Antarctic Update: Shackleton Team Approaching Mt. Hope

Lots of news and information coming out of Antarctica over the past few days, with all teams moving ahead.

The Shackleton Centenary Team suffered through a very hot day today, with little wind to offer them a break. Traveling south, the sun is never in their faces, but it’s heat and intensity are felt despite the -2º C temperatures. While pulling their sleds, this can make for some long, hot days, but they continue to put up good mileage none the less. Their latest dispatch notes that the guys expect to reach Mt. Hope on Monday morning. The mountain is a bit of a landmark for the team, as it was the place where Shackleton himself found the route through the Beardmore Glacier, an important milestone for continuing on to the Pole.

Todd Carmiachel is now more than two thirds of the way to the Pole and is also covering impressive chunks of mileage each day. Todd is on a solo, unsupported trek to the South Pole and is hoping to break the speed record in the process. His home team reports today that he knocked off another 18.1 nautical miles, and now stands just 12 nautical miles behind the record pace set by Hannah McKeand back in 2006. Todd now has just over 10 days to try to make up the ground and at the pace he is on, it looks like he’ll do it.

Mark Langridge has passed a milestone of his own yesterday, crossing over the 85th degree to pass the halfway point of his journey. Mark is also going solo and unsupported to the Pole and is reported to be in great spirits. The weather is good, with low winds, and mild temperatures. So much so that Mark has been leaving the door to his tent open to allow some of the cool air inside. With a large ice field ahead of him, Mark is also moving in a westerly direction for now to avoid the area, but should be back on track and heading due south soon.

The South Pole Quest 2008 has settled into their daily routine and has posted their schedule for everyone to see online. Basically, they break up the day into two hour marches, each of them separated by a 15 minute break. They report that they are feeling stronger and more fit by the day, and that they hope to increase the amount of time on the trail as the progress ahead. For now though, they’re right on schedule for what they had intended to do, and are very happy with their progress.

The first Finnish South Pole Expedition is underway, with Kari Poppis Suomela and Pasi Ikonen making an unsupported journey to the Pole. The boys have been posting dispatches to their Diary section on their website, with daily updates and photos from the field. They got underway back on December 1st, and are currently passed 85º S and reporting amazing natural artwork created by the Antarctic winds, and the beautiful Thiel Mountains on the horizon.

Mike Horn has apparently gotten acclimated to the Antarctic conditions, where he no doubt feels right at home. He phoned home let his support crew know that he plans to extend his day by walking longer hours, covering more distance, and getting back into the tent at a later time. As an accomplished polar explorer, Mike has already been putting in 10 hour days, and covering good distances, but yesterday was a bit frustrating for him as it was mostly up hill the entire time, and he was forced to zig-zag back and fourth to make progress.

Right now, it looks like the first person to reach the Pole will be Todd Carmichael, with others trailing behind. I would think that the week of Christmas will be a busy time at 90º South.

Kraig Becker

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