Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’06:
The Mawlers Go Bi-polar
A Climbing We Will Go!
Paradoxically, at this point in the narrative, we need to take you back in time a bit.
As we have mentioned, several people have asked what on earth would possess a person to go to Antarctica. Some even argued that there is a distinct lack of culture on the continent, to which the penguins would give a raspberry, if they had lips.
In fact, we have long had a taste for the more remote parts of the world. Culture comes and goes, but the mountains tend to stay there for quite a bit longer and offer much better vistas, if we do say so ourselves. We have been to less-populated places in the United States (like Idaho) and outside the U.S. in Guatemala, Mexico, and far northern Canada. It was the Canadian trip that really put us over the top. Having driven as far as we could toward the top of the world, it seemed logical to take a trip in the other direction.
Fact of the matter, though, is that we do not really plan so much as latch on to an idea. If you have the image of a small terrier, jaws locked on the arm of an intruder, refusing to let go, you pretty much get the idea. Maybe the more apropos image would replace the arm with a rolled up magazine.
It was Outside Magazine in our combined jaws, to be exact. We made the mistake of subscribing to this magazine years ago and it has been nothing but trouble. Every month there is some new place to go or piece of gear to buy. They are clearly taunting us.
In March of 2006, Outside published a list of The Best Trips in 2006. Right there, at the top of the list was a "Climbing and Photography Journey" to Antarctica. It was as though we had seen the burning bush. [Insert political joke here.]
Outside dangled the grapes of "Challenging" difficulty, a small ship (not more than 56 passengers), and (for real climbing buffs) "climbing guide Tashi Tenzing, grandson of the famed Norgay". Now, that might mean absolutely nothing to most of you, but let us just say, wow! These people are pulling out a real honest-to-goodness sherpa, and not just any sherpa, but grandson of the sherpa -- Tenzing Norgay, who climbed Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary.
We started digging a bit farther and their web site says, "We climb where few, if any, have gone before. The Antarctic Peninsula offers energetic climbers hundreds of unclimbed peaks and we cater for all levels of expertise". Then they even confirm the existence of Tashi Tenzing, citing him as "Grandson of Tenzing Norgay & Climb Leader for Aurora Expeditions".
This all leads to some serious credibility on the climbing front. Very heady stuff, let us assure you.
However, just as important as the climbing was the linkage of climbing and photography. These people seemed to understand the things that make Mawlers tick. If they had added microbrewed beer, we may have sold all our possessions and moved to Australia to live with them.
Like all ideas in the Mawler household, this one took a little while to actually click. That little dog image could be refined by making the dog slightly hard of hearing and just a touch blind. It takes him a while to notice the intruder, but when he does...
So this was the March edition of Outside, which we probably did not read until the middle of the month. By March 28th, we had gone to the trouble to email the company with some questions. But apparently, something shiny caught our eye because we did not email any further with the company until June.
Somewhere between March and June, we had gone insane. [If you have followed any of the links you can get just some idea of how insane.] On June 18th, we were talking about reservations for the "Climbers and Photographers Voyage" (from their email to us) and had faxed them a booking form by June 21st.
Long story short, while taking a cruise anywhere is generally not our idea of a good time, two key things put us over the top on this trip:
We are moving along quickly now, all ready for our Antarctic adventure, so let's slow down. If you have been paying attention, this trip was called the "Climbers and Photographers Voyage". Somewhere along the line, however, the name changed to "Antarctic Voyage for Climbers and Kayakers". While wrapped up in the excitement of planning, the shift at Aurora to de-emphasize photography was troubling. Mind you, it was not troubling enough to consider changing our plans to go to Antarctica. Besides, we had bathrooms to replace, new jobs to take on, papers to write, tests to take. Those things would be far too easy without a major trip planned at the same time.
As we progressed along the planning path, they provided more information about climbing, including a form to be filled out by all climbers. This form provided much useful information about the type of climbing and the equipment. Notably it included this statement: "We have made first ascents on eight peaks on the western side of the Peninsula - ie mountains that had never been climbed before!".
I love the smell of unclimbed peaks in the morning...
The form went on to say, in bold letters and all uppercase: "PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT THIS EXPEDITION IS NOT INTENDED TO BE AN INSTRUCTIONAL CLIMBING CLASS", adding, "it is important to have an adventurous attitude, and to have done some climbing" [emphasis ours].
Finally, the form requested a climbing CV, which is a resume for those who don't know such things. [You should get out more.] As part of the CV, they asked several specific questions, including whether you wanted to do a "technical climb", if you would be bringing "your own climbing gear", whether you had climbed in "snow / ice conditions", and finally whether "you lead on rope before". [No really, that was how it was worded; we copied it from the form.]
These people were not messing around. While they would cater to "people of all ages and physical abilities", they definitely include serious climbing.
Stuart even went out and climbed a glaciated peak in preparation...
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