Where is the ground? Paradise Harbor & Neko Harbor
While the rest of the group went to venture into Paradise Harbor, I joined the mountaineering group in preparing our gear to start the second climb. This trek was going to be much more challenging than the first, as we would be travelling up a chute for a couple thousand feet.
The snow was not ideal that day, a bit too soft for setting anchors. The good thing about climbing in a chute, however, was that our chances of encountering crevasses was slim.
We made our way as far as possible through the chute, and were able to arrive at the top of one of the ridges. I had hoped to reach the full summit during this trip in December, but at that time of year there is little snow at any of the peaks.
As I sat on the top of this ridge and looked into the harbor, everything was serenely peaceful. Our group felt at one with nature.
From our vantage point, we witnessed sheets of ice breaking off of a glacier in the distance and falling into the ocean. The moment was a bit morose. While it was fascinating to see the spectacle of this in-person, it reminded me that this place is slowly but permanently changing, and disappearing right before me.
This was the final climb of the trip and also the most difficult and dangerous. The plan was to cross a glacier and then traverse upwards on the side of a mountain. It was the first time we had encountered the dangers of crevasses and snow bridges during the trip.
As the guide and I embarked, I made sure to follow his exact steps in order to remain safe. Even with this precaution, and at about halfway through the glacier, the ice bridge I was walking on suddenly collapsed. I found myself free falling into a crevasse.
For a brief moment, I felt as though I was walking on air, albeit with a sense of alarm at what was occurring. Fortunately, a patch of deep snow broke my fall and allowed me to land safely in snow up to my shoulders.
After extricating myself with the help of my guide, we proceeded to the ridge where the temperature continued to drop as our elevation increased. At the same time, the view was enthralling. With mountains and glaciers to our left and the sea in front of us, my gaze moved upwards and I encountered something I had never seen before: a full circle rainbow.
After capturing a few images atop the ridge, we journeyed back to where we began the climb, and arrived at the harbor without incident to meet back up with the entire group. We braced for the boat ride back to our home base, which would proceed over choppy waters. The boat moved swiftly, and we grew increasingly wet and cold as water splashed us all. Everyone clung to the ropes on the boat, knuckles white with pain.
This was the most frigid boat ride I’ve ever taken. The water from the Antarctic sea drained us all of what little warmth we had, and by the end of the thirty-minute journey, we were frozen to the core. After rushing to a shower to raise my body temperature, I was able to finally relax, and begin looking at some of the most memorable images I've had a chance to capture.
- Bring sunglasses and wear sunscreen. Even if it is a cloudy day you can easily go snow blind or be burnt to a crisp by the southern sun.
Photography Gear Recommended
- 24-70mm lens
- 70-200 lens
- 200-400mm lens or 2x extender for your 70-200
If you're mountaineering, try to bring as little gear as possible. You could stick with a DSLR and a 24-70 lens and be OK. The extra weight is going to wear on your body, especially if you are mountaineering all day.
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