Antarctica 2010: Weather Woes Continue

It was another challenging weekend in the Antarctic with teams facing long marches in bad weather once again. The weather was so bad in fact that it delayed the dropping of resupply caches for a couple of teams, who were reduced to emergency rations for a time.

One of those teams was the pairing of Willem ter Horst and Hannah McKeand, who picked up their third degree South today. Willem reports that the weather has improved ever so slightly, and that today wasn’t a total whiteout, but blowing snow and high winds still made for a challenging day. Late in the day on Friday, the pair were down to their emergency rations, but on Saturday the skies cleared just long enough for a food and fuel drop that gave them the much needed relief that they hoped for. They’re now well passed 83ºS and picking up speed, knocking off about 14 nautical miles per day.

While the Indian Army Team continues to avoid posting updates to their site, ExWeb is reporting that they were waiting at 82ºS for their first supply drop as well. This runs counter to their original plan, which was to go unassisted, but it looks like they received new goodies over the weekend as well.

Chris Foot also reported tough whiteout conditions over the weekend, only to find a sunny day with blue skies overhead yesterday. He is picking up speed as well, having crossed over the 15nm per day barrier, and today he plans to drop another 10kg cache for his return trip from the South Pole. That will lessen the weight on his sledge considerably, and should help him pick up speed too. He does report that the terrain is changing for the worse however, and thinks things could be more challenging in the days ahead. He also notes that while he continues to lose weight, his 6000+ calories per day is helping to slow that process.

Finally, a couple of expeditions are over, and the teams are on their way home. For instance, the Moon-Regan Transantarctic Expedition completed their crossing of the continent last week, and are now preparing to head back home, mission accomplished. Alan Arnette is also done on Vinson and according to his most recent blog post, he is waiting to get picked up and begin the long journey home as well. That journey includes hopping a flight back to Union Glacier aboard a Twin Otters aircraft. From there, he’ll wait for the big Illusyin to shuttle him back to Punta Arenas with all of his gear, then finally the long flight home to the States. All of that is contingent, like all things in Antarctica, on the weather, which has been unpredictable to say the least.

There will be more climbers headed to Vinson over the next few weeks as another round of expeditions commence. Plenty of climbers will take the opportunity to nab the highest peak on the continent while the seasonal window is open, so I’m sure we’ll hear about a rash of summits leading into January.

The big expedition to watch continues to be Chris Foot’s. His attempt to go to the Pole and back again is still a major challenge, with weather, powdery snow, and supplies all impacting his final outcome. Should definitely be interesting to watch in the weeks ahead.