There are two ways to get to Antarctica: pay or be paid. If you have the money, paying is easy. Most affordable are the Antarctic cruises available through dozens of outfitters. Big money still comes into play when you want to get to the interior of the highest, driest, coldest and windiest continent, however. It will cost you upwards of $35,000 to either climb Antarctica’s highest peak, Vinson Massif (16,067 feet/4,897 meters) or to ski the last degree to the South Pole. Anything beyond these “simple” trips and the numbers really start to go up.

To be paid, delve into the highly competitive world of gaining employment through the National Science Foundation’s contractor: Lockheed Martin. You’ll end up working on one of the three US stations: petite Palmer on the peninsula, massive McMurdo (the hub of US Antarctic operations) on Ross Island, or the solitary South Pole, 1,000 miles from the coast.

I went with the “be paid” option and had a blast. I spent four months at the South Pole shoveling snow and doing carpentry and electrical work and other odd jobs to build the new station and set up various laboratories. Though you’ll work 6 days a week, 9 hours a day, there’s still fun to be had. Between the annual “race around the world,” volunteering on the fire response team, holiday celebrations, snow sculpting, the South Pole International Film Festival and more, I found it a very worthwhile and rewarding experience and adventure. Photos & more at offyonder.com/antarctica

—Cameron Martindell is Assistant Editor at Elevation Outdoors Magazine