Antarctica has been a dream of mine (Sean) since I first saw Warren Miller: Storm, where the crew of John Griber, Doug Stoup, Rick Armstrong, and Hilaree O’Neill go to explore the remote, wild, and isolated South Georgia Island off of Antarctica. Growing up, penguins were always my favorite exhibit at the zoo or aquarium. I LOVE penguins. Add to this my love for snowboarding and “Storm” became the combination of everything I loved most at the time — it was simply magical.
I was in junior high or high school when that film came out and I dreamt of being able to do that one day. Fast forward a few years to the winter of 2008, I was given an opportunity to join a team including Doug Stoup and John Griber to the Antarctic Peninsula to backcountry snowboard the remote continent. Doug owns a company called Ice Axe Expeditions, and he had put together a ski boat to go to Antarctica. Of course, I jumped at this opportunity and with my snowboarding sponsors supporting it – it all came together. Months of training followed.
Upon waiting to leave port in Argentina for a multi-day boat ride across the rough waters of the Drake Passage to Antarctica, our vessel became damaged in stormy seas as it approached port. Due to damages, the boat was restricted from leaving port by Argentinian inspectors, as it was too unsafe. Days passed by, with each new day bringing crushed hope. I (and others) were watching our dreams of skiing and snowboarding in such an unknown place slip away. Days after the ordeal, we received news that the expedition was being cancelled. I was devastated. We were all crushed. I didn’t know what to tell my sponsors who had funded this expedition, or my college professors who were allowing me to miss nearly a month of classes approaching finals and my graduation.
Hanging out in port for a few more days, some expedition partners approached me and told me that they had been able to hitch hike a ride on a tourist cruise liner that was heading south to Antarctica and we had the opportunity to seek out our adventures while they took their guests to penguin rookeries or on iceberg cruises in bays. It was going to cost us all a pretty penny, but with nothing more to loose, it was back on. Mike Libecki was my rope partner on that expedition and taught me so much more about glacier travel through his experiences on big walls with climbing expeditions around the globe. Kip Garre, Ingrid Backstrom, Adrienne Benson, Chris Davenport, Stan Pitcher, and a few others also continued on south with us that trip.
It was a great experience and getting to mingle with people on their vacation and share our skiing/snowboarding plans to Antarctica was an awesome and interesting dynamic.
The following year in 2009 I joined Doug back on the original planned trip to Antarctica, which was once again one of the best experiences of my life.
Below is just a sampling from a slide show that I give at various events. These are just a few photos from 2008 and 2009 Antarctica Expeditions.