Our team included the first Chinese mountaineering expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula, led by Daliu, who is well known in China for his Himalayan exploits, and Yang, Wang and Hai Sen. Together with ‘Team Girl’ - Barbara, Viola and Phil - we had a fantastic expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula, climbing and skiing ten mountains, including two previously unclimbed summits, and eating vast quantities of Chinese dumplings! Our highlights were Team China’s ascent of Shewry Peak and the shapely, unclimbed ‘Little Dog Peak’, and Team Girl’s traverse of Anvers Island to Palmer Station, which took in Mt Rennie and an unnamed virgin peak.
After practising our glacier travel skills and packing the yacht, we sailed from Ushuaia on New Year's Eve to the small Chilean port of Puerto Williams, whose famous Mikalvi Yacht Club is the perfect place to see the New Year in.
Heading towards Cape Horn we were blessed with calm conditions, which meant that everyone was busy making our first batch of Chinese dumplings.
The Drake Passage was relatively kind to us, although that didn't prevent a few people feeling somewhat under the weather as we sailed night and day.
We made landfall at the Melchior Islands, and sailed on to Enterprise Island where we moored against the sunken wreck of the whale-catcher the Governeron, which sank here in 1915. It was the perfect place to celebrate our arrival in Antarctica.
Our first excursion on skis took us up a short, steep slope to reach the gentle glacier that covers Nansen Island. An easy, skiable ridge gave several summits, and a super view across Wilhelmina Bay.
Unable to land on Emma island, we continued to Orne Harbour, where Chinstrap penguins line a sharp, rocky ridge to a very impressive altitude. Rising above the penguins is Spigot Peak, an easy summit with a short, fun climb, and impressive views.
At Cuverville Island the group split into two, some opting for the vertical pleasure of a steep gully climb on the island's east face, while the others had an enjoyable ski ascent of Mt Tennant.
Skontorpe Cove is a magical place, and everyone was able to spend a relaxing day sea kayaking, and swimming, infront of the impressive Avalanche Glacier.
But our rest-day was short-lived, and soon we were trudging up Mt Banck, which gives a classic ski outing. It was surprising how much this mountain has changed in the last few years - the previously easy slope is now broken by enormous crevasses. Thankfully there is another safe way up it!
Our next stop was Port Lockroy. Penguins, Post Office, Shopping, and an ascent of the mighty Jabet Peak. Thick cloud threatened to stop us, but we persisted, gently feeling our way along the deliciously exposed summit ridge.
Our forecast hinted that we were now due for a break in the weather. Rucksacks and sleds were busily packed, and the following day we were all dropped off by Icebird at Canty Point on Anvers Island, with both team establishing a camp a few hours slog up the glacier.
While Team China focussed on more vertical exploits, during which they successfully summited both Shewry Peak and the unclimbed 'Little Dog Peak', Team Girl followed the Hooper Glacier, which cuts through the mountains of Anvers Island.
The following day they headed along the vast Marr Ice Piedmont, stopping en-route to make the first ascent of a virgin peak on the main ridge, before continuing to a very pleasant campsite.
From this high camp they then climbed Mount Rennie, which gave gobsmacking views of Mt Francais, and a truly amazing ski back down.
With the weather starting to turn, they headed south-west, over endless miles of ice. They eventually they emerged out of the thick cloud at Palmer Station, the US Antarctic Base, where a very warm welcome was waiting.
Our final stop was Vernadskiy, where we mixed kayaking, ice climbing and saunas.
On our final night in Antarctica we were treated to a great feast of Chinese and Ukrainean food, prepared by both teams in the base kitchen.
Our crossing back across the Drake Passage was a little slow and bumpy, owing to the constant north-westerly winds, but eventaully, after 4 days, we finally rounded Cape Horn, and continued on to Ushuaia.