26 June 2017    

Splitboard season is over in the northern hemisphere. If you couldn't catch enough snow or are not into surfing, usual locations for splitboarding on the southern hemisphere would be Chile or New Zealand. Here we present three more remote locations for real splitboard explorers.

1 - Heard Island and McDonald Islands

This archipelago is one of the most isolated places on earth, 1660 km north of Antarctica and 3800 km away from Western Australia. Some birds and seals live there, since the sixties king penguins colonized the archipelago again. These islands contain one of the world's most rare pristine ecosystems without human impact, a complete absence of alien plants and animal species. In 1997 the area was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. On Heard Island, the active volcano Mawson Peak with an elevation of 2757 m is surrounded by 14 glaciers that once reached the sea but retreated several hundred meters to the inland. The archipelago belongs to Australia and is unhabituated. Protected Wilderness zones are not allowed to enter and overnight stays are also forbidden.

Climate

Average temperatures range from 0°C up to 4°C at sea level, with an annual precipitation of 1300 mm to 1900 mm. Strong westerly winds blow with average speeds of 26 km/h to 34 km/h, gusts exceed 180 km/h. Rain and snow falls in 75% of all days.

Splitboarding fun factor

None, with not many good weather windows and a large glaciated area with lots of crevasses in an unknown terrain, only for real explorers! Having some round-the-world sailor in the circle of family and friends would be of great help in order to put such an adventure into practice.

How to get there

Only by ship but there apply strict regulations going off ship and landing on the island in order to prevent the intrusion of alien plants and animal species.

 

2 - French Southern and Antarctic Lands - Kerguelen Islands

Kerguelen Islands are located pretty remote in the Indian Ocean, over 2000 kilometers north of Antarctica and 4000 km from Western Australia. Grand Terre, the main island of the archipelago extends 130 km in east-west direction and 110 km in north south direction. Although the subantarctic regions encounter a massive decline in ice masses (over 20% in the last forty years), 500 km² of Grand Terre are still covered by glaciers. Highest point is Mont Grand-Ross with an elevation of 1850 m.

Climate

Coldest months are July and August with average temperatures around 2° C. Temperatures never drop below -10 °C. The island is located in the Roaring Forties, thus the coast is hit by constant blowing westerly winds with average speeds of 35 km/h. Storms are also quite common with over 150 days per year. Then wind gusts reach up to 200 km/h what slightly dampens the splitboarding fun factor. Precipitation with an annual 700 mm is below what we are used to on the northern hemisphere. The climate is not so comfy but there is a silver lining. You won't be totally alone on the main island, 60 to 120 people live at the Research station in Port-aux-Français and you can pay in Euros too.

How to get there

A vessel, the Marion Dufresne arrives and departs four times a year, prices start at 8670 EUR per person in a double cabin.

 

3 - South Georgia

We had pierced the veneer of outside
things. We had 'suffered, starved and triumphed, grovelled
down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the
whole'. We had seen God in His splendours, heard the text that
Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man."
 
Shackleton, South

 

With only 800 nautical miles in south eastward direction from the Malvinas, South Georgia is quite near to civilization. It extends over 170 km and at its widest point the island spans over 35 km. Highest point is Mount Paget with 2934 m in the middle. Due to the extreme weather conditions a first ascent succeeded quite lately by a British military expedition in the nineteen-sixties. In total, eleven peaks raise over 2000 meters. The first recorded explorer of the island was Captain James Cook aboard the HMS Resolution in 1775 on his second voyage. He mapped parts of the coastline and named the southernmost point of the island "Cape Disappointment" after he realized that South Georgia was an island rather than the continent Antarctica he wanted to discover.

South Georgia is best known for one of the greatest adventures of human history: When British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his small party reached the island in May 1916. One and a half years early the Endurance was trapped in the ice of the Weddell Sea and was crushed by the floes months later. After a long odyssey over pack-ice and a 1300 km ride through the furious fifties in a small lifeboat the crew reached King Haakon Bay, on the southern coast of South Georgia. This one-time nautical and navigational masterstroke was only the beginning to an even greater adventure. Shackleton and two other men had to cross the island by foot to find rescue at one of the whaling stations on the northern coast. They marched through unknown territory over glaciated plateaus, sharp ridges, crevasses, and frozen lakes - 36 hours without sleep. Their improvised equipment: food, cooker, 30 m rope, axe, hiking poles made of wooden planks, chronometer, compass, and binoculars.


Glacier on South Georgia; bay of whaling station Grytviken. Photo courtesy of Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute CC-BY-SA-2.5

Climate

One will encounter a polar climate with daily maximum temperatures of 0° C and -5° C minimum in August. Annual precipitation is 1500 mm (for comparison St. Johann in Tyrol has 1000 mm per year) and the snow line begins at an elevation of 300 meters. South Georgia cannot be considered as sunshine island it only gets 1,000 hours of sunshine annually. Constant westerly winds blow throughout the year. The eastern, leeward coasts of South Georgia have a slightly more pleasant climate.

Splitboarding fun factor

Extreme, sudden weather changes and glaciated terrain will ensure a challenging adventure. Following the route of Shackleton and his party and riding some steeps in the inland could be fun nonetheless.

How to get there

Cruise ships visit South Georgia but mostly during the Antarctic summer months. Prices start from 5000 EUR upwards. We guess there could be cheaper alternatives found.

Further reading

Alexander, Caroline. The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. New York: Knopf 1998.