Antarctica 2010: Skiers Approaching The Pole!

Thanks to a busier than anticipated holiday season, it has been more than a week and a half since I posted an update on our intrepid Antarctic explorers. During that time, they have continued to steam their way south, with several now approaching the Pole.

For some, that will be the finish line, but for British explorer Chris Foot, the Pole is just the half-way point. Over the past week or so, Chris has struggled not only with extremely bad whiteout conditions but also steep, and energy sapping, sastrugi. On top of that, he’s also had issues with his gear. The solar lead that he uses to recharge his communication equipment has been acting up, which has made for sporadic updates from the field. But, there is some good news for Chris and his hometeam. While it hasn’t been confirmed in his posts yet, Chris should reach the Pole today, where he’ll likely take a very brief rest before turning around and heading back to Union Glacier.

Willem ter Horst and Hannah McKeand continue their march to the Pole as well. Yesterday they passed the 87º mark in what sounds like absolutely horrible conditions. The pair have been dealing with bad sastrugi as well, and it seems to have taken its toll on them. Willem reports that they fell down on several occasions and that Hannah’s pulk turned over twice along the way. Throw in more whiteout conditions, and it was one of the worst days in the Antarctic for the south bound team since their arrival 36 days ago. The snow was blowing so bad that they couldn’t see more than a meter in any direction, which takes a mental toll on them to go along with the physical one. They still have roughly 170 nautical miles to go before they reach the end, and if these conditions continue, it’ll be a real struggle.

Further back, but cooking right along, is Christian Eide, who is just 11 days into his journey to the South Pole and has now crossed the 84ºS latitudinal line. Christian is hoping to set a new solo, unsupported speed record to the Pole, and so far he’s setting a good pace, knocking off in excess of 20+ nautical miles per day. He has experienced the poor weather conditions as well however, and has had to deal with plenty of whiteouts too. In order to break the record, Christian must reach the Pole in less time than Todd Carmichael did back in 2008, when he made the same journey in 39 days, 7 hours, and 49 minutes.

It should also be noted that Christian has offered to help Chris Foot by offering him a replacement lead for the one that has been giving him problems. This shows how incredibly tight knit the adventure community can be, as it is remarkable that Christian even knows about Chris’ problems, let alone is thinking about how he can help. If the two were to cross paths, it would be on Foot’s return journey, and it would remove the “unsupported” tag from his expedition. Still, it would provide a measure of security for Chris, which everyone back home would appreciate I’m sure.

Finally, there continues to be no word from the Indian Army team that is also making it’s way to the Pole. They set off at about the same time as Foot and ter Horst, but they have not sent back any updates since their departure. We can only trust that all is going well and that they are enjoying their stroll across the Antarctic continent.