Antarctica 2012: Grinding It Out At The Bottom Of the World

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A new week brings a new set of challenges for the Antarctic explorers who are skiing to the South Pole. The season has been a long one, and there are still plenty of miles to go, but the finish line is now in sight for some.

Icelandic solo skier Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir has now been out on the ice for 45 days and over that time she has had a very focused, workman like approach to her expedition. Her plan has always been a simple one. Knock off 20 km (12.4 miles) per day and stick to the schedule as close as possible. As a result, she has made slow, but steady progress to the Pole.

In her latest update, Vilborg reports that the challenges of the trail have started to weigh on her and she is getting tired. But she continues to grind out the mileage each and every day and she is now about 170 km (105 miles) from reaching her goal. At her usual pace, that puts her a little more than eight days out from the South Pole. If all goes according to plan, she should arrive early next week.

Similarly, Aaron Linsdau is also continuing to cross off the miles on his journey to the Pole. He’s been out on the ice for a grueling 66 days and has now crossed the 88th parallel. That means he still has a long march yet before he is done, but the end is in sight after more than two months of toil. Currently Aaron is still battling through a large sastrugi field and a very hilly section of terrain. It is so hilly in fact he has said that it has been a real challenge just to find a small area to make camp at night because he can’t even find a 10×10 area that is flat enough to make a temporary home. Aaron hopes to clear this area later today and possibly put the sastrugi behind him tomorrow. That will hopefully help him pick up speed and possibly end his expedition next week as well.

Richard Parks continues to knock off significant chunks of mileage in his solo and unsupported journey to the South Pole. Yesterday Richard reported seeing the Theil Mountains for the first time, which is always a significant milestone for explorers. He’s also covering about 35 km (21.7 miles) per day and has now crossed the 85th degree after just 21 days out on the ice. That is a solid pace that will serve him well in the final push to the finish line. He’s still a couple of weeks from reaching the end, but Parks seems to be in great spirits and very happy with his progress thus far.

Finally, Eric Larsen arrived back in Punta Arenas on Saturday after pulling the plug on his Cycle South expedition. Yesterday he caught a plane home to the U.S. and is still en route now. Unfortunately he had to call of his attempt to ride a mountain bike to the South Pole due to poor conditions and slow progress, but I know we’ll hear more from Eric in the near future. The man isn’t done with visiting the cold places of our planet just yet.

That’s all for now. We’re still a week or so away from the first arrivals at the South Pole, but there are still more challenges ahead before the skiers are done.

Kraig Becker