As mentioned yesterday, it has been an extremely challenging year in the Antarctic. Expedition skiers have found it rough going thanks to soft snow, unexpected snowstorms, and plenty of whiteout conditions. In fact, the number of skiers who have pulled the plug on their South Pole endeavors this year has been at unprecedented levels, including another seasoned adventurer dropping out just a few days ago.
Former pro rugby player turned adventure athlete Richard Parks was attempting to set a speed record for skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. But 17 days into that journey, an exhausted Parks decided it was best to call it quits and head home. Like Eric Larsen a month back, Richard was hoping to beat Norwegian skier Christian Eide’s record of skiing to the South Pole in under 24 days. But such a speed record simply wasn’t in the cards this season, as the soft snow and difficult conditions made it very difficult for anyone to travel very fast.
This isn’t Parks’ first visit to the Antarctic. In fact, back in 2014 he made the same journey in 29 days, which remains a record for a Briton. He’s also climbed Everest and the rest of the Seven Summits, and undertaken some other very difficult adventures. But this time out, Antarctica got the better of him, forcing Richard to put an end to the expedition on New Year’s Eve. Over the 17 days in the Antarctic he managed to ski 306 miles (492 km).
British endurance athlete Jenny Davis has shared an update on her progress and according to reports the conditions don’t look like they’re going to improve anytime soon. She says that the winds continue to blast her at 25 knots (28 mph/46 km/h) and the snow continues to fly. Still, she’s managed to travel 209 miles (336 km), which leaves her with 506 miles (814 km) to go. Those are the distances at day 19 of her expedition, which means she’s averaging about 11 miles (17 km) per day.
With over 500 miles yet to go, at her current pace it will take another 46 days to reach the Pole. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have 46 days, as by the end of January the Antarctic season will shut down. She’s going to have to pick up the pace some and will be racing the clock moving forward. Reaching the top of the Polar Plateau will help, as it means she’s no longer climbing up from the sea level. But, she’s also just started to encounter sastrugi, so that could maker her life difficult in the days ahead.
Meanwhile, countryman Barry Gray is closing in on the South Pole. He’s currently about 57 miles (92 km) from the finish line, and at his current pace he should arrive at 90ºS on Sunday or Monday. This expedition is a training session for next year, when he hopes to make a solo, unsupported, and unassisted crossing of the Antarctic. Let’s hope the conditions are better suited for that during the 2019-2020 season.
Finally, I’m told that Hungarian adventurer Gábor Rakonczay is also still out on the ice and making his way to the South Pole. Rakonczay is also an experienced polar explorer with a number of expeditions under his belt. It looks like he is on track to finish up soon too, despite the difficult conditions.
More from the Antarctic soon.