It has been a busy week at the bottom of the world where the South Pole skiers continue their long, difficult trek across the Antarctic. The weather conditions have started to cooperate a bit more, but the soft surface snow continues to make skiing a challenge, while sastrugi are a constant nuisance as well. Still, progress is being made and we should see our first arrivals at 90ºS before the end of the week.
Perhaps the biggest news is that it appears that British skier Lou Rudd has given up his solo status. By most rules agreed upon by polar explorers a skier must not have any contact with any other individuals until reaching their destination. For many, that is the South Pole, where they are often greeted by the staff and crew who man the Scott-Amundsen Research Station. For those continuing on, that also means reaching the Pole while avoiding and contact with the people that work there. In the past, skiers have even camped away from the station to avoid any potential interact as well.
Yesterday, while skiing along towards the Pole Rudd made contact with a group of individuals who are driving a tracked supply vehicle back to Union Glacier. The vehicle stopped, interacted with Rudd and by his own admission they spent 10-15 minutes chatting and taking photos. That was a welcome respite from the isolation that comes with crossing the Antarctic, but unfortunately it probably also means he has to given up his solo status. Since the people he encountered didn’t give him any supplies or aid, he should maintain his unsupported status however.
Regardless of how the ruling comes down on that, Lou indicates that he is now feeling good, making good time, and progressing nicely. So much so that he expects to reach the South Pole by Thursday of this week. Of course, that will only be the completion of the first leg of his journey as he’ll still have to ski to the Ross Ice Shelf before he is through.
Meanwhile, American Colin O’Brady continues along the same route and is now only a short distance ahead of the Brit, who has closed the gap between them a bit in recent days. In a recent update on his status, O’Brady has hinted that the Antarctic has taken its toll, admitting he isn’t the same man he was when he first embarked on the journey south. He also says that he probably hasn’t experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows as of yet either.
O’Brady should arrive at the South Pole in the next few days too, possibly on Wednesday or early Tuesday, just ahead of Rudd. Both are attempting to become the first to traverse the continent completely unsupported.
Finally, Eric Larsen continues to toil in his effort to set a new speed record for skiing to the South Pole, even though that record looks increasingly out of reach. As of this writing, he is now 16 days into the journey, which means he has roughly 8 days left to cover the remaining miles. That number sits at 391 miles (629 km), which means he would have to cover approximately 49 miles (78 km) per day to even have a chance at the record. Considering the conditions he’s faced so far, that simply isn’t going to happen. That’s a herculean task to ask of anyone, even a seasoned polar vet like Eric.
Right now, Larsen his facing two other challenges other than the speed record. First, he’s starting to run low on supplies and may need a resupply from ALE, the company that handles logistics in the Antarctic. Secondly, he promised his family that he would be home for Christmas and he’ll need up his pace in order to finish on time and allow for travel back home. With just two weeks to go until the holiday arrives, he could be cutting close.
That’s all for now. More updates to come soon.
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