Antartica 2011: Summit Plans Change For Jordan, Felicity Leaves The Pole

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While the rest of us prepare for a little time with our friends and family for the holidays, the Antarctic explorers remain focused on their respective goals. Most will celebrate Christmas in their own way, but the best present of all will be achieving the things they set out for on the frozen continent.

One person who should be getting just what he wanted for Christmas is teen mountaineer Jordan Romero. Yesterday I mentioned that he had reached Low Camp on Vinson and was hoping to make his summit bid on Sunday, which would put him on top for Christmas Day. Turns out there has been a slight change of plans however, and after moving up to High Camp today, Team Jordan now expects to summit Antarctica’s highest peak tomorrow. If successful, Jordan will become the youngest person to complete the Seven Summits. Good luck to Jordan, his dad Paul, and stepmom Karen. Get up and down the mountain safely.

Meanwhile, Felicity Aston has left the South Pole behind and is now back on the trail and headed towards Hercules Inlet. You’ll recall that she arrived at Pole earlier this week and then spent a rest day there before resuming her journey. Felicity hopes to become the first woman to traverse Antarctica solo, and reaching the Pole was a good milestone for her expedition. She still has a long ways to go however, which is why she didn’t linger at 90ºS for long.

Australian adventurer Mark George is continuing his solo and unsupported trek to the Pole, and is sending holiday wishes to friends and family back home today. Mark has been out on the ice for 27 days and has now passed the 85ºS mark, which puts him more than halfway to his goal. He reports good weather conditions, and warmer than expected temperatures, which has made the snow soft. Those warm temps are appreciated, but the soft snow makes it much harder to pull the sledge behind you. Still, Mark is making good time and covering solid daily distances as well.

Howard Fairbank continues to make progress toward the Pole as well, and now expects to cross the 89th parallel tomorrow. That’ll leave him just one degree shy of the South Pole, where he’ll complete his solo and unsupported journey and await Richard Weber’s group, whom he’ll kite back to Hercules with. Howard says that while he is closing in on the finish line, things are not getting any easier though, largely because of a painful foot injury that  makes it difficult to ski at times. The South African says that he is both mentally and physically exhausted at this point, and he’ll reassess the idea of kiting once he hits 90ºS.

Finally, Cas and Jonesy have picked up the pace this week, skiing an extra hour each day and as a result, covering more distance. They’re also thinking strategically about their expedition now, as they intended to not only reach the South Pole, but then ski back to Hercules Inlet when they’re done. Because of this, they’ve begun to drop supply caches in various locations along the way, which has the benefit of not only lessening their loads, allowing them to move faster, but gives them resupply for the return trip. They’re also rationing their food at this point as well, which means they’re generally hungry all of the time. When you burn 6000+ calories per day on the trail, it is hard to get enough to eat. But if they want to have a legitimate chance of becoming the first team to make the round-trip from Hercules Inlet to the Pole and back, they need to conserve their supplies. While they haven’t indicated that there will be a change in those plans, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t also reassess their situation upon reaching the South Pole as well.

That’s all for now. More updates soon.

Kraig Becker