Antarctica 2016: Skiers Find Their Rhythm

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As we start another week here at The Adventure Blog, it is once again time to check in with the Antarctic skiers and see how they are progressing. The first wave of explorers have now been out on the ice for nearly three weeks, and have really started to find a rhythm on their way to the South Pole, with more than a few already putting up impressive distances on a daily basis.

We’ll start with an update on the six-man British military squad, who are now nearly halfway to the Pole, having reached 84.5ºS. But, that’s only about a third of their total journey as they will turn back towards the coast once they have hit the very bottom of the world. They’ve now been out on the ice for 20 days, and have started to feel their sleds lighten as they consume food, fuel, and other items along the way. As a result, they’re now averaging more than 30 km (18.6 miles) per day, which is a solid pace for this stage of the expedition.

Likewise, solo-skier Johanna Davidsson has really found her stride as well, which is even more impressive since she’s going it alone. She’s also hitting the 30 km/day mark at this point, as she looks to ski to the Pole then kite back to her starting point at Hercules. On day 19, with visibility low, Johanna decided to take a half-day of rest, change her socks and underwear, and refresh her self some. As a result, she’s ready to hit the ice with some renewed strength and vigor today.

Emma Kelty shared an update to her own progress over this past weekend. She’s skiing to and from the Pole via Hercules, and reports that conditions are much tougher this year than they were in 2015. Last year, she saw regular snowfall, which provided a soft surface to ski upon, and covered some of the sastrugi as well, making much easier to ski. This time out however, the ground is hard and unforgiving, with the sastrugi making it tough going at times. Whiteout conditions in recent days haven’t helped much either, although she does report that her gear is performing well and that spirits are high. She just crossed the 83rd degree, with plenty more to go.

Canadian skier Sébatien Lapierre is underway at last, and is off to a racing start. While he hasn’t updates his website or Facebook page, ExWeb reports that he officially got underway on November 28, and was already hitting distances in excess of 25 km (15.3 miles) within the first couple of days. He has also been having his share of obstacles, first skiing in whiteout conditions and second having to detour for a full day to avoid a massive crevasse. He’s back on track however, and heading south once again.

ExWeb is also reporting the Doug Stoup and Swedish assisted skier Aron Anderson launched their expedition on December 1 after spending three days at the Union Glacier camp. They set off in “glorious” conditions on their first day, with great weather and fantastic views of the surrounding landscapes.

Finally, Mike Horn is now nearing the Antarctic continent aboard his ship the Pangea. He has just 60 natural miles – and open sea – to go before he makes landfall and officially begins his expedition to the South Pole. That should happen in another day or two, as he continues his attempt to circumnavigate the globe via both Poles.

I have reported several times that Mike his attempting to become the first person to complete that circumnavigation attempt, but it has been pointed out to me that Ranulph Fiennes and Charles Burton completed that expedition back in 1979-1982. However, those two men did is using motorized transport to reach the Poles, while Horn is attempting to do so under is own power, and by sailing from each location. A slight, but important, distinction.

Over on Vinson, the RMI team has settled into camp, but were forced to take the day off yesterday. 70-80 mph (112-128 km/h) winds buffeted Low Camp, where the climbers settled in for a day in the tent. As you can imagine, winds of that speed bring very dangerous temperatures in the Antarctic. Apparently, the storm hasn’t passed by yet either and guide Dave Hahn expects they’ll stay in place for at least another day or two. After that, they hope to start moving up as they acclimatize to the conditions. For now, they hold tight and wait.

There are a few other skiers out on the ice, but not everyone is updating their position at the moment. For instance, Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo hasn’t shared a progress report for more than week, so it is difficult to say how he is progressing. He did the same thing last year while trying to kite-ski to the Pole, but eventually gave up after not finding very favorable winds. Hopefully he’s doing better this time out, and there is another reason for his radio silence.

I’ll post more updates as the news warrants it.

Kraig Becker