Ode To The World IV
We started off from the Mt Victoria in a reasonably good conditions. Well it was a bit of a white out but still kinda ok visibility. It had snowed the night before, which it does not often happen in Antarctica, so we actually had some fresh turns. We skinned up towards the summit but the bad visibility and a threatening seracs stopped us after a something like meters of skinning.
After a decent powder run in ok visibility we called in a Zodiac and changed the location to the other side of the bay to go ski at the area we call the Farm.
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We got on the way and after something like meters of skinning we got in to a full on blizzard and were forced to turn back because we could barely see our rope team of 5 people. Actually the skiing was good! So the game is on: first day of skiing in Antarctica in the pocket and spirits were high! We get to ski some of the wildest terrain imaginable, huge mountains and glaciers, more ice and snow one can imagine, cruise between the icebergs with a Zodiac, see penguins and seals and whales and be far away from everything else in the world.
But when we have had enough of skiing and glaciers for the day, we call in a Zodiac pick-up to take us back to the ship where there is awesome food, water, warmth, shower, dry clothes and five star service to answer your needs. But we are very lucky and spoiled to be able to enjoy and experience Antarctic this luxurious way and still ski. Every morning between we started the day with a guide meeting. Guiding on the huge glaciers over the water can be tricky sometimes. Lots of crevasses and hanging seracs everywhere, big terrain, big exposure.
We send out two Zodiacs first thing in the morning to scout out the landing sites where we can actually start bringing people onshore. Sometimes we needed to shovel a lot of snow to be able to go ashore, sometimes the swells were too big to safely land. As we are very far from the nearest rescue service and a potential accident can have very serious consequences, we were happy to take the exposure- and risk level as low as we possibly could.
I love those early morning Zodiac scouting missions between the icebergs and floating ice. One morning we stepped onshore, thigh deep powder, just to find a Fur seal stick his head out from the fresh snow just 5 meters from us and a Gentoo penguin hanging out next to him. Wonders of nature one can only come across in Antarctica. Our 5th.
Everybody headed out early to enjoy nice spring day of skitouring and skiing. Bluebird day and good snow, what more can one ask..? Of course we see a few seals, penguins and cormorans on the way. We also picked up some old glacier ice to take to the bartenders, who make ice sculptures to go with our cocktails when we get back to the ship. We were cruising with a ship on the western side of the peninsula, sheltered in between the islands.
We would spend the day in anchor, skiing and doing our thing and then start moving towards the next destination in the evening and over night.
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Where we could go, depended solely on the winds and the sea-ice. I was happy not to be in his shoes, lots of decision making to do. We had the coolest captain who wanted to take us to places so we were all good! On our 6th morning we woke up to a full on blizzard. It was obvious that we would not be skiing any time soon. We did manage to get some Zodiacs in the water and to go scout the landing to Port Lockroy. After some serious shovelling in a snowstorm and strong wind, we managed to establish a landing and get onshore to this old research station, nowadays turned into a museum.
Port Lockroy is not generally open to public but we got a special permit for a visit, as long as we would shovel the living quarters clear of snow for the staff arriving a few days later. Port Lockroy area is an active Gentoo penguin colony and it was funny to see these little creatures wonder around in the blizzard doing their penguin business.
In the afternoon we headed South towards the famous Lemaire channel. Lemaire is a narrow strait surrounded by very steep and impressive mountains: big walls of snow and ice, seracs, summits, couloirs, rock walls and glaciers. Lemaire is ofter blocked by sea-ice this early in the spring but now it was relatively free of ice and we managed to traverse to the other side where there is some amazing skiing terrain and famous summits.
We spent the evening eyeing the lines and taking in the scenery. There were some remarkable lines and summits around us everybody was quite amped up for the next day. In the morning we realised that the floating sea-ice on the shore would stop us in many places and prevent us from going ashore, which was a bit disappointing but nature sets the rules so we look elsewhere. We did manage to get on shore on one of the main objectives on the foot of the famous Mt.
The captain and our expedition leader Alex, were keeping their eyes open for the fast moving sea-ice throughout the day. We skied a full day but we were on alert all the time because of the huge amount of sea-ice that was constantly moving and might move in and block our return route through Lemaire channel. Luckily winds stayed the same and we got a full day of skiing in on Mt. Mill starts as a nice and mellow glacier skin straight out from the water. As we skin up, it continues to get steeper and steeper on this nice open glacier face that ends up on a nice shoulder with a steepening pitch towards the summit ridge.
The snow was firm and at some point we put our skis in the backpack and switched into crampons and ice axe. We did not ski from the summit because it was steep and icy but we did climb up to the top to take a look and hang out on a summit for a bit. Such a cool experience to take a look in to the other side towards the South pole and the immense glaciers that continue as far as the eye can see. We took it easy skiing the steep parts but when we got down to the lower angle stuff we could open up a bit and cruise fast down this pool-table-flat surface of grippy cold snow.
Such a pleasure! We start to make our way North. As we travel through the Lemaire we come across a unreal sight. A family of five Orcas are travelling the same direction as us. The captain slows the ship to their speed and we travel side by side for twenty minutes, sharing the same waterway, us going skiing towards North and the orcas travelling to their family heritage hunting grounds further East. Another dream come true to see these magnificent animals from so close and have our marine biologist Jimmy to tell us more about them and their habits.
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After dinner we go to ashore to watch the sunset with the penguins. Yes, how sick is that!? Sunset watch with penguins in Antarctica…. The day number eight lands us straight back to the weather hold with snowstorm and white-out. Fresh powder on the deck is looking promising and as we do our scouting we come up with almost a meter of fresh pow.
Serious avalanche danger to take into consideration and limits our terrain. We do manage to find some super good Antarctic pow on a good terrain and everybody skis a full day. A rare powder day down South! Stoke is high. As we come back to the ship, the crew have prepared us a polar plunge, meaning a refreshing swim in the sea. The water is cold. The program for the evening is the White Party! Everybody would jump into a white costume and party hard until dawn! Big fun! The next morning dawned early for me, scout boats out at and go get some fresh air and spot landings for Zodiacs, not too much sleep but good life.
Half of the people were on a slow motion after the party and quite a few people started the day by visiting the near by Chinstrap penguin colony and get some fresh air before skiing. After we got enough of the chinstraps we headed over to the other side of the bay to go skiing some very interesting terrain with ridges, faces and couloirs. Definitely the most enjoyable skiing terrain so far on the trip.
We skied a few cool lines on a good snow and headed back to the ship happy but at the same time a bit blue because the next thing was to head back North towards the civilisation. Magnificent sunset and towering icebergs wish us well on the way over the Drake passage and towards Cape Horn. Nice sunset was just calm before the storm. Luckily this time we did get a proper Drake shake in a form a solid class A storm with over 10 meter swells and strong winds up to 80 knots.
I woke up in the middle of the night being trashed around in our cabin with other flying objects and Einar from Iceland around me. I tied myself to the bed with a sling and tried to sleep. Always good to witness the immense forces of the nature and still be reasonably safe in a solid ship. Experience not to be missed. A fellow ship, Ocean Endeavour, was cruising the same waters when hit an iceberg at 14 knots just before leaving to cross the Drake passage, but had to stop for 16 hours of repairs and still were forced to cross the passage with a hole in a hull.
Another ship suffered a fire in the engine room and had to be evacuated by British Navy. Besides a good shake, our crossing was uneventful. We did enjoy interesting presentations and slide shows, ate well and rested in-between the parties. We stayed a few days in town, visited museum and went hiking in a beautiful Terra del Fuego national park. I have travelled to many remote corners of the world but this remains as one of my favourite destinations and wildest experiences.
I hope I can go back and I highly recommend it to anybody who loves wild nature and skiing. Big, huge thanks to Doug Stoup and Karyn Stanley for putting this together, Quark Expeditions for taking care of us, fellow guides for good times and the team Make, Mikko, Jeff and Carl for being awesome and all the rest of you who made it possible and unforgettable! This summer in Chamonix has been short for me, too much travelling. I managed to pull off few little climbs here and there, some work, some not.
Here a few photos from the Alps this summer. I got the invite and of course went to fly! The jumps were organised by Matt Hill and Mike Wittenburg. The plan was to invite about 24 flyers and go do cool skydives. Mike and Matt had planned some really nice jumps for us. Sometimes the group cut in half to do 12ways and sometimes we did 24ways.
We would try one plan one or two times but then move on to a next one, that way we got lots of different types of flying going and not get frustrated of same plans. It worked really well and everybody had a good time. The ambiance was relaxed and people were laughing a lot and the flying was good. Sometimes the plans were more technical and sometimes more relaxed.
It was so nice to be organised for a change.
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The people were sick flyers and everybody worked well together. I hope this thing happens again! Weather forecast looked good and everybody had the time so up to the Envers hut we went. We hiked slowly to save energy and not sweat too much. Our gardienne Eve took good care of us as always, fed us well and showed us our room for a few hours of sleep. Evening was beautiful with sun and the moon playing together and the night was cold and full of stars. Snow at the glacier was freezing so everything looked good for the early morning start.
We woke up early and hiked in the dark, being at the rimaye just as it was getting bright enough to see without headlamps. Rimaye passed easy and the first slippery and cold ramps took us well on the way, still in the dark shadows. Climbing was easy but fun, the rock good and route finding went well. We stopped for a second breakfast on a good ledge few hundred meters up to enjoy the sunrise.
The route continued nice and easy and the rock got even better. It was so much fun to move on a good granite with nice, constant pace and just enjoy climbing on a classic route with good friends. Nice, warm weather, nobody else on the mountain, good rock, good wibe. Towards the end of the route the climbing good really good, the pitches steeper and after the legendary Knubel crack the Madonna greeted us on the summit.
And what a cool summit! Small, flat with a rock to sit on and a madonna to watch over us. So nice! Thanks Sami and Cyrilde! Haute Route is a classic high alpine skitour from Chamonix or Verbier to Zermatt. We started from Verbier and had planned to do the trip in 5 days.
Bad weather greeted us un Verbier and after trying to get on the way in the white out and storm, we decided to go around the storm and start the trip from Arolla. Mountains require flexibility and our gamble paid off. We go back on track through Arolla and got well on the way. Easy day took us to the Cabane de Dix where we stayed a night and enjoyed a nice sunset. The day started nice and sweet but then of course it turned into full-on white-out and snowstorm when we were closing the summit. Nice beautiful skitour turned into a nice storm and a bit tricky navigation.
Luckily the storm cleared off enough at the col to ski down with reasonable light and the descent to Vignette hut was nice and sweet. The day from Vignette hut to Bertol hut was beautiful. Sunny and nice all day with some of the most spectacular views over Valais alps. The way up the first part was nice and flat with only meters of vertical and few kilometres of distance. The skiing on the other side was long, nice and smooth with lots of room for fresh tracks. A good, fun run. The day was still far from over because we still needed to meters of vertical to the hut and the temperatures were high.
It was a sweaty afternoon but it made the cold beer taste even better when we reached the hut. The hut is in a quite spectacular spot high up on a ridge and the sunsets are mind-blowing. We got lucky. I would pray about this constantly for the next few months. I eventually met with a good friend of mine who would give me tips on a good proposal. He suggested I get the ring polished at a jeweler. With the ring in hand, it was time to do the very thing that had been spiking my nerves for a while.
I had to get the blessings of her family before going ahead with the proposal. I also wanted to get the blessings of her nana as well since I saw her as the family matriarch. It was always a matter of when. I had to find a way to pull the feat off without my now fiancee knowing.
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There was almost no time to do it, and the few windows I had, I squandered them out of fear. She lived that the care center, so that made things tougher. I knew I would have to ask eventually, but I needed to grow some balls. Unfortunately, I would get the push I needed in the worst way possible. On a dark dreary Thursday in October, I felt pretty crummy. The work day had me feeling super burnt out, and I was exhausted. By 4 pm, I was ready for the day to end. I felt pretty meh, but I was about to get one of the worst phone calls I have gotten in my years of living. When I answered the call, I could hear her sobbing uncontrollably.
Nana had been moved to hospice care. Her health had been deteriorating, and fluids constantly filled her lungs. My heart sank deeper than the Titanic on a bad day. I started freaking the fuck out. I wanted more time with nana, and I wanted to get her blessing. One of the fears I had in the beginning of the relationship was nana passing away before I could make my intentions of marrying her granddaughter known to her.
It felt as if that fear was being realized. I spent all this time being a wuss about asking for blessings, and now I was on borrowed time. Later that evening, I would pray for St Joseph to be with her in her time of need. St Joseph is the patron saint of the dying in part because at the time of death, he was surrounded by his family Jesus, and Mary.
The next day after meeting with my clients, I would start a three hour trek from Norwood to Haverhill in rush hour traffic. If there was a worse time to be stuck in traffic, it was in a moment where the window to say good bye to nana was getting shorter, and shorter by the second. I fought my way through traffic to eventually get to the hospice. I would be greeted by my love who would take me to her room where she was surrounded by loved ones.
On one of the tables in the room was the picture of The Holy Family that I bought her. She cherished that photo, and made sure it was with her where ever she went. Seeing that photo there was a sign the my prayer was answered. I was told that she spent most of her time sleeping, but that she could hear you if you got up close to her.
It was now, or never, and I realized it was time to make my intentions known. I had to man up, and do it with the little time I had left. I went up to her, and made my intentions known; that I planned on marrying her granddaughter, and that would like to get her blessing. It would be the last time I ever heard her voice. The next few visits to the hospice, she would remain unconscious. The same Easy Listening station she constantly played in the living room would be on in the background.
It was pretty fitting, and for the first time in a while, she seemed very peaceful. Nana always went out of her way to make me feel like a part of the family. It was in those darkest moments that it hit me; her family was my family. In those moment, I was adamant that this was the family I wanted to marry into.
Death is tough, because nothing you say can mend broken hearts. My love would go from being alright, to crying, to being alright, followed by more crying. Nana passed away on October 11th in the early hours of the morning. We would get the phone call while we were on vacation in San Diego. We never made the funeral, and we have yet to visit the burial site. I miss nana every single day. We dress up, paint our faces and bodies, each time more extravagantly than the last. The only limit is our imagination and our cheerful rivalry is an endless stimulator.
I feel that we may be young forever. I am beginning to understand more of how our new city works, and it is a marvel. Our engineers truly deserve the homage of every citizen. Under our homes, strong turbines harvest energy from the tides. Robotized algaculture yields raw materials for 3D printing and food in many varied forms.
Anyone who wishes to can experiment new recipes, new techniques, new flavours, new textures. And indeed, our menus are diverse, exquisite and delicate. Every activity is automated, from harvesting to food production to garbage management to machine repair to surgery to item production. For the first time in the history of civilization, no human is subject to work. Of course, many people do want to work. They engage in meaningful activities of their choice: some teach, some write, some spend time with children, some try their hand at art, and some design more complex machines to serve us.
As we settle in and migrations come to an end, the huge structures that transported the buildings are no longer needed. Rather than dismantling them, they are being converted into a suspended railway network. I myself decided to help out for a while with the works, to pay my debt to society. Our shuttle is to cross the continent from east to west.
We boarded with great enthusiasm, for this was the first time that we were to witness the wonders of our newfound promised land. For the first few hours, we exclaimed at its beauty and drank to the glory of our common venture and its manifest success. I did not think to bring something to occupy my mind, so I have been watching the scenery as it unfolds below us.
Vast expanses of grassy plains become thick forests, then dry bushland. A huge lake is framed by craggy mountains. A sluggish river slithers amongst lolling hills. A feeling of unease suddenly forms in my throat. I have been observing the landscape for several hours now, and have seen nothing but wilderness. The pillars of the suspended structure are the only traces of anthropological presence. I reflect: were there not cities here? Terror grows in my gut as I wonder: what is it exactly that we have saved?
Traumnovelle uses architecture and fiction as analytical, critical and subversive tools. Like a magnifying mirror, it emphasizes contemporary crisis and dissects their resolutions. Alternately cynical, enthusiastic and defiant, it is an advocate of critical thinking in architecture. II Favourable currents have made our faring good.
III There were lengthy discussions regarding what to bring. IV But what of places? V After two weeks in the temporary facilities, I have been assigned a room. VI My first month here has been exhilarating. VII I am beginning to understand more of how our new city works, and it is a marvel. VIII Our shuttle is to cross the continent from east to west.
Tabula Rasa! From down here one could believe in noble rot and suspended matters. The scent of brimstone in the air. Filthy old Europe, she who between the wars and still during caressed for her own good the womb of faraway countries and who, cock in hand, sprayed the native genitals with her sperm.