Expedition Watch: Snowboarding Antarctica

Dec 13, 2012
Outside Magazine

During expeditions to the world's most remote mountains, athletes often leave out the details about getting there. Not so with Xavier de Le Rue and the team from Mission Antarctic, who are on a month-long quest to snowboard new lines in Antarctica.

After flying from Santiago, Chile, to the Falkland Islands, the athletes set sail through the often turbulent Drake Passage to get to the White Continent. Unfortunately, their 64-foot, steel-hulled ship, The Golden Fleece, cut right into a storm, and many of them got seasick.

Glacier, Washington-based snowboarder Lucas Debari wrote a vivid enough post about sailing through the choppy waters:

It was only about a half hour or so before we emerged from the protection of the bay and were in the open ocean. Within 20 minutes of that our entire crew was lying down using every bit of mental focus to not vomit or fall out of our beds in the turbulent seas.

The next 72 hours were possibly the most miserable three days of my life. I think I left my little nest of a bed for a total of an hour during this time. I managed to put down a bowl of ramen on day two, and a few crackers here and there. Renan is in the bunk across from me, and keeps going on about how this is just like suffering on the big-wall portaledge during his epic expedition on Meru the year before.

Simple tasks like unscrewing a water bottle for a drink seemed to be just as difficult as they were for me at 17 thousand feet on Denali. Overall, I was completely over it at this point, the thought of snowboarding on this trip seemed unfathomable, and that wasn't just me. You should have seen Xavier during this time. He looked like a ghost, vomiting after every bite and barely able to open his eyes. I never saw him move once from his bed. The storm that had granted us an extra day in the Falklands was now pushing us to our very limits of sanity.

If you have a strong stomach, you can watch a video below of de Le Rue on the boat. It's not pretty, and involves retching.

WHO: French snowboarder Xavier de Le Rue and U.S. snowboarder Lucas Debari lead the expedition. De Le Rue is a five-time X Games medalist and three-time Freeride World Tour Champion. Debari won the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom in 2007 and has snowboarded Denali. Other explorers, including Renan Ozturk and the TimeLine Films crew, have joined the pair and will film and photograph the trip.

WHAT: A month-long sailing and snowboarding expedition to Antarctica that will involve scouting the fjords by boat before skinning up and carving new lines down the slopes.

WHEN: November 21 to December 21, 2012.

WHY: De Le Rue first visited Antarctica roughly four years ago to film the short Lives of Artists. “Ever since I discovered it, I wanted to come back," said de Le Rue. "Going there with TimeLine Crew along and Lucas Debari is really exciting. Renan from Camp 4 Collective will also be part of the crew and bring his artistic skills in the mix. It’s a dream come true expedition made possible by The North Face, with the additional support of Swatch. We have worked on new filming techniques and hope we’ll be able to use them all and find good snow to explore and optimize this paradise to its full riding potential.”

SPONSORS: The North Face, Swatch

FOLLOW ALONG: The team is posting dispatches, videos, and photos on the Mission Antarctic page of the Never Stop Exploring blog.

—Joe Spring

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