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1999 Antarctica Ski/
Snowboard Expedition

Shishapangma '99

Expedition Dispatches

Lost Friend Couloir on Lowe Peak
Tuesday, February 22, 2000

Hans Saari
Today was our 8th day of skiing in the Antarctic. Stephen and Jared were the only ones to summit Tina Point. The rest of us battled our way down from 2/3 of the way up in grim wet snow. I hate to say this, but I wish I had had a snowboard for that one.

Yesterday we skied yet another gem on an unclimbed peak. We named the summit Lowe Peak in honor of Alex Lowe, our friend who was killed last fall in Tibet. Appropriately we called the run "Lost Friend" couloir.

Alex has been the topic of countless conversations from climbing icebergs to skiing in Montana. While interviewing for Doug's movie I was asked the question: what was the defining moment in my climbing career? I thought for a bit then remembered a ski outing with Kris and Alex in the spring of '97 on the north face of Granite Peak. I had blown out my shoulder that January and had taken the whole winter off from climbing and skiing. I was faced with the choice of whether to buy brand new Scarpa randonee boots and Silvretta 404s or go to Peru with Kris and my friend Pat.

I opted for the ski gear and Granite was one of my 1st chances to use it. After battling our way for 10 miles up Huckleberry Drainage we arrived at our base camp exhausted. Kris and I had spent the day trying to keep pace with the fiend – something that would become a bit of a ritual for me. I had made straps for my skis and every time we came to rocks I had to unbuckle them and then re-buckle them on the other side (I chopped them off that night). This was not a good thing to be doing while tagging along with Alex. Every second counted and lost time could not be made up.

I would begin my practice of not using my lifts on my bindings for climbing hills because it would cost me too much time. Take the time to strip a layer and Alex would be out of sight.

Needless to say, I scrapped my way to the base of Granite Peak. The reward was hearing the fantastic stories that Alex told. He had been all over the world and done everything from ski in the Himalayas to ski first descents with his friend Andrew McLean in the Wasatch. He talked of rappeling with skis on and fantastic lines in Alaska which awaited the young and restless.

Kris hadn't skied steeps in years and this trip energized his ski-mountaineering as well. Out of this outing sprouted plans for more skiing and the ball was rolling. It still rolls. The Lost Friend couloir awaits your tracks.

The Lost Friend couloir is a 2400ft steep line right off the summit. The conditions on top were new to me – six inches of wet powder bonded to slightly slushy blue ice. Seems dangerous, but it was in fact good, safe skiing.

We are still waiting to see Orcas. Rumor has it that one of the Zodiac groups today saw a Leopard seal devouring a penguin. We watched the BBC special Life in the Freezer, so I know what that looks like, but I would have loved to have seen it. Ani has done a fantastic job of feeding us and boating us to our ski projects. Truly a trip of a lifetime.

Rick Armstrong
Today we had a day of travel that only allowed us a short time for skiing (not to mention everyone sleeping in til noon - well-deserved sleep) as we climbed up it, the snow pack became sketchy. The newly fallen snow sat atop a 16-inch slab with two to three feet of unbonded, large granule crystals allowing for a bad snow pack.

I felt my little internal alarm clock go off. Whenever it does it means that something is not right and if it was audible it would sound like: danger, danger, danger.

Yesterday was a big day for us. In the morning we took the Zodiacs to try and climb the enormous Mt. Francais (9000+ft.) But we couldn't even get onto the snow to make an attempt due to the 150-foot ice walls making the only reasonable landing 12 miles and 3,000 crevasses away from the base of the climb. It would have taken a week to climb it and we didn't have that kind of time.

So we changed our game plan and decided to climb and ski a 2400-foot peak not far from the Port Lockroy British outpost. It was our biggest and arguably best ski of our trip. We decided to name it after Alex, so it is now Lowe Peak and the Lost Friend face.

Alex was the most inspiring person that I have been lucky enough to meet in my life. Not a day goes by without one of his motivating quotes entering my mind. Especially when I am climbing and skiing in a place like this. I hear him saying like: 'good on ya lad.' In his best Scottish accent, or 'what a great day' followed by a one of a kind smile. Alex was the one who first mentioned to me coming down here to do this exact trip. If he were here with us today we probably would have done 10 more peaks, climbed half the icebergs on this Peninsula, done 300 pull-ups a day and have consumed at least 10 times the amount of coffee. Why? Because that is how Alex was. He drove you to do your best. I miss him dearly.

P.S. Hollee, I Love You

Kristoffer Erickson
Monday, 21st of Feb., each day that has passed since boarding the Shuleykin has been a challenge in remembering what exactly has happened in any given 24-hour period, and the last three days have been a classic example. Last Saturday we pulled into the Errera Channel and saw a mountain we later named the Shuleykin after our fine form of transportation guiding us in this endless journey of adventurous skiing in the Antarctic.

We didn't know we would name this mountain looking over it with binos from the bridge, but later the name stood and Captain approved, so Shuleykin it was.

The skiing on the Shuleykin seemed to be a different day, the diving from the ships bow and top deck have almost taken precedence in my mind over what happened that day, after all it happened in a 24-hour period. Maybe it was only 10 hours, but long days and the ability to move the boat while playing countless games of chess or enjoying the five-star food we've had allows you to wake up in a new area, look around for an hour or so and find a new project to jump onto.

Seems as if everything we get into is something we are experiencing for the first time, which isn't the norm for most parts of the world. By 1:30am, the sun rolled around. We had checked the forecast, figured out which peak on the map looked the best for sun's projection and packed all we would need for an attempt of Mt. Francais from our next stop, a return to Port Lockroy.

Sunday the 20th. After a huge breakfast, we were off in the Zodiacs for the glacier below the massive, 9000-foot southwest face of Mt. Francais. As we sped around the ice cliffs that formed a definitive barrier, preventing us from our object, we were amazed by the sound all around the rubber Zodiac as the pack ice we charged though popped and whizzed like Rice Krispies.

We never found that secret passage through the ice shelf to gain on the glacier above and onto the the slopes of Mt. Francais so back to the vessel we fled. We zoomed past several great objectives and finally settled on Lowe Peak, as we later named it. A great 2400-foot mountain overlooking several bays around the Point Lockroy region.

Great snow, steep turns, and the partnership you gain when blasting up a couloir like this one gave us a feeling of the one man that had inspired us in so many ways: Alex Lowe. It was only a few months earlier that Hans and I had been in Tibet when Alex and David Bridges had been swept into a greater life and now it only seemed fitting to give this peak a name of a great man that had inspired us all to come here for these same reasons we explore now.

As we glided back down to the ocean floor we looked back towards the summit of Lowe Peak, wishing it would have continued on for another 2400ft — just another day in the trip.

We all were feeling a bit beat down after the seven days we had been going strong on an average of six hours of sleep a night, so as the sun dawned the 22nd, we all slept in till noon as the Captain raised the anchor. We were off to Paradise Bay where we pulled in for a little evening skiing on Tina Point, just across from an old Argentine base. The skiing wasn't nearly the turns we had experienced the day before, but still I doubt anyone else has ever made turns on Tina Point.

It's 12:30 now on Tuesday. I should be sleeping. In six hours we'll be off on the last option for skiing on this trip and then it's back through the Drake Passage. I'm hoping for calm seas, the Drake Lake on the way down wasn't the standard and I don't think two smooth trips through these roaring 60s can happen in one trip to the Antarctic.


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