Antarctica 2012: Vilborg At The Last Degree

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More news from Antarctica today where one of the skiers we’ve been following closely has crossed into the final degree of her journey while another team that remained below the radar has arrived at the Pole itself. The season is starting to wind down as these polar travelers close in on the finish line but there is still plenty of miles to cover before they are done.

There was some important news surrounding Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir today as her latest dispatch tells us that she has now crossed the 89th degree and is now closing in quickly on the Pole. She continues to knock of her steady 20 km (12.4 miles) per day and has remained consistent throughout her journey, which is now in its 53rd day. Unfortunately she was forced to give up her unsupported status as she has begun to run low on supplies. ALE dropped her a cache, so she’ll be good all the way to the end now, but that surely has to be a disappointment to her as she so wanted to become the first woman from Iceland to make the trip solo and unsupported. Vilborg remains on track to complete her journey sometime early next week.

Meanwhile, another team consisting of Hannah McKeand and Eero Oura, became the first to reach the South Pole, covering the full distance from Hercules Inlet to 90ºS. The two skiers few well below the radar, offering few updates on their progress along the way. I knew that Hannah was guiding two skiers at the start of the season (Toby Selman, the other member of the team was evacuated from the ice) but there were no progress reports to be had. As a result, they arrived at the Pole with little fanfare from those of us who follow these types of expeditions.

ExWeb heard from Hannah directly and she told them that the sastrugi they battled in the 88th degree was the worst she had ever encountered. That’s saying something considering she has made this journey six times now. That’s the most by any person, man or woman.

Aaron Linsdau continues to struggle through that same sastrugi field but was happy to learn that he should pass out of it today. After that, it is relatively smooth sailing to the Pole, something that I’m sure he is looking forward to. Lindsdau has now been on the ice for 70 days and the constant struggles with weather, equipment failure and the clock have worn him down greatly. At this point he is focused on getting to the Pole and ending his expedition as soon as possible. He still has some ways to go however, but it is possible that he’ll be able to wrap things up next week.

Aaron reports that conditions have gotten much colder as he nears the bottom of the world. He’s had to switch out his alpine gloves for polar mittens to help keep his hands warm and he reports that his gel chews from Clif Bar now freeze solid. In order to eat one he has to hold it in his mouth for a bit to help it thaw, which eventually makes it chewable, otherwise it is harder than a jawbreaker. If you’ve ever had one of those chews, you’ll know how cold it must be to make them that solid.

Finally, Richard Parks has started to encounter sastrugi himself and while he is still knocking off 34 km (21 miles) per day, it has become more taxing to cover those distances. The hard ridges on the ice can really sap the strength out of the legs, punishing the skiers as they go. He has also begun to gain altitude, which is making the temperatures a bit colder. While he reports that the weather is good otherwise, his morale has taken a bit of a hit. Still, Parks says he is enjoying his time in the Antarctica and everyday brings him closer to the Pole and a return trip home.

That’s all for now. It should be a productive weekend for the skiers closing in on the end, with lots of news next week on their arrivals at 90ºS.

Kraig Becker