Thursday, January 7, 2010

Journey of a Lifetime with Stephen Venables

Having just returned from lecture tours in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and the United States, this year I am staying mainly at home. However, I will be talking at a conference in Santiago, Chile, in November.

Here, I have a busy programme, starting with a talk on the Nepal Himlaya in Mellor, near Manchester, on February 8th. Then I head to Scotland to tour my new Shipton Country lecture, which was a sellout when I tried it out in Bristol before Christmas. I will also be visiting most areas of England and Wales with various talks, including a new touring theatre show In the Steps of Shackleton, using gorgeous photos and film footage from all my three South Georgia expeditions over the last twenty years. Details of most lectures are now up on For the Shackleton talk see also

As I have to travel to Chile in November, it makes sense to continue a little further south, making the most of the austral spring. I hope to return to South Georgia, building on the success of the 2008 ‘Beyond Endurance’ expedition. The plan is to sail again with the leading Antarctic charter yacht, Pelagic Australis, and attempt an ambitious ski tour and – who knows – perhaps a first ascent or two. The most obvious objective is the now well-trodden Shackleton Traverse. I would be very happy to lead that a third time. However, my personal preference would be to attempt a ski traverse of the rarely-visited Salvesen Range, further south.

Chartering Pelagic Australis is not cheap, so we need a team of at least six people. Anyone keen to attempt the traverse needs to be fit, experienced and prepared to face some very foul weather. However, it could be that, say, four people attempt the traverse, whilst two or three others come just for the wonderful voyage to incomparable wildlife beaches.

There is a details proposal on the website and I have also pasted them below.

Please get in touch if you are interested. And tell anyone else who might be tempted. Please, also, tell me if you would prefer not to receive future newsletters.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous year

-Stephen Venables

Stephen has been three times to the sub-antarctic island of South Georgia. He loves the place so much he wants to go back again in the austral spring of 2010 and is looking for a team to accompany him. As with the successful 2008 expedition, this trip will use Skip Novak’s purpose-built 25 metres yacht, Pelagic Australis, to sail from the Falklands to South Georgia and back. The voyage generally takes four or five days and everyone on board is expected take turns on watches. So this is a unique opportunity to sail with world-class yachtsmen across one of the most remote stretches of water on earth, to an island famed for its unique wildlife, exploration heritage and stunning mountains rising 9,000 feet straight out of the ocean.

Once on the island itself there are three main options, depending on the experience and ability of the team:

Shackleton Traverse Highlights
We will anchor at famous landmarks on the Shackleton Traverse of 1916 – King Haakon Bay, Fortuna Bay and Stromness – and, weather permitting, make day trips by foot and ski to key points on the Traverse, getting a glimpse of the mountainous interior never seen by regular cruise passengers. There will also be time to visit the whaling museum at Grytviken and some of the most spectacular wildlife sites, such as the immense king penguin rookery at St Andrews Bay.

Classic Shackleton Traverse
A tougher option, requiring luck with the weather and a committed team. Shackleton, Crean and Worsley made the journey from King Haakon Bay to Stromness in 30 hours non-stop, in a desperate bid to rescue 31 marooned companions. Most recent parties to repeat the route, have done it in a more leisurely three days. By going in spring we should be able to do almost the entire route on ski, towing camping gear in sledges. If we are lucky with the weather, there will also be time for other excursions around the island as in the first option.

Grand Traverse of the Salvesen Range
In 1990 Stephen was in one of the very few parties ever to venture into the southern interior of the island when he made the first ascent of Mount Carse with Brian Davison. He would love to return to this southern Salvesen Range with a suitably determined, experienced team, prepared to commit to up to ten days ski-mountaineering on remote glaciers. The team will be put ashore at Royal Bay, to climb up to the Ross Pass, before heading south, following several glaciers to the pick-up point in the spectacular haven of Larsen Harbour. We will travel by ski, towing sledges. If all goes well, there may be a chance to attempt an unclimbed peak on the way.

Pelagic Australis can take 7 paying passengers. If, say, only four were keen skiers/mountaineers, it would be perfectly possible for the other three to have a fascinating time cruising from bay to bay, going for short sea level excursions, while the mountain team was away. All plans would in any case have to be highly flexible, dependent on the vagaries of Southern Ocean weather.

The dates are for a four week return trip from the Falklands, with Saturday flights to and from Santiago de Chile (32 days round trip from Europe or North America). Two options:
October 9 – November 6, 2010
November 20 – December 11, 2010
The former is marginally better for skiing, with a good chance of snow almost down to the beach. Both options offer fantastic opportunities for wildlife viewing.

This is based on current charter costs for Pelagic Australis, probably the finest purpose-built yacht operating in Antarctica. It includes:

Four weeks charter of Pelagic Australis
All food and wine on board and on South Georgia, once we set sail from Port Stanley
Foul weather gear on board
Communal camping and cooking equipment, including pulks (sledges)
Fees and expenses for Stephen Venables and one other mountain leader.

Not included:
Travel to and from the Falklands
Personal clothing and equipment
Food and drinks ashore in Port Stanley
Internet communications on board

For group of seven people maximum: 98,000 euros
Price per person: 14,000 euros (£12,750 at Oct 09 exchange rate)

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