Antarctica expedition - which company?

12:46 p.m. on June 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Right, let's get straight to the point - after years of dreaming I have finally decided to do what I've always wanted to do. Ski to the South Pole.

I've decided that it's probably easier to go with a company, rather than form my own expedition, but there seem to be a few, and I want to make sure that I choose a good one!

The two that stand out are:


They both offer fundamentally the same trip, and have lots of experience, but over 60 days I'm guessing any little differences will really start to show up!

Does anyone have any experience of either company, in any capacity? Any information at all would be greatly appreciated.

I'm also looking to do some polar expedition training beforehand. NorthWinds offers one, as does:

Again, any experience or recommendations of either company would be brilliant!

I'm sure there are other companies, so if you have any other tips I'd be more than interested.


9:13 p.m. on June 17, 2010 (EDT)
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All expeditions doing the Hercules Inlet to the South Pole trek use Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, as do all guide services doing the Vinson Massif climbs, The Last Degree treks, and the Shakleton Last 100 treks. ALE also runs some of these same treks themselves through their affiliate Adventure Network International. They can advise you on how well the various companies that use their services compare.

All expeditions doing these treks gather in Punta Arenas a couple days before their scheduled flight to the ice. They are then flown to Patriot Hills on an Ilyushin, and from there in Twin Otters to the start point of the particular trek. ALE also supplies any needed intermediate resupply points for the long treks (Hercules Inlet particularly, though some expeditions do the HI-SP unsupported).

Be aware that a ski trek in Antarctic conditions is not like ski treks in most parts of the world. The snow is more like sand, and because the temperature is so low, you don't get that nice pressure melting that provides the layer of water to glide on. The bindings also are designed to take climbing boots and are basically a plastic slip-in flexible toe with a strap around the back. It's more like walking on skis on a sand beach. The trek is more like snowshoeing than track skiing (there are no prepared tracks), and you will be hauling your gear on a sled behind you. There are some places where the slope is steep enough to get a bit of downhill glide. This photo of me is on a slope above Vinson Base (barely visible in the distance to the right of me. In this case I was using AT skis with some old school randonee bindings.

I actually would recommend doing the Last Degree as a first trip to get acquainted with Antarctic conditions and "skiing".

Also, be prepared to spend an extra 2 or 3 weeks due to weather delays. Don't have any critical appointments or meetings for at least that long after the nominally scheduled return from the expedition. That's Antarctic weather for you.

5:01 a.m. on June 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Bill S- 1 more time what does OGBO mean? Maybe I am just stupid/nieve but I have no way to decipher what the hell the letters mean.

I asked on a previous thread but I gained no response.

7:57 a.m. on June 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks, Bill, that was very useful.

>I actually would recommend doing the Last Degree as a first trip to get acquainted with Antarctic conditions and "skiing".

While that would be ideal, the cost involved does not make this possible.

That is why I am most interested in the NorthWinds training, which concludes with a mini-expedition. I have good trekking, altitude and cold weather experience, but limited ski experience, so at least I do not have expectations of what is 'normal' for skiing. I do understand, though, that it will be really, really hard!

Can I ask which guide company you used for your trip?

12:44 p.m. on June 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Rick, Bill is the Old Grey Bearded One.

1:13 p.m. on June 18, 2010 (EDT)
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...Can I ask which guide company you used for your trip?

The trip was the 40th Anniversary of the 1966 American Antarctic Expedition, so was not a guided trip in the usual sense. We had 4 of the original party (of the 6 still alive), plus the daughter of one who is deceased (Pete Schoening of the spectacular K2 belay of 6 climbers) and son of another who is still living, but was not healthy enough to return, plus a cinematographer, and me as a representative of the AAC. ALE provided two of their guide staff to handle the logistics on the expedition, though the two of them said that any one of us had more experience than they had, so were only there to provide support. We did a number of side trips on which the ALE folks did not accompany us, like the side trip to Sam's Col, on the route of the first ascent, the ski tour that a couple of us took in the photo above, a revisit by a couple of the geologically inclined to what may be the oldest exposed rocks in Antarctica that they discovered on the 1966 expedition, a visit to an abandoned basecamp that one of the group and I made, and so on.

Originally, we had one other member from the AAC. However, since ALE had a private client from China who spoke little English and our other rep was conversant in Chinese, he graciously volunteered to join the ALE guide to act as translator.

On the guided expeditions, you will be pretty tightly controlled - no side excursions without one of the organizer's guides, you follow the routes decided on by the guide company, etc.

A couple of guide companies came through while we were there, Alpine Ascents International (Vern Tejas was the head guide for that one), and a British company whose name I forget that were doing the Shackleton Last 100 (that one was all women except for one of the two guides, husband of the other guide).

1:42 p.m. on June 19, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks Alicia.

July 20, 2018
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