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Antarctica, Antarctic Peninsula, The Ice Princess, Mt. Scott, and Various Descents

The Ice Princess, Mt. Scott, and Various Descents. On February 28, 2001, Rick Armstrong, John Griber, Kris Erickson, Doug Stoup, and I sailed from Ushuaia, Argentina, across the treacherous Drake Passage on the Grigory Mikheev, a Russian icebreaker, to test our luck against the glaciated Antarctic coastline. With the logistical support of the Mikheev, which has full accommodations, a Russian staff, and a doctor on board, we scoured the northern half of the Antarctic Peninsula for first ski descents. In the course of skiing eight new descents, we bagged one beautiful first ascent, The Ice Princess, which we linked with the northeast ridge of Mt. Scott.

On March 8, we lay moored just south of the Lemaire Channel in front of Mt. Scott. After a much-needed rest day and inspired by the full moon, we got after it. In the morning, we zoomed to shore in a Zodiac raft to tackle a 2,400-foot west-facing line that looked like a giant dorsal fin. We climbed ropeless, front-pointing up the steep snow. Our Black Diamond Whippets only scratched the surface of the wind-scoured slope. We hit the summit sometime late in the morning and used a GPS to determine our coordinates (65° 10' 03.2" S, 64° 02'05.4" W). Our elevation was 2,410 feet. On the descent, our skis chattered like hypothermic teeth as we slid our way down the 53-degree upper headwall. March 8 is the day in Russia when all women are honored, so we named our line The Ice Princess in honor of our Russian cooking staff aboard the Mikheev.

From the bottom of The Ice Princess, we made an attempt on Mt. Scott. The glacier was broken and difficult to read in the flat light of the evening shadows, but we were able to find a path to the northeast ridge. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was working our way along a 70-degree knife-edge ridge several hundred feet below the summit, grabbing the top of the ice like a handrail, and traversing unroped 2,500 feet above the Lemaire Channel. Kris and I skied right off the summit, down the northeast ridge, with a short 100-foot section (the knife-edge ridge) where we took off our boards. All in all, we had a ten-hour day.

After a tasty steak dinner, we made our way to the top of the ship, where the full moon had risen in a giant orange glow. What a gift to have six days of sunshine in a row.

Hans Saari, unaffiliated