- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mike and Lilliana Libecki’s daddy-daughter trip to Antarctica was six years in the making.

The extreme athlete was doing a presentation for his daughter’s kindergarten class in 2008 when the thought of taking her along on one of his trips struck him.

“She told me she would love to see penguins and we would talk about skiing to the penguins on Antarctica every once in a while,” Libecki said. “When she got a little older, she told me she really wanted to do it.”

The Libeckis just returned from a 20-day trip to the Antarctic where they skied, hung out with penguins, seals and humpback whales and - most importantly - experienced the wonders of the world together.

“Skiing with my dad in Antarctica was just so awesome,” 11-year-old Lilliana said. “I just love traveling and the new experiences. And the pizza in Ushuaia, Argentina, where we got on the boat, was the best.”



While this was Lilliana’s first trip to the continent on the south end of the planet, it was the sixth excursion to Antarctica for her dad. An extreme athlete who specializes in big wall climbing, Libecki’s adventures are featured in campaigns for his sponsors, including Mountain Hardware, Black Diamond and Goal Zero solar charging equipment.

Training for the harsh conditions started two years ago, when Lilliana was 9 years old. Instead of heading for the familiar runs at Alta Ski Resort, the Libeckis headed for the backcountry.

There are no ski lifts in Antarctica.

“It was tough,” Mike Libecki said. “You can’t make someone do that hard stuff. She had to want to do it. I was so psyched to see her push through that challenge and see how proud she was of herself. The payoff is great when the challenge is great. She earned Antarctica.”

Other training included hikes on Mount Olympus and the Pfeifferhorn. A demanding soccer schedule also helped Lilliana prepare for the South Pole.

A major part of the trip involved taking a boat from Argentina, through the Drake Passage to Antarctica, and back. Lilliana found ample time to do homework every day when she wasn’t thinking about the rough seas.

“I got a seasick a little bit on the way down and threw up once, but did really good on the way back when it was hurricane force winds and did not get sick at all,” she said. “It had 120-knot winds and 20-meter swells. The ocean was really wild. And when I went outside on the boat deck, I thought I would be blown over the railing.”

Once they arrived, the Libeckis headed for the slopes. They think she may have been the youngest to ski the Antarctic.

The father and daughter skied for five days, making two runs each day. The duo would “skin” - putting a non-slip surface on the bottom of their skis - up the mountain and then ski to the bottom.

It did not take long for Lilliana’s dream of skiing among penguins to come true.

“We saw four kinds of penguins, gentoo, emperor, Adélie and chinstrap penguins. I remember just sitting with hundreds of penguins and they came right up to me so curious,” she said. “They were so marvelous.”

Having his daughter along on one of his adventures ended the regrets Libecki has had on every other trip he has taken since her birth.

“The hardest thing when I am gone on a trip and she is home is missing each other,” he said. “It rips me up when she tells me on the phone that she misses me and wants me to come home. On this trip, all I had to do was turn and she was there and we got to experience an amazing place together.”

James Atkin of Utah-based Goal Zero said sponsoring the Libeckis was an easy decision. Mike Libecki has been working with Goal Zero for more than two years testing Goal Zero solar charging equipment.

“He has provided us invaluable research and testing with our products in places that people do not go,” Atkin said. “When he reached out about this trip, we were super excited due to the fact that he was empowering his daughter to achieve the dreams and experiences that she has dreamt of.”

So this time it will be Lilliana doing a presentation for her classmates. The Libeckis hope the trip will encourage other young girls to follow their dreams and visit wild places with wild creatures.

The two have plans to visit Tanzania this summer.

“It will be my sixth continent because I have a goal to go to all the continents by 12 years old,” Lilliana Libecki said.

___

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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