Antarctica 2015: More Teams Hit The Ice, Weather Having an Impact on Everyone

Weather continues to be the big story in the Antarctic, where the teams skiing to the South Pole are seeing their schedules impacted by high winds – or lack there of –, whiteout conditions, and cold temperatures. All of this is to be expected of course, but it is keeping progress to a minimum, and preventing some from truly getting underway.

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We’ll start with an update on Henry Worsley, who the last time we checked in on was tentbound due to a raging blizzard. Things have improved since than, and he has resumed the first leg of his journey to the South Pole. He’s now been out on the ice for 18 days, and has covered 165 nautical miles (305 km), so despite some challenges in the early going, he is making solid progress. There is still along way to go to the Pole of course, and that is just the halfway point of the journey, but as December arrives, Henry is feeling good about his progress so far.

Elsewhere, Italian kite skier Michele Pontrandolfo is facing a completely different problem. He arrived at the Novolazarevskay base ten days ago, and set out on his attempt on a solo, kite-assisted traverse of the continent. But unfortunately Michele hasn’t had steady winds as he anticipated, which has resulted in very slow progress thus far. He has been skiing each day, but covering far less distances than he had hoped, which is putting his expedition in jeopardy, even in the early stages. Hopefully the wind will pick up soon and he’ll start to travel further and faster. But for now, he is dealing with lost of frustration.

The team that includes Khai Nguyen and Emma Kelty flew to Union Glacier a few days back to start their expedition to the South Pole. Unfortunately they are unable to fly to their starting point at Hercules Inlet due to a massive storm front moving through the area. The team is all set to depart, their sleds are packed and ready to go, but until the storm passes, they’ll stay at the camp waiting for an opportunity to begin. It looks like they’ll have to stay where they are for a couple more days though, as the storm is actually building in intensity and getting worse than originally projected.

Similarly, Jordanian adventurer Mustafa Salameh, along with his teammates, are also at Union Glacier and preparing to set out. They’re in a holding pattern as well while they wait for the weather to improve.

The Madison Mountaineering squad that has traveled to Antarctica to climb Mt. Vinson has reached the mountain, and has already made a bit of progress. High winds kept them in place yesterday, so they took the opportunity to rest and prepare to move higher when the weather improves. They’re currently camping at about 7000 feet (2133 meters), and hope to move up to 9100 feet (2773 meters) when the weather permits.

Finally, there has been a change in plans for the Ice Project team that was trekking across South Georgia Island along the same route that Ernest Shackleton took nearly a century ago. The risk of avalanche along their intended path was far too great for them to proceed safely, so they elected to take an alternate route instead, which made for some great skiing. They have now arrived at the town of Grytviken and are visiting the Shackleton museum there before they explore other parts of the island. They will eventually sail back to their starting point in the Falklands.

That’s all for today. More news from the Antarctic as these teams get an opportunity to proceed. As usual, the weather will determine when that happens.

Kraig Becker