Antarctica 2018: First Skiers at Union Glacier

Yesterday I posted a story about the start of the Antarctic season and how two explorers in particular were ready to launch their expeditions. Now, we have confirmation that the first flight to Union Glacier has been successfully completed, and while the ALE staff are now busy preparing the camp for the arrival of other skiers next week, it now looks like Colin O’Brady and Lou Rudd are on the ice.

Rudd has yet to update his location and status, but he was scheduled to fly out of Punta Arenas, Chile along with O’Brady, who posted the following message to his Instagram.

I made it!!! I officially set foot on the Frozen Continent today- 24 hrs earlier than expected. Antarctica greeted with a stunning panoramic view on a blue bird day. The air temperature was a balmy -25C when I stepped off the plane, see the puff of frozen air coming out of my mouth in the photo. This place is incredibly enchanting; my body has a visceral reaction to its beauty. My cheeks were literally sore for 15 minutes after landing as I could not wipe the smile off my face. There will be many hard days ahead, but today was joyful. The expedition itself has not begun quite yet. The first step is hitching a ride to the continent in this huge plane and landing on a 3 mile blue ice runway, near an encampment called Union Glacier where I am now. I am camping here awaiting good weather to be dropped off at my starting point. Once that happens, hopefully in the next couple of days, a small twin otter ski plane will take me to the edge of the continent. Then I will begin my crossing. For now, I’m resting my head for the first night in my tent in Antarctica, the first of many on the frozen ground. #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible
A post shared by Colin O’Brady (@colinobrady) on Oct 31, 2018 at 7:59pm PDT

In the photo, you’ll notice the massive Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft that the ALE uses to transport people to and from Antarctica. As you can tell from O’Brady’s message however, he is not at his starting point just yet. He’ll need to be flown by Twin Otter aircraft to his drop off point on the Ronne Ice Shelf, where he’ll begin his 70+ day, 1000-mile (1500 km), solo, unassisted journey across the frozen continent, which will end on the Ross Ice Shelf after visiting the South Pole.

Rudd has very similar plans, although they’ll be taking slightly different routes since they’re both going solo. Weather permitting, the two men will be flown to their starting points in the next day or two. Until then, they’ll work on getting their gear sorted and packed onto their sleds, which will serve as their lifeline for the next two months.

Stay tuned for more. We’ll be keeping a close eye on these two skiers over the coming months.

Kraig Becker