Antarctica 2016: One Skier Abandons South Pole Attempt, Another Gets Underway

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As we approach the first full day of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, down south the Antarctic skiers continue to press on towards their goals. The current South Pole ski season has been underway for more than six weeks, and the faster teams are now starting to near the finish line, although there is still some miles yet to be covered before they are through. But the big news this week is that one skier has abandon his attempt to ski to 90ºS, while another is now on his way to that point.

One of the expeditions that we’ve been following closely this season is that of sit-skier Aron Anderson, a paraplegic who was attempting to travel to the South Pole. But unfortunately, Aron was forced to abort that attempt last week when he took ill. He had been suffering from a stomach bug that was zapping his strength, and after 20 days of struggle, he finally felt it was best to end the full distance expedition. ExWeb says that he may still try to reach the South Pole however, but will ski the last degree instead, provided his health allows.

Meanwhile, Mike Horn is now officially underway on his kite-ski expedition to the South Pole. So far, the winds have been favorable, helping him to cover solid distances in a relatively short period of time. Just yesterday alone he managed to cover 45 km (28 miles), but had a scare when he broke through a snow bridge, which put a bit of a scare into him. For now, he is proceeding with caution as he makes his way through the early stages of the journey. Remember, Horn will be traversing the continent as he continues his attempt to circumnavigate the world via the Poles.

Elsewhere, the six-man British Military team is now closing in on the South Pole. They estimate they could be just one week away from reaching that point. After 34 days out on the ice, the squad is now nearing the top of the Polar Plateau, and even though they’ve been covering excellent distances, they expect the pace to pick up nicely over the next few days as well. Yesterday, the group crossed the 88th degree, which means just two degrees remain until they are at the bottom of the world.

Emma Kelty continues to press on towards the Pole as well, and now she is racing a deadline. She has said that if she doesn’t reach the Pole by the New Year she might not be able to complete her return journey back to the coast. Right now, that looks like it could be tough, although it isn’t out of reach just yet. First, she’ll need to get past the 86th and 87th degrees, which are home to a large sastrugi field, which will obviously test her strength and commitment.

Johanna Davidsson reports that temperatures have dropped dramatically as she has climbed higher in altitude. At the moment, she says that it is -35ºC (-31ºF), although inside the tent is is quite warm. She has now been out on the ice for 36 days, and while it has been a challenge, she seems to be enjoying herself quite a bit. When she reaches the South Pole, she also intends to kite-ski back to Hercules Inlet, so she is racing the clock to a degree as well. 

The other skiers currently on the ice are making good progress in a variety of weather conditions. Most are still lagging a bit behind these skiers, but they are on track to reach 90ºS well before the end of the season in January. For now though, the press forward each day, and will soon celebrate the holidays on the frozen continent. 
More updates to follow as we learn more. 
Kraig Becker