Antartic peninsula, by the coast

Published 29.01 in category Antarctic peninsula trip 2019

Made it! Reclus Peninsula.

Day 24:

We are in the mist high up on the ridge of the Harris peak following our tracks, back and forth, towards safer ground.
2 ghosts suddenly contrast in the fog. OMG! The climbers are here!! Ralf and Nancy, yeah!!! Good news.
After a few e-mails during the past days, our chances to receive support from them were becoming thinner and thinner, each day. Things got much more complicated after the gear box of IceBird broke down. Lately, I have been extensively thinking about them together with captain Cath and crew Alex. I was wondering about their daily struggle down in penguin paradise.
It’s late afternoon. Ralf and Nancy are here. Believe or not, they made it happen! On ski touring though… Even better, they marked the route! Ok, I did not say anything about the ski touring « thing! » 😉

Next day… 06:30, it rings and we all feel a little more tired after the previous day through the traverse. Is this going to be our last day on the ice? Whatever. I like Phil’s quote when he goes « we’ll be there when we’ll be there ». It is the equivalent of my « never take shortcuts to go home faster ». According to Lars, our Norwegian « weather whisperer », the best day is today and we should push all the way. « Hey Lars! You’re spot on, Sir ;-). From beginning to end…
We go down. The slope becomes now too steep. Time to focus. Every steps counts. Crampons tight, rope brakes on each sled, we carefully follow Ralf and Nancy’s track who easily lead the group. Phil is taking care of Luc « Wally H » and Bronwyn « Machine ». I am with « Bad Ass Explorer », Maria. Flying here and there like a butterfly trying to find good angles, talented Caroline « Bon Matin » is filming. We continue focusing. The technical descent isn’t over. We are sitting on our sleds taking a break on smoother ground. Looking back to the slope, I feel blessed with the work from the climbers and with the weather. Would we have attempted that route in the fog? Hell no!

Noon. Time to establish contact with Selma, a Polish vessel, in charge of meeting us at Portal Point and taking us back to Paradise Harbour where IceBird is anchored. « Hi guys! We’ll be there 4-5pm. Location, old hut. Cheers! ».

Mid afternoon, we are climbing our last hill before the final drop. On the way down, Caroline spots Selma. Timing is perfect! From a distance, I watch the team progressing on the very last piece of ice. They are now all in silhouette, with the ocean, the icebergs and the sharp peaks in the background. « We made it! Yeeewwwwww!! ». Shall I talk about the beers and champagne depot Ralf and Nancy made right here for our arrival? ahahahaha

The scenery goes beyond words. The shutter of my photo camera is clicking, clickin, click, clic, clic, clic, clic… This is just a pure fistful of love sent by Mother Nature. Is she whispering « will you guys come back? » Half of my heart would say no because of your high winds and dangerous terrain. Half of my heart would say yes because you are too beautiful. It is damn tempting though! Nothing is more beautiful than one last look behind, we leave this place full of our best memories. In both cases, I think we all have the responsibility to act and protect this kind of paradise. As long as the penguin’s shit smells stronger than our scary footprint.

The people aboard Selma are extremely welcoming and their warmth is touching. « Dinner is served!» right after departure. What else? We have 6-7 hours of motor sailing to Paradise Harbor. The wind rises. I ask one crew on watch if I can steer the wheel. « Oh yeah! ». It’s grey, the mountains and their bottom glaciers strengthen to fall straight down to the sea. The wind rises again. Mittens and double hoodies on, life vest and safety line secured, the beast goes 8 knots. With a bit of darkness on top of all this, the show continues and I feel very vulnerable in this wild place. Suddenly, it’s all calm again as we enter the sheltered bay of Paradise Harbor. It’s twilight. The light from IceBird illuminates the water surface. Selma and her are tight together. Time to say goodbye to that great team and cheers to their hospitality.

We are now onboard IceBird, glad to meet Cath and Alex. Shall I talk about the beers and champagne Cath and Alex had prepared for our arrival aboard Icebird? ahahahaha

3 am, « what about if we were going to bed? « Bonne nuit and thanks for a good day! ». We leave soon for the third and last leg of our journey.

The Drake. That stretch of water between the Antarctic Peninsula and the Southern most tip of Argentina/Chile, still lies ahead of us. Let’s put it like this. The skiing expedition, part 2 of the whole project, is now over. We trade ski for sailing boots. At the moment, French sailing vessel is towing us, at least for 25 miles to the big blue. Then, it’s open ocean! For the rest of the crossing, « Podorange » will stay around us as we will only be sailing. No engine.
What’s ahead of us? The famous Drake passage.

To Wally H!




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