Antarctica 2016: New Route to the South Pole and Longest Expedition by Snowmobile

As the week draws to a close, and I begin thinking about shutting the Adventure Blog down for the holidays, I wanted to take one more opportunity to update readers on the progress of the teams currently making their way across Antarctica towards the South Pole, and other destinations on the frozen continent. It is shaping up to be a very interesting season at the bottom of the world, where in addition to the usual array of South Pole skiers, we continue to have some unique expeditions charting new ground.

One such expedition is unfolding as we speak, as a team of three polar explorers – Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips – are working to open a new route to the South Pole via the Reedy Glacier. This remote, and largely unexplored section of Antarctica stretches for 160 km (100 miles), descending off the Polar Plateau and onto the Ross Ice Shelf. This area has mostly only been surveyed from the ski, with few humans actually putting their boots onto the ice, but it the route that these three men have chosen to make their way to 90ºS.

Keith, Rob, and Eric set out for Antarctica back on December 5, and began skiing on December 7. They spent the first two weeks of the trip traversing the glacier with some of the most stunning views on the continent. The sweeping ice and snow from Reedy feeds into the Ross Ice Shelf of course, but the team has also been traveling in the shadow of the Transantarctic Mountain Range as well, which has provided lots of beautiful scenery for them to enjoy. That isn’t always common in the Antarctic, where most skiers see an endless plane of snow and ice with little change in scenery to break things up.

A few days ago, the trio wrapped up their crossing of the Reedy Glacier and have now moved onto the Polar Plateau. Their next goal is to reach the South Pole, but as of now they are focused in on passing the 87th degree. Three more to go until they’re done, and a new route to the South Pole has been opened. From the sound of the team’s dispatches, it has been a challenging one, with plenty of high winds, low visibility, crevasse fields, and sastrugi. In other words, business as usual in the Antarctic.

Meanwhile, ExWeb has the scoop on another Antarctic expedition that is about to get underway. A team of four adventurers that include Patrick Degerman, Pekka Ojanpää, Mika Listala, and Jón ólafur Magnusson are about to embark on a 4280 km (2659 mile) journey to the South Pole on four snowmobiles. The men will depart from Novo Station and follow a straight line along a road of sorts that has been taken by other vehicles in the past. They plan to be self supported out on the ice, and will not have a support vehicle with them at all. Instead, they’ll drive independently to the Pole and then return to Novo to wrap up the journey.

Along the way they’ll make nine supply drops with food and fuel, as well as one depot to refuel the snowmobiles as well. Each man is bringing about 80kg (176 pounds) of personal gear as well, including down jackets, an intense layering system, tents, sleeping bags, and so on. Their journey can be followed at

As for the other teams currently out on the ice, here are a few quick updates. The British Military team as topped out on the Polar Plateau and are nearing the Pole, but are finding it tough going. The combination of fatigue, altitude, and heavy sleds has them working very hard, even as they near the end of the expedition. They are still a number of days from the finish line, but it is now in sight and they seem happy for it.

Mike Horn is off and running, having covered 66 km (41 miles) yesterday using his kite to ski along at a brisk pace. It isn’t an easy journey so far however, as their are still obstacles to overcome. At one point he lost a ski while traveling at a rapid pace, and had to find a way to come to a stop, avoid getting hit by is sled, and return to find the missing ski. Fortunately it all worked out, but it has been a wild start to his Antarctic traverse via the Pole.

Emma Kelty has crossed the 87th degree and now has three more togo before she reaches 90ºS. She’s dealing with a massive sastrugi field at the moment, which is common at this portion of the journey. Once she reaches 88ºS things should start to smooth out and get better, but that will seem like a long way off at this point.

Finally, Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo has once again had to abort his expedition to the South Pole. In a message posted on his Facebook page that said he faced technical issues that would prevent him from having the time he needed to complete the journey and give search and rescue teams a safe window to retrieve him should the need arise. He is no doubt awaiting extraction now and planning on departing the frozen continent as soon as possible.

That’s all for now. More updates as we get important news.