National Geographic : 2013 Sep
Antarctica climb 85 sting my eyes as I stick my head out and cry into the melee. “Help!” Coming to Antarctica was Mike Libecki’s idea. Equal parts California surfer dude and hard-edged adventurer, Libecki, 40, has made dozens of first ascents around the world. Tall and soft-spoken, with swatches of gray in his blond hair, he projects a relentlessly positive energy. “I’ve been there before,” he said of the region known as Queen Maud Land, where only scientists usually venture. “I’ve got the keys to the castle.” Libecki also recruited a pair of seasoned climber photographers to go with us: Keith Ladzinski, a bushy-browed Coloradan, and Cory Richards, a Utah native with a devilish grin. Our plan would be to find the highest concentration of unclimbed peaks in the region, and then make as many first ascents as we dared. We begin our journey in early November, land- ing at a blue-ice runway near a Russian research station named Novolazarevskaya. “Last time I was This is Freddie Wilkinson’s first story for the magazine. Cory Richards covered cave exploration in Nepal for the October 2012 issue.