Antarctica 2015: End of the Trail for One Skier, Others Close in on the Pole

HW day60

The 2015 Antarctic season is quickly drawing to a close. With only a few more weeks to go, most of the South Pole skiers are now squarely focused on reaching their destination and ending the difficult challenge they have set for themselves. It has been a long and difficult couple of months at the bottom of the world where weather and surface conditions have tried the patience of just about everyone. But now, with the end in sight, one skier has decided to call it quits, while others are closing in on the Pole at long last.

We’ll start our round-up of Antarctic activities with an update on Doug Tumminello, the American who was attempting a solo journey to the South Pole from Hercules Inlet. Doug has struggled some on his journey, as he developed painful blisters on his feet early in the expedition which made progress slow at times. So much so, that by last week he had only reached the 85th parallel, which leaves a lot of ground to cover with time quickly running out. On Sunday, Doug made the tough choice to pull the plug on his attempt to reach the Pole. He had managed to ski to a place called Thiels Corner – near the Thiels Mountains – where ALE maintains a landing strip. Once there, he thought it best to maintain his position and wait for someone to come pick him up. There hasn’t been any updates since the Sunday announcement, but it is possible that he has already been retrieved from the ice, and is starting the journey home.

Elsewhere, Henry Worsley is forging ahead with his attempt to become the first person to make a solo and unsupported journey across the Antarctic continent. He is now 60 days into the expedition, and after two months out on the ice he is ready to begin his descent to the Shackleton Glacier and the Ross Iceshelf. That hasn’t started yet however, as Henry continues to climb. He’s now at an altitude of about 3170 meters (10,403 ft) as he makes his way up and over the Titan Dome. After that, he should start to descend at last, which should make for easier going. He is racing the clock now however, as the last plane out of Antarctica is scheduled for January 28, and he still has a long way to go before he is done. That means extra time out on the trail each day in an attempt to cover longer distances. This looks good on the map of course, but is tough on an already exhausted body.

Solo skier Luke Robertson is closing in on the South Pole. He now has less than one degree to go, and reports improved surface conditions as he nears 90ºS. He should reach the finish line in the next couple of days, at which point he will become the first Scotsman to reach the Polo solo.

The team of Devon McDiarmid, Stew Edge, Mostafa Salameh, and Shahrom Abdullah have now begun the countdown until they reach the South Pole as well. They crossed the last degree yesterday, and now believe they’ll wrap up their expedition in six days. That would put them at 90ºS next Sunday, provided everything goes according to plan.

Finally, Emma Kelty and guide Carl Alvy are still forging ahead, although conditions have been very challenging for the duo. They have now passed the 86th degree, which leaves more to cross before they are done. With the number of days growing short at this point, that will be a tall order and they’ll definitely need to pick up the pace if they hope to reach the Pole on time. At this point, it isn’t looking good, but perhaps they can still pull it off.

Stay tuned for more updates as the news warrants.

Kraig Becker

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