Antarctica 2018: O’Brady at the Pole, Rudd Closes In

40 days into the Antarctic ski season and we have our first arrival at the South Pole, with a second not far behind. The two men who are attempting solo, unsupported traverses of the Antarctic have now reached a major milestone, but there is still a lot of work to be done before they are finished.

Today, Colin O’Brady reached the South Pole at long last, becoming just the third person to ski from the start at the Ronne Ice Shelf and complete the route to 90ºS. He reports that his arrival there was humbling and satisfying, even though he had to press on shortly there after. O’Brady stopped long enough to take a few photos and soak up the scene, before moving on. After 40 days out on the ice, coming across a manmade structure in the middle of the white desert that is Antarctica can be a bit startling, but the American adventurer took it all in stride and was soon back on the trail and heading towards his finish line on the Ross Ice Shelf.

With this first stage complete, O’Brady has to feel pretty great about his chances of completing the expedition. There is still more than 300 miles (482 km) to go before he reaches the end however, although things do start to get somewhat easier from here. By now, the weight of the sled has come down tremendously and he’ll be traveling downhill as he returns to the coast. And while his updates indicate that he is tired both physically and mentally, he seems prepared to take on whatever comes his way as he turns for home.

Meanwhile, Brit Lou Rudd isn’t too far behind and should arrive at the South Pole today as well. He reports that he has continued to experience whiteout conditions in the final days approaching the Pole, but he continues to push through those long, challenging hours while out skiing. Rudd was part of a team that traversed the continent two years ago, and he is drawing on those experiences as he moves forward, comparing his current progress, alone and unsupported, to what he did as part of a team and has found his current status to be quite good. He is skiing longer hours, covering further distances, and staying as upbeat as possible considering the circumstances.

Like O’Brady, there is still a long way for Rudd to go and the two men are in a bit of race to see who reaches the end first. For a time, O’Brady had built a small, but significant lead, but now Lou has closed the gap some and isn’t far behind. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the days ahead, as both men estimate they have another 25 to 30 days out on the ice before they are done.

Finally, a quick update on the status of Eric Larsen, who is still skiing south in his attempt to set a speed record to the South Pole. As reported a couple of days back, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll reach 90ºS in record time at this point, but he still needs to get there in a suitably fast time as supplies are running low. His latest status reports indicate whiteouts continue, slowing progress further, but he continues to press forward as best he can. At this point, he’s just looking to wrap up the expedition and hopefully get home by Christmas.