Our team members Sylwia, Benoit and Dan were led by Phil and Bjorn on a ski traverse of South Georgia via a new route from King Haakon Bay to Stromness. This was a high level variant of the traditional Shackleton traverse, chosen because it is higher, colder and safer than the traditional route, and is better suited to a ski team that is pulling sleds. The key to the route was a very narrow, rocky pass through the Wilckens Peaks, which led to a super 10km descent to Fortuna Bay. The team also visited the old whaling station and Shackleton's grave at Grytviken, the enormous King Penguin colony at St Andrews Bay, and made single-day ski tours from Ocean Harbour to Godthul and above Husvik.
Download the Expedition Report.
We set sail from Stanley on October 5th and arrived at King Haakon Bay six days later, where we anchored on the east side of the Vincent Islands. These provided good mooring to rocks and excellent shelter from the westerly swell.
We landed on the shore northeast of these islands and, after following a short, easy moraine ridge, were able to continue on skis to the base of the Murray Snowfield, where our support team turned back.
A gently rising traverse led easily through a small pass between the nunataks south of Shackleton Gap to the centre of the Murray Snowfield, where we pitched our first camp (465m). The following morning we continued towards the westernmost point of The Trident and followed the Briggs Glacier, in worsening weather, to pitch our second camp, in thick cloud, on a small pass below the southern end of the Trident (886m).
Poor visibility continued the following day as we traversed the Esmark Glacier towards the Wilkins Peaks, which we crossed easily via the Zig-Zag Pass. A short descent led down to the Kohl-Larsen Plateau, where we pitched our third camp (935m).
Winds increased and we were unable to move camp for three days due to very strong winds, gusting at over 100kts during the first day, easing to a steady 50kts during the following two days.
The winds then eased and the sky cleared, allowing us to continue across the Kohl-Larsen Plateau. An area of crevassing south of Pk.3895 was passed to the north before continuing towards a very narrow pass at the head of the western tributary of the König Glacier, between Pk.3545 and Pk.3829. A couple of well-bridged crevasses were crossed to reach the pass, which required a short scramble (15m) down loose rock and scree to reach snow.
The 10km descent down the König Glacier to Fortuna Bay gave excellent and scenic skiing. The crevasses 1.6km east of the pass were well-bridged and presented no problem.
We initially planned to exit the König Glacier via its east bank, in order to avoid crossing the river that flows from the glacier, and then continue towards Crean Lake. Insufficient snow-cover would have made this difficult and so we descended to the snout of the glacier and then on foot to the beach, where we met the yacht.
After a comfortable night on the yacht and a day’s rest we then continued via the standard Shackleton traverse to the Stromness-Fortuna Pass, and then continued northwards along the easy ground below the Henriksen Peaks.
A short excursion into the snowy bowl northeast of Thom Peak rewarded us with a super ski descent before continuing past the small lakes to stream that descends into the Shackleton Valley from the north. This was followed easily to Stromness, where we were picked up by Icebird.
We then sailed to the former whaling station at Grytviken, which is also Ernest Shacketon's final resting place. After paying our respects to 'the boss' we enjoyed wondering around the excellent museum and the remains of the whaling station.
Our next stop was famous King Penguin colony at St Andrew's Bay, where there are over 100,000 birds.
To avoid bad weather further south we sailed to Ocean Harbour, where an enjoyable traverse was made over the Szielasko Ice Cap to reach Godthul.
As we arrived at the beach heavy snow started to fall, which made for a very atmospheric BBQ on deck.
We ended our time in South Georgia at the abandoned whaling station of Husvik, where fresh snow gave some enjoyable ski touring beneath clear blue skies, and the mountains of South Georgia spread out infront of us.