and training our expedition members, we are able to operate safely in the seas around Antarctica.
You don't need any specialist sailing clothing - the waterproof jacket and salopettes that you will wear in the mountains will be sufficient. We will provide you with a lifejacket and tether, so you'll just need some warm clothes, a pair of wellington boots, and a pair of waterproof gloves. A full clothing and equipment list will be provided as soon as you book a place.
Most people are pleasantly surprised by this - we like to eat well, and pride ourselves on it! We carry an impressive amount of fresh food, from salad (which often lasts until the end of the trip) to delicious Argentine steak, and we make fresh bread every day. Since this is an expedition, everyone is expected to help cook and keep the yacht clean, but don’t worry if you aren’t the world’s best cook - we'll pair you with someone suitable and help you out. Cooking is a lot of fun on board - the cooks get to decide the music, and the rest of the team ensures that the cooks drinks are kept topped up!
Icebird is set up to receive ECMWF and NCEP forecasts using PredictWind via Iridium. This allows us to make relatively accurate weather forecasts for up to 5 days. We also have a vast amount of experience on the ground in Antarctica and are familiar with local weather patterns and what to look out for.
The yacht has an IridiumGO!, which expedition members may connect to using their mobile phone (we provide information on what you need to do to set yourself up for this before you arrive). Emails (without attachments) and text messages can be sent for free; phone calls are billed at cost price.
Note that there is no internet access, and that you will not be able to access your usual email account. If you wish to access the internet, send photos or post to social media, we recommend that you research and bring your own device.
We arrange all the necessary permits to visit Antarctica, but you may need a visas to visit Argentina and Chile. Most people visiting Argentina for less than three months can purchase this at the airport when they arrive in Argentina. We recommend that you check the visa requirements for Argentina and Chile according to your nationality.
We recommend booking flights early to get the best prices. We also recommend an overnight in Buenos Aires on your return in case your flight from Ushuaia is delayed, which frequently happens. You may also wish to extend your stay at either end to hike around Ushuaia or Patagonia, or see the sights of Buenos Aires.
Please note that flights to Ushuaia are not included in the cost of the expedition.
Although we have always made it back in time, we do recommend that you schedule an extra day in Ushuaia, and ensure that your insurance covers any delays, just in case!
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