The Coldest Journey Update: Horrible Conditions And Slow Progress At The Bottom Of The World

500m winch by Ian Prickett

With all of the activity taking place in the Himalaya over the past month and half or more, it has been some time since we checked in on the progress of the Coldest Journey team. You may recall, this is the group of explorers who have set out to cross the Antarctic in the dead of winter, something that has never been done before. The members of the team knew that they were taking on an incredibly difficult task, but it seems that progress has been more challenging and slow than they ever imagined.

The expedition began back in late May with the team departing from Crown Bay along the Antarctic coast. The plan is to traverse the continent to the Ross Ice Shelf via the South Pole. Five members of the team are traveling on skis while others follow behind on tractors, which are fulling large sleds that serve as shelter from the harsh conditions and carry all of the team’s fuel and food. This approach to traveling across the continent came about because of the complete lack of support the team would have along the way. Conditions are so bad there at the moment that no one would be able to provide a supply drop or come rescue them if they got into trouble.

And just how bad are the conditions? The team is routinely facing absolute temperatures of -50ºC/-58ºF. Wind chills have taken those temperatures closer to -70ºC/-94ºF however, which is almost unthinkably cold. Add in persistently snowy weather, the constant threat of crevasses and near-24 hour darkness and you begin to understand just what the men have been dealing with.

With that setting in mind, is it any wonder that they team has made very slow progress thus far? As of last Saturday, they were making their camp at S72 51′ 13.5″, E023 33′ 50.2″, which is still an awfully long way from the South Pole. Their ability to move forward has been hampered by blue ice, which is dangerous to cross, and the mechanical failure of one of the tractors. Repairs have been completed on the vehicle now, but they are still getting the expedition back on track.

All told, the journey is suppose to cover 2000 miles and take approximately six months to complete. That means that they aren’t even to the half-way point, in terms of time or distance, just yet. That said, they will have to pick up the pace if they hope to finish the expedition on schedule and complete their stated goal of crossing the frozen continent during the winter. So far, not many things have gone their way and the finish line has to feel like it is an impossible goal right now.

You can follow the team’s progress on their blog, through Facebook and Twitter. They post almost daily updates on their progress, which on some days is nearly non-existent. I’ll bet these boys will be looking forward to some tropical weather once they have finished their mission.

Kraig Becker