Antarctica 2009: Ryan and Cecilie Closing In!

It was another busy and active weekend at the bottom of the world, with teams dealing with a variety of conditions, ranging from clear and cold to falling snow creating whiteout conditions. At this point of the expeditions, they’re all starting to hit a variety of milestones, as they continue the very long, cold, march to the South Pole.

Today we’ll start with Ryan Waters and Cecilie Skog, who continue to make great progress, and are starting to appear like they’ll be the first ones to reach the Pole. Their last dispatch came on Friday, when they reported a halo around the sun, which generally portents snow, and sure enough, later in the day, the got a fresh dusting of the white stuff. But more importantly, that night they camped at 87ºS, and obviously by now they are well on their way to 88ºS, which means they are on their pace to reach the Pole before New Years, as they had hoped.

Eric Larsen and his squad continue their expedition as well, but they had to suffer through whiteout conditions over the weekend. In his latest update, Eric explains how navigating by compass in those conditions is more of an art form and less of a physical skill, at it requires the navigator to stay focused on his compass all day, while continuing to ski in a straight line, without any points of reference. It seems like that was what the boys were dealing with much of Saturday, but eventually the weather cleared, showing blue skies and nothing but flat, snow covered plains, in all directions. Fortunately, it also warmed up, allowing them strip down to their skivvies for much of the trip.

The Kaspersky Commonwealth girls have now been out on the ice for 28 days, and are beginning to close in on their final destination as well. In their most recent dispatch, dated yesterday, it was noted that they have now moved with 130 miles of the Pole, and while that is still a great deal of distance to cover, at the rate they’re taking chunk of mileage, they may be there in time for the New Year as well.

Meagan McGrath crossed over the 83º line over the weekend, knocking off 15 nautical miles on back-to-back days. She’s happy with her progress so far, but isn’t sure if she’ll be able to keep up that pace over the 7º that she still has to cover to reach the Pole. She also gives a plug to one of her sponsors, who make a chocolate candy that she is carrying along with her, that sounds like a bit of a commercial, but she seems extremely happy to have these treats with her on the trip.

The Shakleton’s Unfinished Business Team has posted an update on their status, with the news that they’ll be leaving for the 88.23º S mark tomorrow, where they’ll begin the actual meat of their journey. They’ve been in Patriot HIlls since last Thursday, where they’ve been sorting gear and getting their supplies ready, while acclimatizing to the environment and making a few practice runs on their skis. They all seem eager and ready to get going, as they finish off what Shackleton started a century ago.

Finally, Chris Davenport and his team have been prowling all over the Antarctic Peninsula, looking for all kinds of remote mountains to climb, and then ski back down. They’ve done several first descents over the past few weeks, and now Chris makes his last dispatch from the region, with some great photos, and the word that the gang managed to ski the “Sphinx”, a diamond shaped mountain that they mentioned in an earlier post. All-in-all, it seems like it was a great expedition, with plenty of success both on the climbing and skiing front.

Kraig Becker

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