Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Patagonia Toe Jam

Emerald Lake sits high above Ushuaia, about a 20 minute chartered bus ride from the hotel. The frigid water is the color of turquoise and the scenery here in the Patagonia region of southern Argentina sucks the very breath right out of you. Today's hike through a muddy bog up to the lake was yet another bonding experience for the 64 students and 24 adult chaperones who are preparing to leave civilization on Wednesday evening aboard the 100-passenger M/V Ushuaia.

Jim Raffan, guest lecturer, belives there are "F" days and "M" days. F days stand for "fine," when everything goes as planned. Borrrring. But then there are the "M" days which stand for "miserable" - when the conditions conspire to make you regret getting up in the morning. But Raffan believes those are the days you remember the rest of your life. To him, "m" also stands for "memories" as the Students on Ice team certainly experienced today.

So there we were, our expensive Lowa and Merrell boots set aside as we donned rented rubber boots - "Wellies" - for the six-mile roundtrip hike to the lake, a hike that saw some of us mired in knee-deep mud - an "M" day for sure. Christina and Simit, two students on the group, rescued one of the Argentinian guides from the rath of two Italian women who were smoking cigarettes on the trail and having a hissy fit about ruining their hiking boots. They obviously didn't get the memo about the need for rubber knee-highs. The climb up through the morass was fine, but try hiking downhill in floppy rubber boots. My big toes are crying the blues.

Dinner tonight was shared with Scobie Pye, 59, a professional Zodiac driver from Tasmania. Were it not for these sturdy twin-tubed rubber runabouts, landings on the Antarctic peninsula would not be possible. Pye tells me he's seen "Zodes" flip, but never on his watch. His big concern is with the huge cruise ships - 1000-1500 passengers each - that have begun to ply these waters. He wonders who's going to rescue the passengers if something goes wrong, "certainly not 100-passenger ships like the Ushuaia," he tells me. Luckily, the ships in the area book their landing sites in advance with a trade association to avoid conflicts and overcrowding that could likely occur when more than one ship vies for a visit to the same penguin colony."Antarctica is better off with smaller ships," he says.

Tonight before bedtime, Geoff Green, expedition leader, read us the drill on seasickness, a topic I'm sure I'll return to in a later blog as I share a common trait with Charles Darwin himself: a propensity towards mal de mar, tossing cookies, or as I once wrote after a disasterous English Channel crossing on a hovercraft in 1972: "saying hello to yesterday's lunch." Stay tuned. This could get interesting.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"The Luckiest People on Earth"

“In a few days time you’ll be among the luckiest people on earth,” said 38-year Antarctic veteran David Fletcher,former base station manager for the British Antarctic Survey. Fletcher’s was one of a series of classroom presentations here at the Hotel Del Glaciar, a combination ski/hiking/fishing lodge high on a hillside overlooking Ushuaia, Argentina.

Sixty-four students from throughout North America and parts of Europe and the Middle East are here tonight learning what Students on Ice (studentsonice.com) calls “polar fundamentals” – a comprehensive curricula designed to prepare the group for Wednesday, the start of a two-day, 600-mi. crossing of the legendary Drake Passage en route to the Antarctic peninsula.

Fletcher tells the students, “What you’ll see in Antarctica you’ll remember and talk about the rest of your lives … you’ll be staggered by what you see.”

Indeed. The students are excited about viewing wild penguins for the first time. Fletcher continues, “Don’t give them a human face, they deserve more respect than that.”

But first, another day of classroom talks, get-acquainted exercises, and a hike to nearby Emerald Lake for a mountainside picnic.

The students and their 24 chaperones, myself included, are beginning to gel, becoming a cohesive second family focused on making the most of every minute down here.

Fletcher again: “Be sure to put your cameras down occasionally and let Antarctica enter your heart. Take the time to absorb the greatest place on earth.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

We're Off

After visiting my parents and getting suitably fattened up for the coming Antarctic journey, I reported to Miami Airport to meet the group - about 65 Canadian and U.S. high school students and about 20 adult chaperones. JN (that's his name), the ship doctor, tells me he has a supply of seasick patches, which is a good thing considering I get queesy on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World.

Everyone is pretty excited about the trip ahead as sappy Christmas music plays in the departure area (a welcome change from the sappy elevator music they usually play).

Gee, I hope they feed us on this Lan Chile flight to Santiago otherwise I'll be eating my leather boots like Capt. Robt. F. Scott, although my boots have a little road salt on them for extra flavor.

I expect to be offline until I can log on in Ushuaia just before we board the chartered research ship bound for the Antarctic
peninsula. It's the same vessel that hit rocks last year. Memo to self: Google "Argentina hull repair."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Expedition News Treks to Antarctica

We can’t just sit around while everyone else explores the world. Finally, the time has come for the “trip of our dreams.” Expedition News travels to Antarctica with Students on Ice this month (www.studentsonice.com). Log onto www.expeditionnews.blogspot.com for periodic updates, and be sure to catch our February issue for a full report. Think South.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tweet This!

Want to stay current on various expeditions in between issues of Expedition News? Here’s a tip for members of the Twittersphere: search #expedition. In late December there were dozens of expeditions posting tweets. Want to follow EN? Don’t bother. Truth be told, we’re not half as interesting as actor Ashton Kutcher, followed by 4.2 million people last time we looked.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No Butts About It

Tired of the ubiquitous The North Face logo staring back at you from someone’s shoulder in line at Costco? Is the brand becoming, well, a little too popular on the subway or among non-climbing, non-outdoorsy pretzel vendors on Fifth Avenue? Well, just to knock the mighty TNF down a notch is a look-alike brand called The South Butt with a line of t-shirts, fleece jackets, shorts and hats.

TNF is none too pleased. Recently, The North Face Apparel Corp. issued holiday greetings to The South Butt, LLC by filing a federal lawsuit in St. Louis seeking to enjoin The South Butt from continuing to market and sell its parody apparel product line.

The suit, filed on December 10, 2009 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, also seeks damages from The South Butt, its founder, college freshman Jimmy Winkelmann, and a local St. Louis pharmacy through which on-site retail sales of The South Butt apparel are made.

The South Butt, a small St. Louis-based company, was started by 18-year-old Jimmy Winkelmann, to help his parents pay his college tuition at a state college. It puts out parody products which serve to effectively spoof North Face, employing the tag line, “Never Stop Relaxing” in contrast to the North Face line, “Never Stop Exploring.”

“The South Butt has previously made it clear to the North Face that the consuming public is insightful enough to know the difference between a face and a butt,” said Albert S. Watkins, legal counsel for The South Butt and Jimmy Winkelmann. “In every sense, The South Butt is prepared to assume the proverbial position and take everything that North Face thrusts at it,” added Watkins.

The skirmish between the two companies has garnered international media attention and has effectively been characterized as a contemporary Samson versus Goliath showdown.

The South Butt has initiated a tongue in cheek (pun intended) Internet challenge to hone the skills of the public in discerning the difference between a face and a butt. See it at: http://apps.facebook.com/south-butt-challenge/

Wary of TNF’s legal eagles, the South Butt folks offer this Web site disclaimer, “We are not in any fashion related to nor do we want to be confused with The North Face Apparel Corp. or its products sold under ‘The North Face’ brand. If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products.” (For more information: www.thesouthbutt.com)

Job Opening - Work for the AAC

Major Gifts Position Open

The American Alpine Club (AAC) seeks to add a dynamic member to its senior staff as Major Gifts Officer. The position requires a minimum of five years of experience in development, with direct experience soliciting funds from individuals and foundations. This position will be an integral part of the AAC team as the club expands programs, grows membership, and prepares for its next capital fund campaign. Candidates should have extraordinary organizational skills, a passion for the outdoors, and be capable of working directly with donors. The position reports to the executive director, and the right candidate will be a part of the senior leadership team. Resumes and cover letters should be sent electronically by January 11, 2010, to Janet Miller: jmiller@americanalpineclub.org. A full job description is available at www.americanalpineclub.org/pt/majorgiftsofficerjobdescription. `

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Want to Go to Ecuador?

Kurt Diemberger and Martin Torresquintero are heading out to Ecuador on January 6, 2010. They are offering a super good deal on air travel (under $400 on LAN RT from JFK) and still have space on the Land Cruiser for another couple of climbers. They plan to shoot mountain photo and video, hang out in Papapllacta and climb Antisana.

For more information:

Martin Torresquintero
MT Mountain Guiding
PO Box 2986
New Haven CT 06513-3925 USA

Clif Maloney's Friends Hike Hudson Highlands

We're sorry we missed this event. Here's a report from the head of the AAC's New York section:

Clif, who perished on September 28 on Cho Oyu, after becoming the oldest American to summit an 8000 meter peak, trained assiduously in the Hudson Highlands, about 50 miles north of Manhattan, across the river from West Point. On a beautiful, Indian Summer type of day, about 30 New York Section members gathered to remember Clif, in the way he would have most appreciated, by hiking the very same trails he spent so many hours climbing in preparation for his quest for the Seven Summits. Two groups summited Breakneck Ridge via different routes and a third group hiked the carriage trails around and visited the Osborne Castle in Garrison. After a full day of outdoor activities, the group gathered at the Galligan’s in Cold Spring for a sumptuous cocktail party and buffet dinner. Among the attendees were Carolyn Maloney, Clif’s widow, and their two daughters Christina and Virginia.
Our thanks go to Vic Benes who organized the outdoor activities and to the Galligan’s for their warm and welcoming hospitality.

Phil Erard
NY Section Chair