No man's land

Image:No man's land
01. Oct, 2018 Written by: Matthias Mayr


Photo: Johannes Aitzetmüller


In the past 10 minutes, the wind grew constantly stronger. My 10,5m2 Kite is way too big for this power. I am losing ground every time I am putting the kite a little bit too much into the power zone. But I am riding fast this way, so I keep going. Suddenly my climbing harness gets loose, the different directions of pulling by the kite must have opened it. Now the kite is just fixed to my backpack belt. Still strong enough to hold since it´s an Avalanche airbag system, but it´s too loose to control it. So I try to close my harness while having the kite high up in the air at 12 o´clock. Suddenly I am up in the air…

4 months earlier

I have now been in the water for six hours, in Tarifa, southernmost city of Europe, and one of the most famous kite surfing spots around. It´s mid-July, 30C degrees air temperature, 18 degrees in the water of the Atlantic Ocean. I swallowed more salt water the past hours, than in my entire life. But I love it, I love the sea, the forces of nature. I am locked to a kite, which is dragging me through the water, my board is lost somewhere hundreds of meters away. Nobody said kite surfing is easy in conditions like this. „Levante“ the off shore wind, famous for it´s strong gusts. Currently we have 40 knots. „They“ said, if you are able to kite surf here, in these conditions, you are able to do it everywhere. The only problem: I never kite surfed before. It´s my second day trying to learn how to get control of the system. And I keep trying until the sun sets.

Motivation is the key to success, you can train and prepare, but in the end you have to be able to overcome extreme situations. For that you need mental strength, which is based on the motivation to accomplish something. Our goal; to go into the continent of Antarctica, hike and climb mountains, and ski fast and steep Big Mountain Lines. Currently, in July 2017, this seems to be impossible, due to the extreme conditions close to South Pole and the solitude. But, the past two years we proved to ourselves, that „impossible“ is just a word. Skiing on the island of Onekotan and first descenting „Gora Pobeda“ North-Eastern-Siberia’s highest peak, gave us a lot of confidence, experience and knowledge.

Now we want to use what we learned to go for our biggest mission so far. The Ellsworth mountains are Antarctica´s highest mountain range. Peaks up to almost 4900 meters, average temperatures of -20 Celsius to -50. In summer! But why do we need Kite surfing in Antarctica? One of the big challenges in Antarctica is to cover the distances. Of course there is no civilization, just ice, snow, rocks ... Since the continent is the windiest in the World, kiting is an option to move forward. And it´s nothing new. Adventurers have done it to cross Antarctica.

July 2017

After a week in Tarifa, I am able to kite board on water, which is more difficult than on snow. So, I should be ready for our mission. Yet we have many other challenges to face. For myself the biggest, the cold! Remembering when I was watching documentaries on TV when I was a kid, I was always shocked by the frozen toes and fingers the adventurers had. I told myself, never ever I would go to Antarctica! Well, things change. Now after more than 10 years working as a professional freeskier, after accomplishing two extreme expeditions, I feel ready for the most extreme place on the planet. I don´t just feel ready, I have to go there, to find out how far I can go, together with my team mates. Nobody ever went into the mainland of Antarctica to primarily ski big lines. It was 107 years ago that humans reached the geographic South Pole for the first time. It was Roald Amundsen, with a light and fast team, who achieved this after acquiring knowledge from the Inuit people. We got fantastic felt boots in Siberia, the nomads use them at temperatures down to -68 Celsius. They should keep our feet warm once we are in Antarctica. Johannes, who is the cinematographer, and Hauni, pro skier and adventurer, the guy who's been doing these stupid things with me now for ten years. That´s it, a team as small as it could get for an expedition that´s outcome should be a cinematic film.

“But still, will it be possible to ski here?”

November 2017

Have you ever seen an Illuschin 76? You should! Better, fly with it! We are now sitting inside this special aircraft, built in Russia for Arctic use, especially for landing on snow and ice. Below the cockpit, there is a glass bubble, one of the crewmembers lying in it, watching the ground. When landing on a continent that´s 20 Million km2 just white, (I am talking about Antarctica, not Russia) you need someone who tells you when to hit the floor ;).

Inside the aircraft, we are sitting together with 4 dozens other adventurers, all of them attempting to either reach South Pole or cross Antarctica. Some of them for climbing Mt. Vinson, one of the Seven Summits. But nobody for skiing. But we did not really need to tell anyone. It was obvious on first sight, that we are a bit different. All of them wearing super thick expedition boots. Except the three of us. We are in our ski boots. Crazy?! I don´t know yet. I just know, we are wearing two sizes bigger than usual to prevent from freezing off toes. And we have our felt boots with us. So we are safe. We look like kids between all of them, it´s not just the ski boots, also the clothing, we are wearing our Peak Performance ski clothes, of course I am having my down jackets and a down pants with me, but no special expedition suit. We know, that our equipment will be perfect for Antarctica. We just did not find out yet…

5 hours later

We are standing on a different planet. There is ice, a super cold wind and emptiness. And after the aircraft left, pure silence. We worked on making this become reality for 15 months. Now we are there, unbelievable. But still, will it be possible to ski here?

3 days later

We leave the base camp, where all adventurers settle before leaving for their expeditions. The difference!? All of them leave with a small aircraft to get inside Antarctica to another place to start their missions. We don´t. We walk. We walk, hauling two sleds each. Everyone hauls 100kg of equipment, food, gas. We hike directly into direction of the mountains. We can see them, they seem close. But nothing is close when you man haul a 100kg sled. And everything seems much closer in dry, clean air and when not having any reference points like trees, houses…

9 days later

The past week was very intense. While walking it´s quite ok with the temperature, but as soon as you rest, you almost freeze. Ah yes, why we did not use our kites yet? Hm, there was no wind, unusal for Antarctica, but it can happen. We figured out that a lot of things are different here in the mountains of Antarctica. And that the weather is absolutely unpredictable.

„Impossible“ is just a word.


Damn! The kite got caught by a massive gust! I am flying, I try to protect my shoulder, dislocated it six months earlier, then, ouch, I am touching ground, all white, a split second later, my sleds pass by, like a train. Kite is still in the air and drags me through the snow. At least there are no trees I could bump in. But I need to solve this right now…

If you want to find out how this story ends, if we managed it to do Big Mountain Skiing in Antarctica, watch No Man's Land - Expedition Antarctica coming Fall 2018 into cinemas.


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