Another day, another weather challenge for the skiers on Antarctica. In a season that has been as tough as any in recent memory, Mother Nature continues to find ways to test those combing and going to the South Pole. This time, the challenge comes in the form of very high winds, blowing snow, and frigid temperatures, although even that isn’t enough to keep the intrepid explorers in their tents.
We’ll start with an update on Eric Larsen, who a few days ago made the painful decision to pull the plug on his attempt at a speed record for skiing to the South Pole. Running low on fuel and food, Larsen decided to ski to Thiels Corner for a pick-up, which occurred yesterday.
Rather than flying back to Union Glacier as expected, he was taken to the South Pole, where he is now enjoying the company of other human beings again while eating regular meals and sleeping on a cot in a heated tent. In his most recent blog post, he commented on the startling reentry from the isolation that is skiing solo across Antarctica to being amongst humans again.
However, the appearance of his friend Ryan Waters –– whom Eric skied to the North Pole within 2014 –– has helped to lessen the disappointment of having to abandon his own expedition.
Due to a large storm currently hitting Antarctica, Eric will now stay at the South Pole for a day or two but should be flying out to Union Glacier as soon as the weather clears. From there, he hopes to catch a flight back to Punta Arenas, Chile, and then home. With a little luck, he still may be able to make it in time for the holidays.
Meanwhile, that same storm is making it very difficult for Lou Rudd and Colin O’Brady. Both skied in 50 mph (80 km/h) winds yesterday, which made an already cold air temperature even more frigid. Worst of all, those winds make going outside for any reason incredibly difficult.
In their updates, both men admitted that they really wanted to stay in their warm sleeping bags and tents and wait out the storm, but they both also mentioned that they are starting to run low on food and supplies, which means they have to press forward if they hope to complete their return trip to the coast.
Fortunately, both of them did go out and brave the conditions, each knocking off considerable mileage, partially thanks to a ferocious tailwind that pushed them along all day. The two men, who are attempting a solo, unsupported crossing of the frozen continent, remarked on the particular challenges they faced while dealing with the storm, which could have potentially been disastrous.
When conditions are that bad in the Antarctic, simply dropping a glove or losing a stuff sack can be disastrous. However, Lou and Colin made it through the maelstrom relatively unscathed and continue to push towards their finish lines.
The massive storm is just another indication of how poor the conditions have been in the Antarctic all season long. It may seem hard to believe, but Antarctica is actually one of the driest places on Earth, and it doesn’t usually snow there all that much.
That has not been the case at all this season, which is a big part of the reason why so many of the skiers have had to abandon their attempts to reach the South Pole. The conditions have just been challenging from the start, and they don’t appear to be getting any better.
That’s all for now. We’ll post another update as news warrants.
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