Antarctica 2018: Rudd Reaches the Pole, Others Struggle with Weather

Today the South Pole welcomed its second arrival of the expedition season, while poor conditions continued across much of the continent, making this one of the worst travel year’s in the Antarctic in recent memory. Most of the skiers are struggling to make meaningful progress in whiteouts, soft snow, and heavy winds. Apparently, it is challenging enough that some are even calling it quits.

We had expected Lou Rudd to arrive at the Pole yesterday but instead he turned up early today. He shares the experience of his arrival on his Facebook page, with details of what it was like to approach 90ºS after 41 days out on the ice. After being alone and not seeing any manmade objects for more than a month, arriving at the Scott-Amundsen base is a bit startling. The Brit was greeted by staff from ALE and the station itself, before setting up camp nearby for some much needed rest.

Of particularly interest in Rudd’s update on his progress is the news that other solo skiers have been calling it quits. Lou says one of the ALE staff told him that when he was at the Pole, although he doesn’t say which skiers have abandoned their expeditions. A little research however indicates that Canadian Laval St. Germain is one of the adventurers who has returned to Union Glacier, which is where he’ll stay until he begins his climb of Mt. Vinson next week.

Meanwhile, British endurance athlete Jenny Davis has begun her solo ski expedition to the South Pole. She and her team completed a climb of Mt. Vinson last week and wasted little time getting back to Union Glacier, where her new friends were heading out to Chile and then home. But for the ultrarunner the adventure is just getting started as she now embarks on an unsupported journey to the Pole from Hercules Inlet.

According to her most recent update she should have been dropped off there on Wednesday and is likely to be underway today. Even though she was only just airlifted to her starting spot, she’s already started to experience the usual conditions this season, namely whiteouts, winds, and sastrugi.

Eric Larsen’s dreams of a speed record are over but he’s still pushing on to the Pole. He’s now 19 days into his journey and as of this writing still has a little less than 300 miles (482 km) to go. Updates have become more infrequent as he presses forward but his GPS tracker is still sharing his progress. Having crossed the 85th parallel he is closing in on the finish line, but he may yet need a supply drop to ensure he arrives there safe and sound.

Finally, Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde are making their way to the South Pole while still enduring the nasty conditions. They have the benefit of driving in a solar powered buggy, which still struggles in the conditions, even though it isn’t the same as skiing on foot. The couple are attempting to make the journey across the frozen continent using clean energy in an effort to raise awareness of climate change.

Progress hasn’t been as quick and easy as they would like however, as their little snow buggy was bogged down in a storm just 80 km (50 miles) from their start. That means they still have a long way to go, and the conditions aren’t likely to get any better or easier, but they are just as determined to drive to the South Pole as ever.

That’s all for now. More updates next week as the season continues to unfold.