Showing posts with label Expedition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Expedition. Show all posts

North Pole 2017: Construction of Barneo Ice Camp Nearly Complete

The 2017 Arctic exploration season may have been a bust as far as full-distance expeditions to the North Pole are concerned, but there will still be plenty of activity in that part of the world in the days ahead. As usual, the Russian ice camp at Barneo will play a crucial role in providing logistics to the Arctic from that side of the ice this year, with the station reaching a major milestone today.

For those that don't know, Barneo is a temporary base that is built on a moving ice flow in the Arctic each year. It serves as a launching point for a number of expeditions to the North Pole and the surrounding area. The camp not only serves as a gateway for researchers and explorers, but also for adventure travelers looking to complete a "last degree" journey to the top of the world as well.

Construction of the base began last week with a flyover of the Arctic finding a large enough ice flow to serve as the location for the camp in the days ahead. After that, a team of paratroopers landed on the ice and began construction of a blue ice runway. That same team also cleared the way for the construction of a temporary station there, which will soon begin receiving visitors. The location of this year's Barneo camp is 89º44’N, 065º47’E.

As of today, 1200 meters (3937 ft) of runway has been cleared, which is enough for the first flights to begin delivering supplies. That will help in finishing the last remnants of work prior to the arrival of the first teams, which will likely begin in the next few days.

If you've followed the Arctic expedition season in the past, you probably know that Barneo has faced some challenges in recent years. For instance, last year the ice on the runway cracked several times, first forcing the base to relocate and later to rebuild the landing strip altogether. The team behind the temporary camp also faced political issues with Norway. Their crew and supplies usually funneled through Svalbard on their way to the Arctic, but there was a dust up last season when a team of Chechen special forces soldiers moved through Norway on their way to the North Pole for training. This caused a political incident and it appeared as if the Norwegians would force the Barneo team to relocate to Franz Joseph Land for their logical needs. Fortunately, all of those issues seem to have been resolved, and operations are once again flowing through Svalbard.

We'll continue to keep an eye on the progress of the Barneo camp and some of the more interesting stories that will come out of the base this year. While no one is making a full distance journey through the Arctic this season, there should still be a few expeditions of note to follow.

Video: An Expedition to One of the Deepest Caves on Earth

Think cave diving simply involves showing up at the site, putting on your gear, and dropping in? Think again. In this video, we get a glimpse of the logistics involved in simply reaching the Dark Star cave system in Uzbekistan, which is believed to be one of the deepest on the planet. The team of explorers who recently went to the cave spent hours on a bus just to reach their starting point. They then trekked for two days to get to base camp, located above 12,000 feet (3657 meters). The cave itself has seven known entrances, each of which requires rock climbing skills to reach. In other words, this is no walk in the park. Check it out below.

Video: A Profile of Explorer Mike Horn

One of the expeditions we followed closely this past Antarctic season was Mike Horn's attempt to cross traverse the continent solo by kite ski. He was of course successful in that endeavor, and is now pushing forward with the second part of his Pole2Pole journey, in which he is circumnavigating the planet north to south via both Poles. In this video, we get a profile of Horn and his past accomplishment, as well as an inside look at at his Antarctic traverse. If you're not aware of what drives this man, you'll learn a lot more about him here. If you already know Mike and his ambitious journeys, you'll likely come away even more impressed.

Winter Attempt on Everest Ends, North Pole Skiers Cancel Expeditions Too

I'm back from my adventure across the Southern Ocean to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, and obviously have a lot to catch up on. Some major expeditions pulled the plug on their intended journeys while I was away, so before we turn towards new adventures about to begin, I thought it was best to post a recap of a few things that happened while I was away.

We'll start with an update on Alex Txikon's attempt to summit Everest in winter without the use of bottled oxygen. When I left the country a few weeks back Alex and his team were preparing to make a summit bid, even as the clock was ticking. He had been in the Himalaya since early January and with the end of winter looming, the Spanish climber knew that it was now or never.

Unfortunately for him, Mother Nature didn't cooperate and a projected weather window never materialized. High winds hit the mountain while the team was moving upwards, closing off all attempts to get anywhere near the summit. Worse yet, the weather forecast looked gloomy for the days ahead, so Alex made the tough choice of calling it quits – at least for now. Judging from his remarks following the expedition he plans to return to Everest in the future to give another winter summit a go.

Meanwhile, just as I was heading south, two teams planning to ski to the North Pole this year were embarking on their own epic journey's to the north. Sebastian Copeland and Mark George made up the Last Great March squad, while Martin Murray (along with dog companion Sky) were the other team heading in that direction. Both teams cancelled their trips just a few days into their expeditions however, meaning that once again no one will complete a full-distance journey to 90ºN this year.


Just a few days into their polar adventure, Sebastian and Mark had to call for an evacuation after Copeland began to suffer frostbite in six of his finger. Both men had been struggling with the cold conditions, which were hovering in the -60ºC/-76ºF range. That's cold, even by polar standards. The forecast had temperatures improving in the days ahead, but unfortunately the damage had already been done. Sebastian's fingers needed treatment, and the lone stove that the team had with them wasn't creating enough heat to keep them from shivering in the sleeping bags while they huddled inside their tents.

As it turns out Murray wasn't faring much better. The extreme cold had hit him and Sky hard as well, and he actually joined Sebastian and Mark on the evacuation flight. Their pick-up was delayed however because the conditions were so cold that the pilot worried that the fuel in his engine would freeze up en route. Eventually they were plucked from the ice however and returned to their starting point in Resolute Bay in Canada. It was a tough end to two expeditions that had been years in the planning. Just a few days after they left, temperatures warmed up considerably, but it was already too late for this season.

That's it for these three major expeditions we were following before I left. Now, we'll start looking ahead to big things to come, including the start of the spring season in the Himalaya.

North Pole 2017: Still Waiting in Resolute Bay

Just a quick update from Resolute Bay in Canada today. That's where the two teams planning on skiing to the North Pole continue to wait for a good weather window to begin their journey. The three men (and one dog!) who collectively make up these expeditions have been in town for more than week now, and continue to wait patiently for the start of their adventures, each knowing that each passing day could make things just a bit more difficult.

Martin Murray, who will be traveling with a dog named Sky, hasn't updated his status since last week, at which time he had sorted and weighed his gear in preparation for departure. But, The Last Great March team of Sebastian Copeland and Mark George shared news of their status yesterday. With nothing to do but wait, the two men retrieved their sleds from the aircraft and made use of their time by pulling them around for two hours in preparation for what they'll encounter out on the ice. Those training sessions will help them to get prepared for the long grueling days they'll face once they are dropped off at their starting point – either on Cape Discovery or Ward Hunt Island, which hopefully will happen sometime soon. They are poised and ready to get on the plane once they are given the green light.

Unfortunately for both squads, each day that they delay is like a clock ticking away. The Arctic ice now melts at a much faster pace than it did in the past, which means that while it is now at its thickest point, it will also be unsteady and constantly breaking apart. That makes their journey all the harder and will have a significant impact on their eventual success or failure.

At this point, it is unclear when they'l be flown out to their drop off points. As is usual with these kinds of expeditions, Mother Nature sets the schedule. Everyone involved will be watching the weather closely, and as soon as they see an opportunity to depart, they'll go. That could come as early as today, or it could be another week. For now, they'll just have to play the waiting game.

North Pole 2017: Teams in Resolute Bay and Awaiting Start

March is here, which means the 2017 Arctic expedition season is now ready to commence. The two teams preparing to ski to the North Pole have arrived in Resolute Bay, Canada and are now putting the final touches on their preparation while they await word on when they can fly out to their starting points, either on Cape Discovery or Ward Hunt Island. That could come at any time now.

The Last Great March team of Sebastian Copeland and Mark George arrived in Resolute this past weekend, but not without a bit of drama first. While they were en route, their 800 pounds (362 kg) of gear was to be flown to their destination aboard the Twin Otters aircraft that will eventually take them out to the ice. But, as Sebastian and Mark were preparing to take off, they received a text message from their pilot – Dave Mathieson – telling them that the gear weighed too much and that he would have to take some off. Nothing to be done at that point, they simply had to proceed on, while a couple of bags of clothing and all of the team's food was left behind.That gear was later driven to their starting point and arrived just fine, but for a time it caused some concern as to where everything was at.

Over the past few days, Sebastian and Mark have been sorting their gear and loading up their sleds while they wait for word on when they'll fly. At this point, that could come at any moment so they are now prepared to go with the pilot reports that conditions are right. Until that time, they wait and enjoy a few last days with some relative luxuries before they begin the very large challenge ahead.

Meanwhile, Michael Murray and his canine companion Sky are also in Resolute and awaiting their start. He has all of his gear measured and weighed, and is ready to go at this point too. With everything loaded up, his sled now weighs in at 124 kg (272 pounds), including 25 kg (55 pounds) of dog food. That's enough to get him through the first 22 days of the journey, at which time he'll receive a resupply out on the ice. The expedition to the Pole is expected to take somewhere between 50-60 days to complete, so that resupply will have to be enough to get him through the final stages.

As the teams set out, they'll face some rough conditions. It has been an extremely warm year in the Arctic, which means that pack ice will be thin and there will likely be large open leads of water to cross. On top of that, the shifting of the season towards spring often brings poor weather conditions, with massive storms a real possibility. Remember, no one has completed this journey since 2014, so it will be extremely interesting to watch these two expeditions unfold. Hopefully, they'll get underway soon.

Popular Mechanics Shares the 10 Greatest Wildernesses in the World

Looking to truly get away for awhile? Than perhaps Popular Mechanics can help. The site has published an interesting article that names the 10 greatest wildernesses on the planet, giving us some suggestions on where to go on our next adventure to places that few other people ever get to see.

Some of the destination on the list are classic adventure spots. For instance, both Patagonia and Antarctica make the cut for obvious reasons. Other places on the PM top ten aren't quite so familiar however, which makes them all the more intriguing. For instance, Bouvet Island in the Atlantic Ocean is considered the most remote island in the world, while Annamite Range of mountains in Vietnam are lauded for their inaccessibility as well. Some of the places on the list are a bit too remote however, as I doubt too many of us will ever see the Mariana Trench for instance.

Still, this is a fun list to look at and dream about. The majority of the destinations are certainly within the reach of most of us, given some time, planning, and money. In fact, I've actually been to a few of the places on this list already, and I have no doubt that more than a few of you have been as well. But if you're looking for some ideas on where to go on your next adventure, this isn't a bad place to start.

Read the entire story here.

Arctic 2017: The Gear for Skiing to the North Pole

Have you ever wondered what gear is required to ski to the North Pole? How does it vary from what you need when you go to the South Pole instead? That's the subject of an interesting article over at ExWeb, which is examining the equipment needed to ski through the Arctic ahead of the start of the expedition season there. 

To find out just what gear is needed, ExWeb reached out to veteran polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer, who has visited the North and South Pole on more than 30 occasions throughout his illustrious career.  One of those expeditions was – at the time – the longest non-motorized journey across the Antarctic, when he traveled by kite-ski across the frozen continent back in 2012. In other words, if anyone knows a thing or two about traveling in the cold regions of our planet, it's Dixie.

Dansercoer shares his five favorite pieces of gear for going to the North Pole with ExWeb, listing such items as his drysuit (an essential piece of equipment when heading north), safety items, gear for more efficient cooking, and a set of customized trekking poles. Other gear that Arctic explorers take with them include inflatable rafts for crossing the open sections of the ocean and a shotgun to scare away the polar bears, something that isn't necessary in the Antarctic. 

Additionally, Dixie shares some of his experiences with kiting to the South Pole and beyond, offering some insights in that area as well. This year, both Mike Horn and Johanna Davidson made extensive use of kites during their expeditions, with Horn breaking Dansercoer's longest distance record in the process.

As we get ready for the start of the Arctic season, these interviews and stories help us to understand what the teams will be facing when they begin their journey. It will be an incredibly difficult expedition to say the least, and the odds are stacked against them for being successful. Still, we'll be watching and following along closely, hoping for success. The season should get underway next week, weather permitting. Stay tuned for more. 

Arctic 2017: North Pole Teams Heading to Resolute Bay in Canada

We're on the brink of the start of the 2017 Arctic expedition season, with the planned departure of the two teams heading to the North Pole scheduled for next week. Those teams are now en route to their starting point in Canada, although as usual, their start dates will depend entirely on the weather. 

One of those teams is made up of Sebastian Copeland and Mark George, who have collectively called their expedition The Last Great March. According to the latest update from Copeland, the two men are setting out today for Resolute Bay in Canada, where they will first spend a few days sorting their gear and preparing for their departure, ahead of the a scheduled flight out to their starting point sometime next week. With any luck, they'll be in Resolute by tomorrow and have a bit of time to rest up and get their sleds packed ahead of the launch of the expedition. 

The other team that plans to travel the full distance to the North Pole this year is Martin Murray and this canine companion Sky. In an audio dispatch released last week, Murray says his sled is packed and his gear is ready to go and he'll leave for Resolute Bay on Friday of this week. His gear load tips the scales at 104 kg (229 pounds) and he expects to be out on the ice in the first week of March. 

Both teams will share the same pilot and plane, as it is now very difficult to find anyone who will fly support in the Arctic. A few years back, Kenn Borek Air pulled out of that duty, leaving North Pole teams scrambling to find anyone else who will take them. This year, that pilot is Dave Mathieson, who is an extremely experienced pilot who has flown all over the world. Mathieson will stay on standby in Resolute for 60 days in case either squad needs an emergency pick-up, which is highly likely considering the conditions they'll face as they head north. 

The current departure plan is to fly out to their starting point sometime after February 27. If the weather is good, they could head out as early as Tuesday of next week, but they'll watch the forecast very closely before deciding when to go. Their exact starting point isn't set yet either, as conditions will dictate that as well. But the plan is to either start at Ward Hunt Island or Cape Discovery, with Mathieson having the final say as to where he can safely land to drop them off. 

Of course, we'll be following the two expeditions closely as they head to the North Pole. As usual, it should be very interesting to follow their progress. Remember, no one has completed the full distance journey to the North Pole since 2014, and the Arctic has only gotten more unstable ever since. Good luck to Sebastian, Mark, Martin, and Sky as they set off on this perilous journey. 

ExWeb Interviews North Pole Skiers Ahead of the Start of the Season

Traditionally, the end of February brings the start of the Arctic Expedition season, although over the past couple of years conditions at the top of the world have prevented anyone from covering the full distance to the North Pole. Not since Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters completed that journey back in 2014 no one else been able to repeat it. As climate change impacts that part of the world, the Arctic ice gets thinner, more challenging, or completely nonexistent. This year, there are two teams who will be attempting that very difficult journey, and over the course of the past week or so, ExWeb has interviewed members of both squads. 

Last week, the site posted an interview with Sebastian Copeland, who along with Mark George, will be one of the teams heading to the North Pole this year. During their chat, Copeland discussed the logistics of skiing to the top of the world, how long they expect to be out on the ice (50+ days), how he and George trained for the upcoming expedition, and his thoughts on the record breaking warmth that has hit the Arctic recently and how it will impact their journey. 

Similarly, the ExWeb interview with Martin Murray discusses his partner as well, who in this case happens to be a dog named Sky. The canine explorer will help Murray pull a sled and will provide companionship on the long days out on the ice. He also talks about logistics, when he'll start (after February 27) and potentially end (first week of May), how long he's been planning this expedition, and how a major expedition works when you have a dog along with you. 

Both interviews are very interesting for anyone who is interested not only in North Pole expeditions, but the logistics of exploration in general. The two teams will set off at the end of February and will begin at either Ward Hunt Island or Cape Discovery in Canada. We'll of course be following these journeys closely once they get underway. 

Antarctica 2016: Mike Horn Scheduled to Depart Antarctica Today

The long 2016 Antarctic season may finally come to an end today, as Swiss explorer Mike Horn is expected to finally regroup with his crew aboard his ship the Pangaea and leave the frozen continent at last. Weather permitting, horn and his crew will sail for the city of Hobart, Tasmania, a voyage that is expected to take about six days to complete.

As you may recall, Mike reached the Antarctic coast early last week, having completed his 5100 km (3168 mile) traverse of the continent – via the South Pole – by kite ski. That journey took 57 days to complete and except for enjoying a few meals at the Pole with some of the researchers there, he was solo the entire time.

The original plan was for the Pangaea to pick him and proceed towards Australia. But the ship suffered some issues while waiting for him to arrive, so it had to sail to Tasmania to get repairs. Now, those repairs are apparently finished, and the crew has returned to pick up Horn and his gear and move on to the next phase of his expedition, which will eventually involve sailing north to the Arctic, where he'll traverse the ice cap there, once again kite skiing to the North Pole.

Over the past week, Mike has been staying at French research station while he awaited pick-up. He admits that it has been nice to have the company of others and have plenty of food and shelter, but at times he says that he misses the solitude and challenge that comes with living in his own tent as well. The past few days have seen massive storms with 200 km/h (124 mph) winds, and those conditions actually made him wistful to be back out in the elements. Such is the make-up of an explorer who thrives on adventure and pushing himself to the limit.

Hopefully now the weather has improved enough for Horn to rejoin the crew of the Pangaea and begin sailing north. As difficult as this expedition has been at times, he's only halfway to his goal.

Antarctica 2016: Mike Horn Completes Longest Kite Ski Expedition Ever

As reported a few days back, Mike Horn has completed his traverse of the Antarctic continent by kite ski, and is now waiting for pick-up by his ship the Pangaea. It has been a very long couple of months out on the ice, but the first leg of his epic Pole 2 Pole expedition is done, although he is not safely off the frozen continent just yet, and it is unclear as to when exactly he'll be able to depart.

According to ExWeb, Mike covered approximately 5100 km (3168 miles) over the course of his 57 day journey. Of that, 2215 km (1376 miles) were just spent reaching the South Pole, while the other 2885 km (1792 miles) were covered continuing on to the far coast. If those distances are accurate – and there is no reason to believe they aren't – Horn's expedition will mark the longest kite ski journey across the Antarctic ever. ExWeb does point out however that Mike received some meals while at the South Pole, so his journey isn't considered solo or unassisted, even though both legs coming and going from the Pole fall into those categories.

The final few days of the journey were not easy ones. Whiteout conditions persisted throughout and massive sastrugi – hard ridges on the ice – made it tough to make progress. At times, Mike's kite would pull him along at a rapid pace, but his sled would get caught on the sastrugi, creating a tug-of-war situation with Horn in the middle. There were also points where his kite would suddenly come to a stop, and the heavy sled would barrel into the back of the skier, knocking him to the ground. Those must have been very frustrating moments to say the least.

Now, Mike is believed to be at Dumon d'Urville, a French science station along the coast. He is waiting for Pangaea to pick him up, but at this point it is unclear as to when that will happen. As reported earlier in the week, the ship experienced electrical failure and was forced to set sail for Tasmania for repairs. There is no word yet on when those repairs will be completed and how long it will take to return to get Horn. One thing is for certain however, the austral winter is on its way, and it will become much more challenging to come and go from the Antarctic in the days ahead.

Once he is retrieved from the ice, the original plan was to sail to Australia and New Zealand for some exploration and adventures there before turning north to the Arctic and the second phase of the Pole 2 Pole expedition. That will involve a crossing of the Arctic Icecap in much the same fashion as the Antarctic. We'll have to wait to see if those plans change in any way, but the Arctic season will be up on us soon enough, and that season has already gotten shorter and more dangerous than years past.

I'll post more updates when we have further news of the Pangaea and Mike's situation.

British Adventurer to Walk the Length of Japan for Charity

At the end of February, British adventurer and photographer Richard Dunwoody will embark on a major undertaking as he sets out to walk the entire length of Japan from south to north. The expedition will see him traveling completely unsupported as he seeks to raise funds for charity.

Dunwoody, who has previously skied to both the North and South Pole, will cover more than 2000 miles (3218 km) as he treks across Japan's three largest islands – Kyushu, Honshu and Hokkaido. The plan is to cover somewhere between 20-30 miles (32-48 km) per day, while spending most nights camping out. The journey should take a little more than three months to complete.

The plan is to set out form Cape Data on February 27 and continue moving north to the furthest point on Hokkaido, a point he hopes to reach by early June. Throughout the trip, Dunwoody – who is also a former champion jockey – will share photos and stories from the road. While most of the journey will be done solo, Richard does hope that some friends will join him throughout the hike as well.

In the past, Dunwoody has raised more than £250,000 ($312,000) for a variety of charities through his adventurous activities. This time out, he's hoping to raise funs for the Sarcoma UK, a nonprofit that provides support for individuals suffering with these forms of cancer. Richard's nephew George has been battling the disease for the past few years, and has undergone a number of therapies in an effort to overcome it. He is just 21 years old, and represented the U.K. Junior World Rowing Championships back in 2014 before taking ill.

If you want to give to the cause, you'll find a Just Giving page has been set up here. The goal is to raise £25,000 and every contribution counts. You can follow Richard's progress through social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

North Pole 2017: Two Teams Prepare for the Challenge

The sun has still to set on the 2016-2017 Antarctic expedition season, and it is already time to begin looking north toward the Arctic. According to ExWeb, this year there are two teams preparing to make a full-distance attempt on the North Pole, despite the fact that such a journey is now more challenging than ever before. So much so, that while numerous people ski to the South Pole each year, no on has reached the North Pole in almost three seasons.

In an effort to change that this year, Sebastian Copeland and Mark George have joined forces to ski 480 miles (772 km) from Ellesmere Island on the Canadian side of the ice to the top of the world at 90ºN. The duo are looking to set out at the end of February or very early in March, with the exit start dictated by the weather of course. Copeland and George will be traveling unassisted and unsupported once they get underway. 

The other team that will be attempting the journey is Martin Murry, while will be joined by his dog Sky. They intend to travel in a supported fashion, receiving occasional resupplies along the way. They'll also set out from the Canadian side of the ice, although their exact departure point isn't know just yet, although ExWeb says that the two teams will share a pilot and departure window.

And of course, we're expecting Mike Horn to attempt a traverse of the Arctic ice cap too, once he wraps up in the Antarctic and sails north. His current plan is to meet his ship after finishing his crossing of the frozen continent, and then sail to Australia and New Zealand to complete a few side adventures. But, it is a long way to sail to the Arctic, and I'm not sure he'll have the time to do that if he intends to make another traverse this year. We'll be watching him closely, as he should rejoin his sailing ship the Pangaea in the next few days, provided the weather cooperates. 

As ExWeb points out, these expeditions face some serious challenges if they hope to be successful. For instance, Kenn Borek Air no long supports North Pole skiers, so the teams had to find an experienced pilot that they could pay to not only deliver them to the start of the expedition, be on standby for 60 days, and pick them up at the North Pole if they reach that point. They found such a man in Dave Mathieson, who will be stationed in Resolute Bay for the duration of the journey. 

These explores will also face a shifting landscape of snow and ice that has most certainly been impacted by climate change. The ice on the way to the North Pole is as unstable as ever, especially considering that 2016 is the warmest year on record. That makes challenge in the Arctic extremely difficult, because unlike in the Antarctic, there is no landmass under all of that ice. The skiers will have to cross open leads of water, traverse massive ice fields with rubble the size of a house, and even potentially face hungry polar bears along the way. Skiing to the South Pole is a relative walk in the woods compared to what it is like to head north. 

We'll be watching the progress of these teams closely once they get underway. As always, it will be interesting to see how they proceed. 

Two Explorers Launch Arctic Extreme Expedition in Canada

Two ultrarunners are about to embark on a challenge expedition through the Canadian Arctic to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. Today, ultrarunners Ray Zahab and Stefano Gregoretti set out on an adventure that will take them through three separate regions of the country, covering approximately 1000 km (621 miles) during the coldest, harshest conditions of the year.

Dubbed the Arctic Extreme Expedition, the two men will begin their journey in the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador and Quebec, where they will traverse this amazing landscape – Canada's newest national park – on foot. The endurance runners will be running and fast packing their way through the wilderness, hauling all of their needed supplies behind them on sleds as they go. Along the way, they'll face Canada's brutal winter weather conditions, snow, winds, cold temperatures, and perhaps the occasional polar bear.

From here, Ray and Stefano will head to Unavut to traverse Baffin Island on skis. Once again, they'll carry their gear behind them on sleds, hauling all of their needed equipment and supplies with them as they go. During the heart of the winter, they'll face extreme weather once again, as well as very long nights and incredibly short days as they traverse one of the most remote and rugged places imaginable.

For stage three of the expedition, the two men will head to the Northwest Territories where they'll ride the length of the Arctic Ice Road on custom made fat bikes. During that stage of the journey they expect to face temperatures as cold at -60ºC/-76ºF as they travel along on a route covered in ice that will require studded tires just to keep them upright.

The expedition is set to get underway today – Feb 1 – with Ray and Stefano hitting the trail this morning. You'll be able to follow their progress – which will include live updates most days – on the team's official website for this adventure. If you like to follow challenging expeditions through extremely cold places, you won't want to miss this one.

Antarctica 2016: Two More Skiers Complete Their Antarctic Expeditions

The final days of the 2016 Antarctic season are truly upon us now, as the last plane scheduled to leave the frozen continent – weather permitting of course – will fly out today or tomorrow, bringing an end to an eventful few months there. As the final days tick away, two more skiers have completed their expeditions at long last, and are now preparing to head home.

Finnish adventurer Risto Hallikainen has finished his return journey to Hercules Inlet, arriving back at that point on January 24, 71 days after he began his round-trip journey via the South Pole. Along the way, he covered 2260 km (1404 miles), becoming the first Finn to make the there-and-back-again Antarctic trip. After camping at Hercules briefly, he was picked up and flown back to Union Glacier, where he should be on the last flight out to Punta Arenas, Chile.

Similarly, ExWeb is reporting that Polish solo skier Malgorzata Wojtaczka has reached the South Pole as well, brining an end to her expedition, which also began at Hercules Inlet. She started on November 18, and reached 90ºS on yesterday, on January 25. Her expedition took 69 days.

I tried to follow Malgorzata throughout her journey, but didn't end up reporting on her progress much, mostly because updates were few and far between. It is good to know that she has now arrived safely, and will be flying back to Union Glacier from the Pole as well.

Also awaiting the final flight out is the British Military Team, which also completed a traverse of the Antarctic continent. The boys arrived back at Union Glacier a few days ago, and are now eager to start making their way home. They spent 67 days out on the ice, covering the journey to the South Pole and the return trip across the Shackleton Glacier. After resting up, they're eager to return to the U.K.

Finally, Mike Horn will soon be the last of the skiers out on the ice. As everyone else prepares to leave aboard an ALE aircraft, he continues to kite-ski across the continent to meet his waiting ship. The winds have returned to help push him along, but he still has some miles yet to cover before he's done. From there, he'll sail into the South Pacific where other adventures await. Eventually he'll make his way north though, where he hopes to traverse the Arctic icecap in similar fashion. You know we'll be following that adventure closely too.

That's all for today. More updates over the next few days as the news warrants.

Antarctica 2016: More Updates From the Ice

Yesterday I mentioned that the 2016-2017 Antarctic season is quickly coming to an end, and that updates would probably be few and far between moving forward. But, it turns out there is still more to tell, and although the end is indeed in sight, things aren't quite done yet. I have a couple of stories to share from the frozen continent, as well as a few corrections form my previous post too.

We'll start with an update on the Halley VI research station, which you might recall I wrote about back in early December. At the time, it was revealed that the station would have to be relocated due to a massive ice crack opening across the surface. That crack was forcing a large section of ice along the surface of the continent to shift towards the sea, and Halley VI found itself on the wrong side of the equation.

The original plan was to wait until this season was over, then close the base in preparation for moving it to a new – safer – location. Now, it has been announced that the research station has been shut down early as a precautionary measure, as another crack has been discovered near by that could expedite the shifting of the ice even further. Halley VI is in the process of being relocated however, so hopefully it will be repositioned in a safer location soon. The entire station was designed to be mobile, and is now being transferred to a spot some 23 km (14 miles) away from its current location.


Mike Horn has checked in today to say that he has had his best day yet out on the ice. After several days of light winds, the gusts returned in force, and as a result he covered an impressive 247 km (153 miles) as he makes his way to the far coast to rendezvous with his ship, the Pangea. From there, he'll make his way to the South Pacific, for a visit to New Zealand and Australia, before sailing north to attempt a traverse of the Arctic ice cap as well. The Swiss explorer reports that the landscape he was skiing through today has changed dramatically as well, with massive sastrugi and even crevasses reappearing. That could slow him down as he moves forward, but for now it is more of a nuisance than anything else.

Finally, I wanted to post a couple of corrections to yesterday's story. First, I reported that Emma Kelty had spent some time in the hospital due to dehydration and a lung infection. In fact, she did visit a hospital to get a dose of antibiotics, but didn't have to stay there for very long. It was a standard check in, and not at all the medical situation that I saw posted elsewhere. I also mentioned that she was out on the ice for 52 days, but I stand corrected in this area as well. It actually took her less than 51 days to complete her crossing of the frozen continent. Thanks for the corrections Emma!

And I also mentioned the Reedy Glacier Team yesterday and the remarkable job they did opening a new route to the South Pole. That squad consists of Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips, which I indicated had traversed that route on skies. It turns out, Rob and Eric skied the entire distance, while Keith rode his bike at least half the way. Not a minor accomplishment to say the least.

Just wanted to get those house keeping duties out of the way. More updates to come as the news warrants it.

Antarctica 2016: The End in Sight

Update: It seems the information I received on Emma Kelty's condition was incorrect. While she did go to the hospital as reported, it was to receive a round of antibiotics and not for other reasons stated below. She was also out on the ice for 50.5 days as well.

It has been more than a week and a half since we last posted an update on the progress of the various Antarctic skiers. Over that time, a lot has happened, with several comings and goings from the South Pole, arrivals back at the coast, and other happenings – both good and bad. Now, as the end of the season is in sight, there is much to tell.

We'll start with Johanna Davidsson, the solo female skier who reached the Pole in record time a few weeks back. After setting that impressive mark, Johanna wasn't content to just get on a plane and fly back to Union Glacier, but instead kite-skied back to the coast. She completed that trip quickly as well, wrapping up her return trip on January 10. It has been a very productive season for her to say the least.

The other female skier that we watched closely this season was Brit Emma Kelty, who spent 52 days out on the ice skiing from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. She reached that point back on January 5, and was then flown back to Union Glacier having abandoned her attempt at a return trip after running out of time. A few days later she flew to Punta Arenas, Chile as well where she was immediately hospitalized  for dehydration, a lung infection, and a bad case of polar thigh. That last ailment strikes the upper legs in very cold conditions, and is caused by the friction of fabric and skin when rubbed together over a long period of time. It can cause extreme irritation and even a nasty infection, which can be very painful if left untreated. Unfortunately, Emma wasn't able to do much about it until after she was off the ice, which had made for a painful wound. Thankfully, she was released from the hospital last week, and flew home to the U.K. on Friday the 13th.


The six-man British Military team has been skiing back to the coast from the South Pole and making good time. They now report that they are less than 60 nautical miles (69 miles/111 km) from the coast, and completely wrapping up their round-trip journey across the Antarctic. The return journey hasn't been an easy one however, as they have traveled across the Shackleton Glacier. The weather has been difficult as usual, and just today the squad made a navigational error that caused them to have to descend down the side of a mountain, rather than backtrack to correct their course. Still, they are on track to reach the finish line in the next few days, and should be ready to fly out of Antarctica ahead of the final deadline of January 27.

Swiss explorer Mike Horn is still in the midst of his traverse of the frozen continent. After reaching the South Pole via kite-ski on January 9, he has since resumed his journey to the far side of the continent. But, the winds have been very light, which has meant slow travel so far. After two days of not covering any distances at all, Mike reports a gentle breeze today that is helping him move, albeit at a very slow pace. But unlike the other skiers out on the ice, Mike isn't reliant on ALE to get him off the continent. He'll ski to the western coast, where his own ship the Pangea will pick him up as he resumes his Pole 2 Pole expedition.

Finnish skier Risto Hallikainen – who reached the South Pole back on December 28 – is on his return trip to the coast as well. His latest update came last Friday, when he reported that he was halfway to his goal. Risto will be racing the clock to return to Hercules before the final flight out, but right now things look like they are going according to plan.

Finally, Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips reached the South Pole back on January 9 as well, following a very tough slog across the frozen continent. The trio opened a new route across the Reedy Glacier, reaching 90ºS after crossing 605 km (375 miles) in 34 days. It is believed that they are the first team to explore this part of the Antarctic since it was first surveyed more than 60 years ago. The team spent little time at the South Pole and returned to Union Glacier a few days later, before departing back to Chile, and home.

That's it for now. As you can see, the season is wrapping up very quickly at this point. Our next updates will only have a few teams to report on. Soon, another season will come to an end.

Antarctica 2016: Two More Skiers Close in on the Pole

With time starting to run short at the bottom of the world, the teams skiing to the South Pole this season – and possibly beyond – are starting to feel the pinch. Most still have plenty of time to reach their final destination, but some are now altering their plans. With just three weeks to go until the season wraps up, it is crunch time on the Frozen Continent, and we should expect more arrivals at 90ºS shortly. In fact, two of the explorers should be at that point today.

First up, Emma Kelty expected to arrive at the Pole either yesterday or today, but she hasn't posted an update on where she is at just yet. She was closing in on her destination a few days back, but elected to slow down and savor her final days on the ice instead. Now, she should be at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station, although we're still awaiting word confirming that arrival.

If you've been following Emma's expedition you may be asking yourself why these are her "final days" on the ice. That's because she has decided to pull the plug on her efforts to ski back to Hercules Inlet. Because of a late start to the season – mostly due to weather delays – she simply doesn't have enough time to cover the 1285 km (700 miles) to get back to her starting point. On top of that, she has been battling a lung infection, which she has recovered from now, but it also served to slow her down some. Add in the fact that her supplies are dwindling too, and you can understand why she has given up on the idea of the return trip. Hopefully she is resting comfortably at the Pole right now, and awaiting a return flight to Union Glacier.

Emma isn't the only skier who is closing in on the South Pole. Mike Horn has made short work of his kite-ski journey, finding favorable winds over the past few days. Yesterday he covered 170 km (105 miles) alone, and is now within the last degree. That means that if he has any kind of wind today, he should arrive at the Pole in short order. Of course, this is just the midway point of his expedition, as he'll continue on to the coast where his shim – the Pangea – will be waiting to pick him up. Unlike most of the other skiers, Mike isn't working on a set timeline because he has his own lift off the continent. That said, if he continues at his current pace, it won't take him long to reach the coast again and continue on his Pole 2 Pole journey.


Finally, the Reedy Glacier Team of Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips are also nearing the South Pole, although they still have a couple of days to go. The trio of explorers have opened up a new route to 90ºS by becoming the first people to traverse the glacier. They are also within the last degree of the Pole, and now expect to finish next Monday, January 9. The final days aren't going to be easy however, as the three men report bitterly cold conditions as the near the finish line.

That's it for now. I'll post another update sometime next week as we check in to see where everyone is at. The return skiers should be heading back at top speed now, while others will be wrapping up their expeditions altogether. It is a busy time as we near the end of the season.

Antarctica 2016: More Arrivals at the Pole

While the rest of us have been enjoying an extended holiday break, the skiers at the bottom of the world have been continuing their push towards various goals. The calendar may have now turned to 2017, but there are still several weeks left in the 2016 Antarctic season, and the explorers there are making the most of it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Swedish solo-skier Johanna Davidsson arrived at the Pole on Christmas Eve, and in record time. Now, she's started her return journey back to Hercules Inlet by kite-ski. The winds haven't been all that favorable so far, so she has had to ski some days, but when they are blowing in her favor she's making good time. But, she admits she isn't rushing all that much and is enjoying "taking it easy" for the return trip. Going back to Hercules is usually easier and faster since much of it is down hill. Plus, when the winds are blowing it is possible to cover further distances. For instance, yesterday she managed to knock off 73 km (45.3 miles), which is equal to about 2-3 days of skiing towards the Pole.

Meanwhile, the Six-man British Military squad that we've been following all season reached the South Pole back on Christmas Day, and while they enjoyed a little down time there, they've already set off on the next leg of their expedition too. Now, they're looking to traverse the Shackleton Glacier on their return trip to the coast as well. They are currently traversing the tough Titan Dome, where conditions are very challenging, including -36ºC (-32.8ºF) temperatures. The team is tired, but in good sports and health, so they are pressing onwards.

Finnish skier Risto Hallikainen arrived at the South Pole over the holiday break as well, and has already launched his return journey to Hercules too. On his way to 90ºS he left behind a series of supply depots to help lighten his load, and give himself plenty of food and fuel for the return trip, which ExWeb says must be completed by January 27, which is when ALE will fly the last plane off th continent. The first supply depot will be picked up when Risto reaches 88ºS.

ExWeb reports that A four-person team guided by Ryan Waters, who was joined by Katrina Follows, Paul Adams, and Scott Kress arrived at the South Pole on December 30. The group has already flown back to the Union Glacier camp and are likely off the continent and on their way home.

Emma Kelty crossed the last degree on her way to the South Pole on New Year's Day. She hopes to arrive at 90ºS tomorrow or Wednesday, and after a brief stop will turn around and begin her attempt ski back to Hercules as well, time permitting. If she hopes to complete that journey, she'll need to pick up the pace however, as time is starting to become short. She's also hampered by a bad cough and deep, soft snow which is making it more difficult to make progress. Still, spirits are good and she is determined as ever.

Mike Horn is in the midst of his Antarctic Traverse by kite-ski, and while the winds have turned in his favor, it hasn't been an easy expedition so far. Yesterday alone he covered 160 km (99.4 miles), but it was over a hard surface covered in sastrugi that jarred his body at every turn. As a result, when he made camp he was exhausted and beat up, with 510 km (316 miles) to go to the Pole, which will only be the midway point as he makes his way to the other side of the continent. A few days back, it looked like the entire expedition was in jeopardy when Mike stopped for the night and discovered he had lost his cooking pot, which was custom made to integrate with his stove. He also lost several utensils, but the difficult part was how he would melt snow for water. Fortunately, he was able to jury-rig a system using his existing gear, and can continue to press on, but he was dangerously close to having to pull the plug altogether.

Canadian Sébastien Lapierre is closing in on the Pole, slowly but surely. He has now crossed over the 88th degree, and should arrive at the research station located there sometime next week. He has cleared the notorious sastrugi field in the 87th degree and is making better time now.

Finally, it should be noted that a new South Pole marker has been put in place at 90ºS. The old marker moves with the ice and had begun to drift way from the true location of the Pole, so a new one is put in place from time to time. After you've skied hundreds of miles to reach that point on the map, you definitely want to know you're standing in the right place.

That's it for now. More updates as the teams and solo skiers continue to make progress. Still lots to report on this unfolding season.