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Reel Rock’s Mission Antarctica is available to all Outside+ members, part of an extensive library of climbing and adventure sport films found in the Outside App. Watch the full film, or download the app here.
Equipped with 65 days of food, a GPS, and a whole lot of wind, three adventurers led by British climbing legend Leo Houlding attempt to kite ski (imagine kite surfing on a glacier) across Antarctica, where they hope to make the first ascent of a new route up the south face of The Spectre, one of the most remote 2,000-meter peaks in the world. Reel Rock follows the team on their grueling—seriously, it’s epic—multi-stage journey in the two-part series “Mission Antarctica.”
Why kite ski? Without government backing, flying to the Transantarctic Mountains is unfeasibly costly, so Houlding—who got the idea from Mountaineering in Antarctica by Damien Gildea—decides to put his faith in the wind. To achieve his goal, Houlding teams up with Jean Burgun, a charismatic French alpinist, chef, and “kite skiing maestro,” and Mark Sedon, a New Zealand mountain guide and cameraman.
The plan is to fly from South America to the Union Glacier Logistics Hub in Antarctica. Then, they’ll fly towards the South Pole, refueling midway, and get dropped off at the “Point of No Return.” From there, they’ll kite ski about 400 kilometers to The Spectre, establish and climb the route, then ski all the way back to the Union Glacier Logistics Hub. All told, it’s nearly 2,000 kilometers of kite skiing.
Each day, the team navigates the logistics of setting up and breaking down camp, packing their sleds, and launching kites in the howling wind. On good days, the team sails over beautiful and barren glaciers. “Wind is the be-all and end-all on this trip,” Houlding says. On bad days, when there is no wind and the team can’t travel by kite, their 440-pound sleds become liabilities. The team is forced to wait until conditions improve or lug the sleds by their own power. But moving more slowly in the crevasse fields can be disastrous. “We’ve skied over about 200 [crevasses] in the last 10 kilometers,” Houlding says at one point. Traveling so fast on the kite, “you’re probably less likely to fall into a crevasse… but, if you do, you’re dead.”
Will the team even reach The Spectre? Will they be able to climb their new route? And will they be able, after the climb, to ski all the way back to the Union Glacier Logistics Hub?
Watch Part One of Mission Antarctica to see Houlding and his team on this unreal expedition.