Eligibility:  Except where regulated or restricted by law, the Polartec® Fall Fleece Contest (“Contest”) is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older and have reached the age of majority in his or her state of residence as of the time of entry.  Employees, contractors, directors, and officers of Polartec® LLC (“Sponsor”), its affiliates, subsidiaries, divisions, and advertising and promotion agencies (collectively, “Promotion Parties”), and their immediate family members (spouse, children, parents and siblings of each), and those living in the same household of each are not eligible to enter or win.  Other eligibility requirements and conditions of participation are set forth below in these official rules for the Contest (“Official Rules”).  All federal, state, and local laws and regulations apply.  This Contest is void in Puerto Rico and all other U.S. territories and possessions and where prohibited or restricted by law.

Entry Period:  Contest begins at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (“EDT”) on October 1, 2014 and ends at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (“EST”) on November 18, 2014 (“Entry Period”).

How to Enter the Contest:  To enter, eligible participants must have a Pinterest account (if you do not already have a Pinterest account, you can create one for free at http://pinterest.com).  After establishing a Pinterest account (or, if you already have a Pinterest account), eligible participants must complete the following steps to enter:

  1. Follow a Polartec® Pinterest board and re-pin the Contest announcement pin, available at http://www.pinterest.com/polartec/polartec-fall-fleece-off.
  2. Click through to pinterest.com and create a board on Pinterest titled “Polartec Fall Fleece Contest” (the “Submission”).  The board must be called “Polartec Fall Fleece Contest” in order to be eligible for entry in the Contest.
  3. Pin your own images to the Submission that show how you or your loved ones are keeping warm this fall with your fleece creations.  The creations do not have to be original creations but may be a pattern.  The only requirement is that the creation is made out of fleece (no requirement that it be Polartec® fleece).  The Submission must include at least the following Pins: (a) two pins that are sources of inspiration for your creation; (b) two pins of the process of creating your idea; and (c) two pins of the final product.
  4. Email to PinterestContest@Polartec.com the link to your Submission, your full name, and email address.  Upon email of your Submission and required information to the email address, the eligible participant (“Entrant”) will be entitled to an entry (“Entry”) into the Contest.



Entry Limit:  Limit of one Entry per Entrant and per email address throughout the Entry Period. Subsequent Entries by the same Entrant or using the same email address are invalid and will be disqualified.  Any attempts made by the same person to submit multiple Entries are void and will not be counted.  In the event of a dispute over the identity of an online Entrant, the Entry will be deemed submitted by the authorized account holder of the email address associated with the Entry.  Authorized account holder is defined as the person assigned to an email address by an Internet access provider, online service provider or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses.  All Entries must be received during the Entry Period to be eligible for the Contest.  Any Entry received after the Entry Period will be void.


Conditions of Submission: Submissions that are deemed by the Sponsor, in its sole discretion, to be offensive, immoral, obscene, profane, defamatory, not keeping the image of the Sponsor, or in violation of these Official Rules will be void.  Further, all Submissions that contain copyrighted or other proprietary materials for which the Entrant has not obtained appropriate assignment of rights, as well as any content that disparages or portrays the Sponsor in a negative light, will be void.  Furthermore, Sponsor is not responsible for lost, incomplete, stolen, damaged, corrupt, illegible, late, or unintelligible Entries, or for printing or other errors appearing in these rules or other Contest materials, misprints or errors in other Contest-related information, garbled communications, failures or malfunctions of internet connections, phones, phonelines, telephone systems, technical or mechanical malfunctions, or other malfunctions, problems or errors, whether caused by equipment, programming used in this Contest, processing errors, human errors or otherwise.  Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to void any Entries from Entrants whom Sponsor believes have attempted to tamper or have tampered with the administration, security, or fairness of this Contest.  Entries or Submissions submitted by automatic, programmed, or like methods will be disqualified.

By entering, each Entrant warrants and represents that: (a) the Submission is the original work of the Entrant and does not infringe the intellectual property, privacy, confidentiality or publicity rights or any other legal rights of any third party; (b) the Entrant owns or otherwise controls all rights to the Submission submitted by the Entrant; and (c) the Submission has not been entered into or won any previous contests or awards and has not been published or distributed previously in any form of media.  By entering this Contest, each Entrant unconditionally and irrevocably grants a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licensable license to Sponsor and its successors or assigns to use, reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of the Submission for any purpose now and hereafter as they so desire.  Each Entrant further warrants and represents that any person or entity pictured in the Submission has agreed to be featured, and must also have agreed to the Submission being entered in the Contest and each Entrant further warrants and represents that applicable consents have been obtained.  Emailing a Submission is not an indication that the Entrant has won a prize or is otherwise eligible for a prize.  By creating and emailing a Submission for this Contest, Entrant grants Sponsor the right to use, publish, adapt, edit and/or modify such Submission in any way, in whole or in part, and to use such Submission alone or in combination with other works, as solely determined by Sponsor, in commerce and trade and in any and all media now known or hereafter discovered, without limitation or compensation to the Entrant and without right of notice, review, or approval of any such use of the Submission.


Grand Prize and Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”):  One grand prize (“Prize”) is available to be awarded in this Contest.  The Prize consists of 50 yards of original fleece fabric.  The winner can choose the color or colors of the fabric, subject to availability, with any color combination that the winner chooses.  For example, the winner may choose 10 yards red, 10 yards blue, and 30 yards black.  As part of the Prize, Sponsor will also donate 50 fleece blankets to charity of the winner’s choice.  The total ARV of the Prize is $400.

Winner Selection:  Within seven days after the end of the Entry Period, one Grand Prize winner (the “Winner”) will be selected by FleeceFun.com’s Angel Hickman Peterson (the “Judge”) from among all eligible Entries received during the Entry Period based on the following judging criteria (“Judging Criteria”): (a) Creativity (35%); (b) Originality (35%); and (c) Passion for Fleece (30%).  The Judging Criteria shall be applied in the sole discretion of the Judge.  Each Entrant agrees to be bound by and not challenge the final decisions of the Judge.  All results of the Judge’s selection are final and binding, subject to these Official Rules.  In the event a winning Submission is discovered to be invalid for any reason whatsoever or the Entrant who submitted the winning Submission fails to comply with these Official Rules prior to delivery of the Prize, the Prize may be forfeited and awarded to an alternate winner. 

Odds:  The odds of winning the Contest depend on the number of eligible Entries received during the Entry Period and the quality of the Submission.


Prize Delivery:  The Prize will be delivered within 30 days after Sponsor verifies the Winner’s eligibility to enter and to win this Contest and after Sponsor and Winner coordinate Winner’s selection of the fleece fabric colors.  If the Prize is unclaimed, if any Prize correspondence or the Prize is returned as undeliverable, or if the Winner is found ineligible or not in compliance with these Official Rules, the Prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner may be selected, at Sponsor’s option and sole discretion.  All federal, state, and local taxes, and all other costs associated with acceptance or use of the Prize are the sole responsibility of the Winner.  The Winner may waive his/her right to receive the Prize.  The Prize is non-transferrable, non-exchangeable, and non-refundable, and must be accepted by the Winner as awarded.  If the Prize cannot be awarded for any reason, Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value.

Conditions, Disclaimers, and License:  By entering the Contest, each Entrant agrees that: (a) he or she will abide by and be bound by these Official Rules; (b) the Entry, including any comments submitted, become solely the Sponsor’s property and will not be acknowledged or returned; (c) neither Pinterest nor Sponsor or any of the other Promotion Parties nor any of their officers, directors, employees, agents or representatives are responsible for claims, injuries, death, losses or damages of any kind resulting from participation or inability to participate in the Contest, or the awarding, acceptance, use, misuse, possession, loss or misdirection of the Prize; (d) Sponsor is not responsible for any inability of a Winner to accept the Prize for any reason; and (e) by entering the Contest, all Entrants further agree that Sponsor has the sole right to decide all matters relating to the Contest, including fact, interpretation, eligibility, procedure, fulfillment, and disputes from the Contest. 

Applicable Law: This Contest is governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts without regard to any choice of law provisions.  Venue with respect to any dispute that may arise hereunder shall be had in the state and federal courts of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Privacy:  Information submitted in connection with the Contest will be treated in accordance with these Official Rules and Sponsor’s privacy policy (as may be amended from time to time), currently available at [Link to Privacy Policy]; provided that, in the event of any conflict between these Official Rules and such Privacy Policy, the terms and conditions of these Official Rules will prevail.

Publicity Release:  Except where prohibited, by accepting the Prize, the Winner grants permission for Sponsor and its agents to use his/her name, voice and/or likeness, for advertising, merchandising, promotion and/or publicity purposes in any and all media now known or hereinafter invented without territorial or time limitations and without additional compensation.

Limitation of Liability and Remedies: Neither Pinterest, Sponsor, nor any other Promotion Party shall have any liability for any direct, incidental, indirect, special, or consequential damages, or exemplary or punitive damages arising out of or relating to this Contest, any Submission or use of the Submission, or any content embodied therein.  Furthermore, neither Pinterest, Sponsor nor any other Promotion Party shall be liable to the Winner or any other person for failure to supply the Prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, terrorist acts, earthquake, war, fire, flood, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal), labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor’s sole control.


Each Entrant agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the Sponsor and the other Promotion Parties from any and all claims, liabilities, damages, expenses and costs (including legal fees) brought or asserted by or on behalf of any third party against the Sponsor or the other Promotion Parties arising from or related to the Entrant’s Submission infringing or allegedly infringing a third party’s intellectual property rights, publicity, privacy or confidentiality rights, or defaming or otherwise causing harm to a third party.

Official Rules: The Contest will be run in accordance with the Official Rules, subject to amendment by Sponsor. Entrants must comply with the Official Rules and will be deemed to have received and understood the Official Rules by participating in the Contest. The terms of the Contest, as set out in the Official Rules, are not subject to amendment or counter-offer, except as set out herein. Sponsor’s decisions with respect to the Contest are final and binding. If any provisions of the Official Rules are held to be invalid or unenforceable, all remaining provisions hereof will remain in full force and effect.

Any attempt to deliberately damage any website or to undermine the legitimate operation of the Contest is a violation of criminal and civil laws, and should such an attempt be made, Sponsor reserves the right to seek remedies and damages to the fullest extent permitted by law, including criminal prosecution.  Sponsor’s failure to enforce any term of these Official Rules will not constitute a waiver of that provision.  Neither Sponsor nor anyone acting on its behalf will enter into any communications with any Entrant regarding this Contest, except as expressly set forth in these Official Rules.  Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual it finds to be attempting to tamper with or undermine the entry process, the web site, and/or the legitimate operation of the Contest; to violate the Official Rules; or to act in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner or with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any other person.  If, for any reason, the Contest is not capable of running as planned, including tampering, fraud, or any other causes beyond the control of Sponsor, which corrupt or affect the operation, administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this Contest, Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, void any suspect Entries and (a) cancel or terminate the Contest (or any portion thereof); (b) modify the Contest or suspend the Contest to address the impairment and then resume the Contest in a manner that best conforms to the spirit of these Official Rules; or (c) award the Prize from among the eligible, non-suspect Entries received up to the time of the impairment.

Winner List Requests:  For name of the Contest Winner (available for 90 days from the date of verification of the Winner), please email PinterestContest@polartec.com, with subject line “Contest Winner.”

Copy of the Official Rules: For a copy of the Official Rules (available during the Entry Period), please email PinterestContest@polartec.com, with a subject line “Official Rules.”

Sponsor:  The Contest is sponsored by Polartec® LLC, 46 Stafford Street, Lawrence, MA 01841.


Disclaimer:  The Contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with Pinterest.


2014 Polartec Challenge Winners!

We are extremely pleased to announce the recipients of its 23rd annual Polartec® Challenge Grant, an international grant program encouraging the spirit and practice of human-powered outdoor adventure. Four separate adventures will receive funding and support from Polartec in 2014: a ski mountaineering expedition on the largest glacier in the world outside of the polar regions, a solo journey from Bucharest to the summit of Khan Tengri in Kygyzstan, a traverse of the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap documenting glacial retreat, and a sail and ski trip in and around Iceland and Greenland.

“Since 1991, Polartec has assisted some of the world’s greatest athletes and explorers who rely on our products and put them to the ultimate test,” says Polartec Global Director of Marketing, Allon Cohne. “Polartec engineers fabrics designed for performance in all climates – from lightweight next-to-skin layers, to innovative insulation, and breathable waterproof protection. The 2014 Polartec Challenge Grant recipients exemplify Polartec’s commitment to expanding our perception of what’s possible, and we’re proud to support them.”


  • Holly Walker, Selena Raven Cordean, Emilie Stenberg, Zebulon Blais and Vince Shuley will follow the flow of the Fedchenko, the largest glacier in the world outside of the polar regions, on an unsupported six-week ski mountaineering expedition in Tajikistan


  • Diaconescu Radu will embark on a nine-month roundtrip human-powered solo journey from his home in Bucharest to the summit of Khan Tengri, a 7000-meter peak in the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan


  • Jim Harris will cross the 350-mile length of the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap by ski, traction kite and packraft while documenting the remote landscape’s deteriorating glaciers.


  • Meghan Kelly, Pip Hunt, Nat Segal, McKenna Peterson, KT Miller, and Martha Hunt will attempt to ski first descents in Greenland via a sailboat from Iceland. (awarded in 2013)

In addition to the grant money, all of this year’s Polartec® Challenge winners will be fully outfitted with Polartec® garments, designed to keep them warm, dry and comfortable in the harshest of climates.

About the Polartec® Challenge Grant
The annual Polartec® Challenge Grant seeks to assist frugal, low impact teams who respect the local culture and environment and serve as role models to outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. Applications are evaluated on the basis of their vision, commitment and credibility. Past recipients of the Polartec® Challenge Grant include outdoor pioneers and adventurers such as Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Steve House, Jon Turk, Marko Prezelj, Andrew McLean, Greg Hill, Mike Libecki, Kyle Dempster, Hayden Kennedy, and John Shipton.

Introducing Polartec Power Wool

power wool

We are very excited to introduce Polartec® Power Wool™, a new fabric collection that optimizes the natural performance of wool with synthetic fibers in patented constructions that only Polartec can deliver.

Designed as a next-to-skin fabric to keep you dry and comfortable, Polartec® Power Wool™ delivers an engineered mix of fibers precisely placing wool and synthetic yarns to achieve fabric performance much greater than the sum of the parts, while solving some of the problems of pure wool garments.

Highly breathable Polartec Power Wool harnesses the power of naturally wicking, odor resistant, temperature-regulating high quality merino wool with hydrophobic synthetic fibers for shape retention, durability and improved dry-times. The resulting product more reliably manages the often-divergent demands of many environments – hot or cold, wet or dry – for superior comfort and durability.

Constructed as a bi-component knit with a polyester exterior and an itch-free merino wool interior, Polartec Power Wool keeps the skin dry through three complimentary mechanisms: higher breathability via wool’s movement of moisture in a vapor state, designed touch points on the interior to draw sweat away, and a broad surface area on the exterior for rapid drying. Polartec Power Wool is available in primary next-to-skin styles, form-fitting stretch styles, and patented High Efficiency grid styles which offer maximum breathability, compressibility and the highest warmth per fabric weight.

“Alone, wool and synthetics each have their own advantages and disadvantages, but together, with the right mix and construction, Polartec Power Wool maximizes the performance benefits of each,” says Allon Cohne, Polartec global marketing director.

Polartec® Power Wool™ will become available to consumers in the collections of some of the world’s leading apparel brands.

Polartec Challenge Winners – Zander Martin and Bria Schurke


Today’s tasks seem simple: cleaning, editing photos, rinsing tent stakes of flakes of Siberian soil. The complicated immediacies of wilderness travel have been left behind. Three days ago, I was in Moscow, wandering across Red Square after a ten-hour flight from the Russian Far East. I wandered among tourists, amazed at the breadth of the former Soviet Union, and the difference between the lands I had inhabited this year, and that monumental human landscape of brick and stone.

asia rivers blog

Then, I was consumed by travel. Today, I move through simple tasks in a mellow kind of shock. The journey is done, and I am putting the tools and mental structures of this project away for the last time. I wrote, in ending:

“No one was waiting for us, save a startled old man and his silent, flower-print wife. The lights of smokestacks and cranes blinked in the darkness. Twelve hours on the water told in tight legs and swollen fingers, but stepping into shallow water washed equally from the great Amur and the incoming tide of the Pacific, I felt light. The thing was done.

asia rivers blog 4

At midnight the night before, a bear had walked into camp amid staccato heat lightning. The forest drone of mosquitoes gave way to the sprayed stones of his retreat. A tropical night led to a tropical day, and a steady push past floating fishing villages and the boats of Russian and Native hauling nets. At 10PM, the industrial outpost of Nikolayevsk, and Pacific tidewater.”


This journey across Asia took six months to complete, and traced a 6,900 kilometer human-powered arc through both deep wilderness and human settlement on the edge of the known. In winter, my expedition partner and I cycled 4,000 kilometers from Turkey to Kazakhstan, and in summer, a new partner and I paddled 2,900 kilometers from central Mongolia to the Pacific Ocean.  On roads and rivers we explored the Asian hinterlands, hugging borders of steppe and taiga, mountain and oasis, through nine countries.

asia rivers blog 2

The Polartec Challenge Grant fueled this exploration of Asia, allowing it to not just be completed in good style, but to be completed at all. After hustling across North America and Europe by canoe, the mass of Asia beckoned despite an empty bank account. Expeditions are expensive, even two person, bare bones, shoe-string affairs like what I had in mind. The hills of baklava, mountains of khinkali, rivers of visa forms, and wide open endless steppes of penniless anxiety could be conquered only through the generosity, in this case, of Polartec. In the role of enabler, the Grant succeeded. With the funds to eat, cross borders, and not worry about emergencies, we moved east. And, with the durable, high-tech Polartec garments overnighted to us, we braved everything from baking continental heat to mid-summer frosts in Buryatia, constant, sanity-draining steppe winds in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, the deluge of Turkey’s Black Sea coast, and the polar cold of winter in the high ranges of the Caucasus and Tien Shan.

Garments worn on this expedition:

MEC Charge Hat  (Polartec Wind Pro)

Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants  (Polartec Power  Shield)

Patagonia Alpine Guide Jacket  (Polartec Power Shield)

Patagonia Piton Hybrid Vest  (Polartec Wind Pro and Polartec Power Dry)

Patagonia R2 Regulator Fleece Jacket  (Polartec Thermal Pro and Power Dry)

In Turkey, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, John, my expedition partner, and I cycled east along the multivarious twisted arms of the ancient Silk Road, dashing through a schizophrenic landscape, both timeless and in millennial flux.  Cycling in winter brought new challenges, from frozen derailleurs to wet-slab avalanches burying the road in front of us in fifty feet of cement-like snow.  Winter is a clarifying season, and it brought the people, politics, and landscape into sharper focus.

In Mongolia, Siberia, and the Russian Far East, Bria, my expedition partner, and I paddled north through the basalt canyons and open steppes of Outer Mongolia, navigating whitewater gorges and the hospitality rituals of nomads. The Chuluut River fed the Selenge, and Buryatia followed Mongolia. This Buddhist enclave in southern Russia brought us to Baikal, the largest lake on Earth, and thence to the Muya, Vitim, and Lena Rivers. Finally, we traveled to the Amur River, a contested borderland somehow forgotten by the powers that posture over it.

We drank tea with forest rangers and babushkas, fishermen, horse traders and clothing smugglers, all willing, in their way, to share their story and their stake in these harsh homelands. I am transfixed by these stories, of people, politics, and landscape, and their simultaneous familiarity and otherness. In Soviet hinterlands, from Serbia to Siberia, there is consistency in tone and topic – just as there was in past journeys from Montana to Germany, Quebec to Uzbekistan.


In trying to give meaning to this last setting-out, I wrote in a previous post:

“Success has been in doubt since the beginning. Indeed, the project itself- paddling around the world – began as the far-fetched, damn-fool idea of a just-out-of-college and jobless person – me – without the resources or the skills to bring it about. I started with a paddle home, from Portland, OR to Portland, ME, leading expeditions for NOLS to save up enough to paddle east for another month or two, failing and struggling and making my way across the continent. Europe followed, and Central Asia. Bikes were thrown in for sanity and rational movement across endorheic basins, deserts, and mountain ranges.

asia rivers blog 3

As each leg materialized out of the mist of what is possible, I cast about for structure and for ending. Siberia was the keyhole through which could barely be discerned the great ocean where I began, years ago and as a different person. The maps of Siberia told of capillaries of blue etched amidst mountains and wedged between the steppe and the sea, and with false starts and the dizzy soar of Google Earth, I sketched a route through the difficult and the unknown, as I had done in successive pushes across three continents. Still, it was all a sort of a dream.”

The dream, long distant, has come true. I’m home, washing thin Siberian dirt from a clutch of battered tent pegs. The dream was possible in large part because of the Challenge Grant. Joy, then, that there are enablers like Polartec, that stand with explorers of backyards and borderlands. After 408 days and 20,000 kilometers through twenty countries, I am done. This last journey was the just out of reach conclusion of a larger puzzle of exploration, and you brought  within reach.

I am done, then, with the easy part. Now comes the telling of the story, and a journey of a different kind.

Thank you.

Zand B. Martin

Media from Mongolia, Siberia, and the Russian Far East is available on our website at www.facebook.com/asiariversexpedition, and more will become available as photos are edited and journals proofread. To see more from Zand Martin or hear about previous legs of this around-the-world exploration, check out his website at www.zandmartin.com

Text and photos by Zander Martin

What’s Your Everest Climb with Soldiers to Summits

Soldiers to Summits and No Barriers kicked off their What’s Your Everest fundraising events in Colorado last weekend.  Polartec is a proud sponsor and was on hand for an inspiring journey up the 14,065 ft peak of Mount Bierstadt.

Mounting up

The weekend began with a group dinner where past participants shared their experiences with the organization.  Various veterans discussed their time spent serving the US overseas and what hardships they endured both during their tours as well as upon their return to the states.  Teenagers who had taken part in the Global Explorers Program talked about the impact the program had on them.  Their trip to South America with disadvantaged teens has changed and shaped their lives.  Afterwards, participants, friends and sponsors were encouraged to discuss how the No Barriers philosophy resonates with them and make a pledge to overcome a specific barrier that is holding them back.

Beginning the trek

The wake up call came at 4am the next morning when all the would-be hikers and mountain guides (over 60 people) assembled at the trailhead of Mount Bierstadt.  The guides had all been a part of Erik Weinhenmayer’s original Everest team.  Weinhenmayer is the first (and only) blind person to ever summit Mount Everest  and serves as the VP of the Board of the No Barriers organization.  With the sun just peeking over the mountains, we set off on our journey.  The sky was blue and the air was crisp as we made our ascent to the summit.  After a short break at the mid-way point for some much needed hot cocoa and snacks, the group continued onward and upward through the  snow-laden mountainside.

Mid-way break

The gathering at the summit was a raucous affair complete with hooting, hollering and of course, picture taking.  After spending some time admiring the view and our accomplishment, we reluctantly began our descent.

Last push

A keg and a slew of energetic No Barriers reps awaited us at the bottom… no better way to finish what, for most of us, was our very first 14-er.


Check out this video slideshow of the day’s climb: http://nobarriersusa.org/wye_co/


Polartec Challenge Team Visits Queen Maud Land, Antarctica

Antarctica: The Frozen Frontier

Queen Maud Land: the adventure starts in sun-soaked South Africa, in late spring.

On the evening of November 11, 2012, a little after dinner hours, a group of men steadily forms in the back corner of the departures terminal of the Cape Town International Airport. Most are clad casually, in blue jeans and windbreakers, work pants and ski jackets. Some might be oil riggers flying home after a two week work stint, others lawyers, off on a ski holiday. If you were rushing by to make boarding call, you wouldn’t give them a second glance…

…but if you looked twice, you might notice the backpacks and pelican cases — and the high-topped, over-sized duck boots tucked conspicuously under everyone’s arms. So it was that our four-man team of Mike Libecki, Cory Richards, Keith Ladzinski, and I joined them and checked in for flight # YRY9173, or “D1”, shorthand for Dromlan 1, the first jet plane of the season to land on the blue ice runway near Schirmacher Oasis, Novolazarevskaya Station, Antarctica.

The rough estheticism of frontier life has always attracted strong personalities. Over the next six weeks, I came to know my companions very well. We laughed like billy-goats and swore like sailors as we explored a range of razor summits in the Wolthat Mountains of Queen Maud Land. At each turn in our journey, the latent physical power of the landscape dictated every aspect of our lives.

We returned to Cape Town on December 21st, having consumed approximately 200 kilograms in food weight, destroyed three tents, climbed two new routes to likely unclimbed summits, and made a ski circumnavigation of the range to further explore.

This was team leader Mike Libecki’s third trip to the mountains of East Antarctica, and it did not disappoint.

“The rock we climbed on seemed to be created by Dr. Seuss himself,” Libecki writes. “My previous trips there were simply stepping stones that led to this incredible challenge of wind, cold, and the wildest rock features and formations I have climbed on.”

One key difference: the Wolthat Mountains are located approximately 150 km east of the more popularly visited Fenris area around Ulvetanna, and subject to frequent blasts of katabatic winds. “For some reason, this region of the Wolthats serves as a major tunnel for winds coming off the polar plateau. It set the tone for an entire expedition of hard work and surreal beauty.”

Libecki continues: “I would like to send bow-down, ultimate appreciation and thanks to the team, all of our family, friends, supporters, including The National Geographic Society and the NG Expeditions Council, as well as the Polartec Challenge Grant and the Copp-Dash Inspire Award. It was not just our team of four that succeeded and climbed these towers, it was also hundreds of other people that made this possible, and I appreciate this with all of my heart and soul.  We would not have stepped out the door without countless people and their time and energy.”

Route Info:

Bertha’s Tower: 5.11R A3+ Grade VI

(Libecki, Wilkinson [Richards, Ladzinski])

Grammie Hannah’s Tower: 5.6 2000+ feet.

(Libecki, Richards, Wilkinson)

The full story will launch in September 2013.



Text by Freddie Wilkinson, photos by Mike Libecki

(This piece is also featured on National Geographic’s Adventure Blog)