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Iceland Sailboat Skiing

iceland sailboat skiingI’ll never forget the moment I first laid eyes on the Aurora Arktika, Captain’s Siggi’s beautiful, modern but historic merchant Dutch style sailboat, anchored in the harbor of Isafjordur.  It’s two masts swayed gently above the wooden deck and the red and black painted hull.  Two small hatch doors were open to the area under deck and up came Captain Siggi to greet us and load our skis and gear onboard. 

We started by sailing across the waters to the Hornstandir Natural Reserve, a beautiful, remote mountain area where snow covered slopes lead directly to the fjords below.   Yearning to explore, we set anchor in a small fjord, caught a ride in the zodiac to shore and began to skin up perfect spring snow into the mountains.  We headed for a high pass that would connect to the basin on the far side, planning to meet the ship after Siggi would sail around the rugged coast to meet us.  Clouds had formed at that moment, and Siggi called us on the radio to make sure we were up for the adventure.  Of course we were, unable to resist the curiosity of wanting to see the other side of the mountains.  We gained the pass after a couple hours of skinning uphill, climbing over a few rocks near the top, and were greeted with stunning scenery and a long, winding ski run down a large alpine basin, carving turns past waterfalls and cliff bands.  Far below in the fjord, we could see the Aurora anchored.  Siggi picked us up from shore and once back on the sailboat we dug into a big dinner of fresh fish and stew.  Content and happy, we relaxed in the cozy dining area below deck.  The Aurora felt so welcoming and comfortable, that it did not take long to call the boat our home. 

For the next six days, we skied.  We explored anything from big open slopes to enticing couloirs, climbed up to high peaks and passes, and anchored in a different fjord each night.  Even during a couple days of mediocre weather, we were able to get out and enjoy good snow.  We took sea kayaks and paddle boards out on the water to watch seals play, we hunted for mussels, and we sat on deck with a glass of wine enjoying the purple midnight sky of the long Nordic spring days.  We felt like pioneers.  Sailboat skiing in Iceland was an unforgettable experience.

Real Life Chick – Louise Kuhn

We get to meet the amazing women we call Chicks every day and would be remiss if we didn’t get to share some of their stories with you.  Real life Chicks are CEO’s, dirtbags, moms, grandma’s, sisters, friends, athletes, and partners – just like you.  This week, meet Louise Kuhn who just finished the Iceland Ice Climbing Clinic.
Louise Kuhn Where are you from?
The long or short version? New York City via South Africa.
What programs have you done with Chicks?
Two ice climbing clinics in Ouray and one clinic in the Adirondacks.
Who were your guides?
The first ice clinic was with Dawn Glanc, second with Anna Keeling and the Dacks was with Emilie Drinkwater.
How long have you been climbing?
15 years
What types of climbing has this consisted of?
A varied and diverse mix of climbing.  There is a fair bit of trad, a diverse mix of mountain and alpine, and a good bit of ice.  I resisted the gym until recently because I thought it was boring.   But now New York has some good gyms and I have friends who go, so now I go for the sociability. I know I should try harder while there, but I prefer to go and have fun.
Why Chicks?
I liked the idea of all women’s program – I heard the guides were excellent teachers and I wanted the best instructors.
What do you like about Chicks programs?
I like the full immersive climbing experience. In addition, I also like to hang out and spend time with like-minded folks
Sum up adventure to you.
It’s a “glimmery dream” that moves you towards something exciting. Adventure is the balance between fun and fear, uncertainty and hope. It’s the challenge of the unsure.
What’s important about adventure in your life?
Stepping outside your comfort zone allows for personal growth.  It inspires and motivates to achieve things outside your wildest dreams – further than you thought was possible.
Tell me the story about your first experience with crampons.
(she knowingly laughs with that leading question because it’s such a great story!)
I thought winter was for staying indoors until I discovered crampons. I strapped them on and stepped outside on the ice. And the ice went ‘kjieee kjieee kjieee’.
(I asked for her spelling of that sound: it’s the sound of the ice not the crampons because “ice has different sounds”)
It’s a gutteral sound. I realized I could run across the ice.
What expectations did you have about the Iceland trip?
I was deliberately careful to be open to what was here… to see and discover what was here.
What surprised you?
I’ve been surprised since I stepped off the airplane.  It’s weird, wild and wonderful!
To which we said, “good alliteration” 
So Louise responded:
I expected a wonderful group of women, but I didn’t expect them to be as weird, wild and wonderful as they were.
What’s your next climbing goal?
After a moment, without hesitation or wavering conviction, Louise responds:
I’m going to stop backing off the overhangs at the gym….(Perhaps she was considering our last pitch of steep ice she contemplated not climbing but did)
Where would you like to see climbing take you?
I would like climbing to make me more level-headed, more grounded. But also to feel more fulfilled and happy.
Do you have an expectation of that or is expectation the wrong word?
Wrong word: it’s a positive process: working thru fears, insecurities and self-doubt. Examining thoughts and feelings allows growth  to be on that path is a positive process.
What else would you like to say about this Iceland trip or reflections on Chicks, climbing, etc:
The wonderful things about climbing are … independence and self-reliance, which some times you cannot get with a guided trip. With Chicks, there’s a deep sense of equality within the group.
(Just on a side note, as a guide, her last statement really struck a chord with me. That identified so much in our culture regarding climbing and hiring a guide and the deeper meaning behind personal pursuits, adventure and our seeking more meaning in our lives … the choices we make for personal fulfillment.)