The High Road

Polar Regions

Feb 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

Ice, Ice, Baby: The mammoth icebergs of Antarctica

Skiing the King's Trail
Price: $2,295
Difficulty: Challenging
Ditch the wimpy groomers at American nordic centers and dig into a real cross-country challenge: The Kungsladen, or King's Trail—which links Abisko and Sarek national parks, above the Arctic Circle—is Sweden's crème de la crème strip of snow-covered track. For seven challenging days, you'll slide your way along a 58-mile section of trail through the Kebnekaise Range, with plenty more payoff than pain. On day three, your dogsled support team will await at a rustic hut with a hefty platter of reindeer steaks and potatoes. After huffing up 3,773-foot Tjaktja Pass on day six, glide into the Tjaktjavagge Valley, stopping to bunk at the Salka Mountain Hut. If cross-country touring isn't your thing, you can opt to explore the Kungsladen on foot during the summer and climb to the top of Sweden's highest peak, 6,965-foot Mount Kebnekaise, for views of distant Norway.
High Point: Bringing your core temperature up with a sauna at the Abisko, Alesjaure, and Salka huts.
Low Point: Having your circadian rhythms thrown off by 24-hour twilight.
Travel Advisory: Beware snowmobiles—they are an essential part of life in Lapland but can shatter your hard-won solitude.
Outfitter: KE Adventure Travel, 800-497-9675,
When to Go: February to April

Svalbard Photo Expedition
Price: $5,290
Difficulty: Easy
The Svalbard Archipelago is one of the inhabited spits of land closest to the North Pole, just over 600 miles away, but it's anything but barren—in summer the islands are blanketed with wildflowers, seabirds swirl en masse, and walruses, whales, seals, and bears gorge themselves during the 24-hour days. This expedition is all about capturing it on film—for 11 days, naturalists will help you spot the critters, and one of the world's top nature photographers, Art Wolfe, will teach you how to take advantage of polar light, among other skills. Each day you'll load into Zodiacs to shoot the glaciers, icebergs, fjords, and herds of reindeer that catch your interest from the bow of the ice-class ship Endeavor.
Outfitter: Lindblad Expeditions, 800-397-3348,
When to Go: July

Across the Circle for Climbers and Divers
Price: $4,490
Difficulty: Challenging
Why go to Antarctica if you get to stand on solid ground for only a few hours? This cruise gets you some real time on—and under—the great white continent and takes you south across the Antarctic Circle, a feat only true polar explorers can brag about. You and 53 other adventurers will stay aboard the Polar Pioneer, your floating base camp, where you'll have input in planning the ship's day-to-day itinerary. Experienced drysuit divers can explore the undersides of icebergs and get a krill's-eye view of whales; hikers can summit unclimbed mountains on the western side of Antarctica and name them after their grandmothers. Other possibilities include visits to the defunct volcanic crater of Deception Island, the glaciers of Paradise Harbor, and the narrow 2,300-foot cliffs flanking Lemaire Channel.
Outfitter: World Expeditions, 888-464-8735,
When to Go: February