Showing posts with label Kiting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kiting. Show all posts

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. 

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.

Antarctica 2016: Wrapping Things Up on the Frozen Continent

It has been an eventful season in the Antarctic, with a number of impressive accomplishments along the way. Way back in November, when things first started to ramp up, the end of the season seemed like a long way off. But now, with just a few more days to go before the team at ALE closes the Union Glacier camp for another year, the final squads are finishing up their expeditions and reaching their goals at long last.

We'll start with an update on the British Military Team, which consists of Lou Rudd, Oliver Stoten, Chris Brooke, Alex Brazier, and James Facer-Childs. We've been following the five men all season long as they spent 67 days out on the ice, first skiing to the South Pole and then continuing on back to the coast. Last Saturday – January 21 – they reached that goal at long last, covering some 1100 miles (1770 km) along the way.

Yesterday, the team posted an update to its blog, reporting that they had arrived back at Union Glacier on Sunday, where they received a warm welcome indeed. They are scheduled to fly back to Punta Arenas on Thursday of this week, so for now they get to relax and enjoy being in the Antarctic for a few more days. Once they arrive in Chile, it'll be on to the U.K., where there friends and family await. By the time the get home, it will have been nearly three months since they've seen them.

From all reports, it seems the entire group is in good health and good spirits. It has been a long and grueling expedition, but they always worked well together and the companionship they shared helped to get them through some very tough days out on the ice. Especially near the end, when poor weather and surface conditions made the final few days more difficult than anticipated. Now, they are relaxing, regaining some strength, and preparing to go home.

Canadian solo skier Sébastien Lapierre arrived at the South Pole back on January 9, having spent 42 days skiing to the South Pole. He shares his story in an interview with ExWeb that you can read here. In the interview, Sébastien talks about the pace of his journey, what it was like arriving at the Pole, the weather conditions he faced along the way, his favorite pieces of gear, and much more. Definitely worth a read if you want to gain some insights on an expedition across Antarctica.

Finally, Swiss explorer Mike Horn continues his traverse of the Antarctic continent via kite ski. Well, he continues when he has some wind to help propel him along. It has been feast or famine in that department lately, with some days passing without much in the way of movement at all, while on others he's knocking off as many as 211 km (131 miles) at a time.

Horn's ship, the Pangaea, has now circled the continent and is waiting to pick him up on the far side, where he'll sail into the South Pacific to pursue some adventures in New Zealand and Australia before proceeding north for an eventual attempt at crossing the Arctic ice cap via the North Pole as well. This is all part of his Pole 2 Pole expedition, during which he is attempting to circumnavigate the globe in a north-south direction, rather than east-west.

Unlike the rest of the teams that have been exploring the Antarctic this season, Horn doesn't have to come and go on ALE's schedule. With his own mode of transportation, he isn't racing the same clock as teams arriving back at Union Glacier. Still, the weather will start to take a turn for the worse in the weeks ahead, and he will want to be gone before winter returns. That shouldn't be problem however and it won't be too many more days before he wraps things up either.

We'll still be keeping an eye on the Antarctic for awhile yet, watching to see how things unfold. But, for the most part the season is now at an end.

Video: Kite Skiing in Alaska

If you've read my updates on the progress of the explorers in Antarctica this season, you've no doubt seen a few mentions of kite skiers out on the ice. What is kite skiing actually? It is the use of a large kite to catch the wind, and pull you along across the snow and ice. If wind speeds are good, it can provide a lot of speed, allowing skiers to cover surprising distances in a short amount of time.

In this video we travel to another frozen landscape, as we follow skier Damien Leroy to Alaska where he does some kite-skiing of his own. In the two-minute clip you'll get a chance to see how kite-skiing works, and just how fast it can propel someone along. The results just might surprise you.

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.

Video: The Evolution of Kite-Skiing

If you read my updates from Antarctica with any regularity, you've no doubt seen me mention kite-skiers on more than one occasion. These are explorers who use a large kite and the power of the wind to pull them along across the snow and ice, often at a fairly rapid pace. But, the practice isn't just confined to the frozen continent, as there are kite-skiers found all over the world. This video gives us an idea of how the sport has evolved over time, and why it has become popular with skiers. It is a beautifully shot, short documentary that will leave you impressed with the skills that these skiers possess, and wondering if you're ready to give it a try yourself.

Antarctica 2015: Running Out of Time

Following the sad news of the passing of Henry Worsley yesterday, there are still two teams out on the ice in the Antarctic, struggling to reach their respective finish lines. But the clock is most definitely ticking as the season grinds to a halt later this week. The last flight out is scheduled for Thursday – weather permitting of course. But depending on conditions, that deadline could get extended, although once this weather window closes, it doesn't open again for 10 months.

At the Union Glacier camp the staff and crew are busy packing up and preparing to leave the Antarctic once again. It has been another long and challenging season as they support the teams out on the ice, and no doubt more than a few of them are feeling the loss of Henry. But they are also a very professional team, and they know that there is a job to do before they head home once again.

South Pole skier Emma Kelty is still trudging ahead, slowly but surely making her way towards her goal. She's running a bit behind schedule, and feeling the pinch of time slipping away, but is also doing her best to reach 90ºS before the season runs out. As of her most recent update, posted on Friday of last week, she still had two degrees to cover before she reaches her goal. That equates to 222 km (138 miles) which is an awful long way to cover with such little time left on the clock. Personally, I'm not sure how she gets it done before the deadline, but we'll watch closely and hope for the best.

At the end of last week she not only received a resupply, complete with all kinds of goodies to help get her to the finish line, but she is now skiing with a new guide too. Apparently her pervious guide – Carl Alvy – had to depart Antarctica, so a new guide – named Patchi – has stepped in to take his place. The duo are now pushing hard to reach the finish line, and we'll just have to wait to see if they make it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere Devon McDiarmid and Stew Edge arrived back at Union Glacier earlier today. You may recall, the two men skied to the South Pole along with Mostafa Salameh, and Shahrom Abdullah, reaching that point back on January 17. While their companions hopped a flight back home, Dev and Stew used kites to travel back to their starting point. Their final push was an 18-hour day that ended with their arrival at the ice camp, which means they managed to ski the full distance back in less than 9 days. That's pretty impressive to say the least. They'll now get a few days rest before flying out to Punta Arenas, Chile.

As you can see, the 2015 Antarctic season is quickly coming to an end. In another day or two things will be wrapping up for the season, with everyone heading home. Hopefully Emma gets a chance at reaching the South Pole. She's worked very hard to get there, but time is definitely no on her side.

Antarctica 2015: Worsley Approaching 89th Degree, Others Pushing Ahead

It continues to be a busy season at the bottom of the world, where the Antarctic teams are making their way slowly but surely towards the South Pole. Fresh snow and cold temperatures are testing their resolve at the moment, but most are in good spirits despite the tough conditions.

We'll start with an update on Henry Worsley, who has now been out on the ice for 46 days. As you probably recall, the British polar explorer is attempting the first solo and unsupported traverse of the continent, and despite a few weather set backs at the start of the journey, he seems to be steaming along nicely right now. At the moment, he is camped just one mile shy of the 89th degree, which means he is about 60 nautical miles from the Pole. He had initially hoped to reach 90ºS by New Years Day, and that might still be possible provided surface conditions and the weather cooperate. Right now, Henry says that things are going about as well as can be expected, and the skiing is a bit easier. If that continues over the course of the next four days, he may still reach the bottom of the world in time to celebrate the start of 2016.

Elsewhere, American solo-skier Doug Tumminello got a surprise supply drop a few days back. A Twin Otter aircraft operated by ALE flew overhead to and tossed out a package that contained a new teapot. The one he was carrying with him developed a crack, making it difficult to heat water and melt snow, and while the situation was manageable, it could have become serious if he found himself tent-bound due to poor weather with no way to create drinking water. The downside of receiving the package is that now Doug's expedition goes from solo and unsupported to supported, which is a minor distinction in the record books, but still an important one. Because he received outside assistance, he now has to give up the "unsupported" designation.

Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo continues to struggle with finding strong winds to pull his kites. He hasn't reported in since before Christmas, but at that time was hoping to reach the 75º so that he could hopefully get moving at a faster rate. He has already abandoned his attempt to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility, and is instead hoping to get to the Geographic South Pole instead, but it has been slow going for sure. At this point, he still has a lot of ground to cover before the season ends in a month.

Carl Alvey and Emma Kelty continue to push towards the Pole. A few days back they crossed their third degree, and picked up their first supply drop on Christmas Eve. Judging from the posted updates, it feels like the days are a real grind for Emma at the moment, although she continues to trudge ahead despite newly fallen snow making things difficult. The soft snow makes it much harder to glide on the skis, and most of explorers would prefer a harder surface so that they can go much further and faster on any given day.

Finally, the team of Devon McDiarmid, Stew Edge, Mostafa Salameh, Shahrom Abdullah remain on the trailing edge of the South Pole teams. They were the last squad to start, and have now been out on the ice for three weeks. Mostafa reports that over that time period he has already lost several kilos, as it is almost impossible to consume enough calories to maintain your weight when skiing to the South Pole. The group struggled with finding their rhythm early on, but they seem to be doing great now and working well with one another.

That's all for today. The next report isn't likely to come until after the New Year, but hopefully we'll have news of our first arrival at the South Pole by then.

Antarctica 2015: Sastrugi and Whiteouts Make for Tough Sledding

The skiers in the Antarctic continue to press on towards the South Pole, despite challenging surface and weather conditions. Most are preparing to celebrate the holidays out on the ice, as it has been a difficult season already, and they all have a long way to go before they reach their respective finish line. Here's a quick update on the proceedings.

Henry Worley has now crossed the 87th degree and has found himself in the middle of a massive sastrugi field. That's causing him to slow down some, but he's been making up for it by skiing a bit of extra time. On his 40th day out on the ice, he's feeling strong and confident however, which is about all you can ask for at this point of the journey. In his most recent dispatch, he reports that he is once again skiing in a whiteout, using just his GPS as a guide. Despite those challenges however, he continues to make good time, and still hopes to be at the South Pole for New Years. 

The team of Devon McDiarmid, Stew Edge, Mostafa Salameh, and Sharom Abdullah continue making progress towards the Pole as well. They're approaching the end of their second week on the ice, and seem to have started to get their rhythm at last. Yesterday they skied an impressive 27 km (16.2 km) in high winds, which bodes well for their reaching their finishing point in a timely fashion. They did have a rare encounter with a bird while out on the Antarctic expanse as well. It isn't often that any birds fly into the interior of the frozen continent, but the team spotted one nonetheless. At the moment, they're steaming towards their first supply cache as well, which will give them some extra food and fuel for the remainder of the journey. 

ExWeb is reporting ath Luke Robertson is having issues with his solar panels functioning properly, and as a result he is conserving power in his electronic devices. He is able to receive messages sent his way, but he is limiting the number that he is sending back out. As a result, we're not getting as much info on his progress. He is doing well however, and seems to be skiing with high spirits. 

American Doug Tumminello is steal dealing with foot blisters and soft snow, but is continuing to knock off solid distances. Yesterday he reported 20 nautical miles, which equates to about 37 km or 23 standard miles. He did have a scare when he thought he was starting to develop frostbite on his toes, but was able to warm them and avoid it, at least for now. He suspect wet socks may have contributed to numbness in his feet, and will work harder to ensure he dries his socks properly each night. 

Carl Alvy and Emma Kelty continue pressing forwards despite the fact that Emma has frostbite on her inner thighs. The pair received a medical supply drop a few days back to provide some relief for the condition, which is painful to say the least. The pair have been skiing nonstop for ten days now, without a rest, and their legs are feeling it. But they have a long way to go yet to reach the South Pole, so they have to focus on covering some distance, particularly since they are now trying to make up for some lost time in the early stages of the expedition. 

Finally, Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo has finally found some wind, and as a result he has started to make up for some lost time too. Surface conditions are still challenging, and because he struggled early on he'll now avoid going to the South Pole of Inaccessibility, but will focus on reaching the Geographic South Pole instead. But, he's happy to finally be making forward progress after such a difficult start. 

That's all for now. More to come soon. 

Antarctica 2015: Rest Day For Henry Worsley, Change in Route for One Skier

It has been another very long week for the Antarctic skiers. With all of the teams now out on the ice, and making their way to the South Pole, it was a time to simply focus on covering plenty of miles and making progress towards their goal. That was never easy though, as weather conditions continue to cause issues for just about everyone.

We'll start with an update on Brit Henry Worsley, who has now been skiing for 35 very long days with an awful long way yet to go before he is done. Today, Henry awoke to a bad stomach ache and weak physical condition. He tried to break camp and hit the trail despite not feeling well, but after ten minutes of effort, he decided it was best to stay in the tent instead. The rest day was much needed after battling the elements for more than a month, but he'll have to try to make up the mileage in the days ahead. Worsley now hopes to reach the Pole before New Year, which would give him approximately three and a half weeks to ski to his finishing point on the Shackleton Glacier. That is hardly assured at this point, but he is pressing ahead as best he can.

Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo has announced a change in route for his expedition. He had originally planned to ski to the Pole of Inaccessibility, but since he has had such difficulty catching the wind since his arrival on November 19, he has decided to forego that leg of his journey, and instead head straight to the Geographic South Pole instead. From there, he hopes to continue his traverse by skiing to Hercules Inlet.

Elsewhere, the international squad of Devon McDiarmid, Stew Edge, Mostafa Salameh, and Shahdom Abdullah are now a week into their expedition to the South Pole, and are still struggling to find their rhythm. Yesterday they skied in whiteout conditions for the entire time. Mostafa says that when the blizzard arrived overnight he couldn't sleep at all until he put some earplugs in. That helped to a degree, but skiing for eight hours in a sea of white frays the nerves and makes for a difficult day. He reports that everyone is in good spirits however, although they have already started to lose weight.

American solo-skier Doug Tumminello continues to press on towards the South Pole, although it has been far from easy. Almost since the beginning he has suffered from sore feat due to nasty blisters, but now that he has solved that issue, he's been dealing with whiteout conditions over the past few days. That has made progress tough, but he has managed to cross the 81st degree. With nine more still to go however, he didn't take any time to celebrate the accomplishment.

Scottish skier Luke Robertson is also caught in the whiteout. He reports poor conditions for the past few days, including heavy snowfall. Fresh snow is troublesome for the skiers, as it make it much harder to pull their sleds. The packed, icy surface is much better for covering distances.

Finally, Emma Kelty, traveling with guide Carl Alvy, is also experiencing whiteouts. She says that skiing by compass can be incredibly disorienting, even throwing the balance off. But they continue to make good progress, knocking off 9.34 nautical miles (17.3 km/10.75 miles) in just 6 hours of skiing. That is a great pace, and should have the team at the Pole in no time if they manage to get some good weather along the way.

That's all for today's update. We'll check in with the skiers next week to see how they are progressing.

Antarctica 2014: Final Team Safely Back at Union Glacier

Yesterday I noted that the final Antarctic ski team had reached the finish line at Hercules Inlet after skiing for 74 days straight. Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel, along with guide Are Johnson, had set out from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf back in November and had managed to traverse the Antarctic continent via the South Pole. By the time they wrapped up their journey yesterday they had covered 2045 km (1270 miles), pushing through the last 45 km (28 miles) in a grueling 18 hour dash to the end. The trio had been racing against the clock to catch the last plane out, and fortunately they had made it just in time.

When they reached Hercules yesterday the trio of skiers were exhausted, weak, and hungry. Low on supplies, all they could do was crawl into their tent, rest, and wait for a plane to come pick them up. That happened earlier today when they were plucked from the ice and flown safely back to the camp and Union Glacier. According to their final dispatch they arrived just in time to enjoy a fine pancake breakfast. Something I'm sure was greatly appreciated.

Stéphanie, Jérémie, and Are now await a flight back to Punta Arenas, Chile, which will bring an end to their Antarctic adventure. That flight could come as early as today depending on weather conditions. Their departure from the frozen continent will bring an end to the current season there, as the weather will now take a turn for the worse, making travel impossible. But as I write this, other explorers and adventurers are already planning for the next Antarctic expedition season, which will get underway in November of this year.

The 2014 season was a relatively quiet one compared to recent years. But still, there were some terrific milestones achieved. In addition to the impressive traverse from this trio, we also saw Frédérick Dion kite-ski to the Pole of Inaccessibility before continuing on to the South Pole as well. Frédérick would eventually traverse the continent too, using the wind to pull him along. Equally impressive was Newall Hunter's efforts in the Antarctic. He managed to complete a solo-ski to the South Pole before heading over to Mt. Vinson to summit that peak while he was in the neighborhood. Not a bad effort on his part either.

Now, the curtain falls on the 2014 season and we'll turn our attention elsewhere. It is a bit of a quiet time in the world of outdoor adventure, but the spring Himalaya climbing season looms, and it should be a good one.

Antarctica 2014: Faysal at the South Pole!

There was surprise news out of the Antarctic today, where kite-skier Faysal Hanneche has checked in from the South Pole, bringing an end to his very long, and sometimes frustrating expedition. Faysal set off from Russian Novo station back on November 14, and has struggled mightily with poor surface conditions, incredibly bad weather, and a lack of wind for much of his journey. After two months out on the ice, he is now on his way back home.

I've been following Faysal's progress in my regular Antarctic updates ever since he got underway. In recent days however he did not share his daily distances, and while reading his reports is seemed that he was not covering the mileage that he had hoped for. This led me to believe that he was still a very long way from the Pole. In fact, his last mention of any distance was back on January 7, when he indicated that he still had 674 km (418 miles) to go. It seems he was making great progress after all, and was able to reach his destination with plenty of time to spare.

Faysal reports that he reached the Scott-Amundsen station at 11 PM French time last evening. He was greeted by the crew there, and welcomed inside the station, where he was able to get a warm meal and some rest. His stay at 90ºS will be a short one however, as he reports that he'll fly back to Union Glacier today, where he'll soon catch a flight back to Punta Arenas, Chile as well.

Congratulations to Faysal on completing this long and difficult journey. He rarely had anything go in his favor on this trip, and I'm sure it is a huge relief for him to now be done.

Meanwhile, the trio of Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel are back on the trail today. After a resupply, their sleds are heavier than they have been, but the clock is ticking on their return journey from the Pole, and they must now average 40 km (24.8 miles) per day to reach their end point in time to catch the final flight off the continent. That will be a tall order, but today they managed to hit that number exactly after 11 hours of skiing. The next two weeks are going to be incredibly tough for this team, but if they can reach Hercules Inlet before January 28, they'll become one of the few squads to ski to the South Pole and back again. The race is on.

That's it for today. The Antarctic season is nearly at an end, with just some climbing teams on Vinson to follow and one or two teams still skiing. Updates on the season will be more infrequent now that there is less to report, but I'll still follow the progress of those last explorers and post about their final push to the end.

Antarctic 2014: Faysal Still Waiting for the Wind, Newall on to Vinson

The number of teams to report on in the Antarctic has now dropped considerably. Most of the squads have wrapped up their expeditions by now, and are heading home. But there is still a few weeks to go before the frozen continent shuts down for the season, and there are still a few teams trying to accomplish their goals out on the ice.

As expected, the four-person team led by Robert Smith that included Paula Reid reached the South Pole over the weekend. The group reached 90ºS on Saturday at about 5:20 PM local time. Traveling along the Messner Route, the squad took 46 days to cover the 890 km (553 mile) journey. There has been no update since their arrival, but if the weather has held as expected, the group should be back at Union Glacier by now, and preparing to fly to Punta Arenas to start their trip home.

Meanwhile, kite-skier Faysal Hanneche continues to struggle on his expedition. He began at the Russian Novo station and has been trying to make his way to the South Pole, but the winds have simply not cooperated in recent days. In his most recent dispatch, Faysal talks about how he had to ski without aid all day, only to make camp and have the wind pick up. Hoping to cover some distance, he quickly broke camp once again, only to find that in the low light he wasn't able to make out the sastrugis or other surface obstacles. After falling twice in 500 meters, he decided to call it a day, and made camp once again.

It is clear that Faysal is starting to feel frustrated. He had intended to kite ski to the Pole, but without wind, his plan has not come together as he had hoped. As a result, he still has hundreds of kilometers to go before he is done, and the deadline for the season is closing fast. To make matters worse, he still hasn't raised all of the money he needs to get a return flight off the continent. According to ExWeb, he has set up a fund raiser page here to do jus that. He needs to come up with 3000 euro ($3530) in order to get a flight back to South America.

Newall Hunter wrapped up his solo expedition to the South Pole last week, but he isn't done with the Antarctic just yet. He has since moved over to Mt. Vinson, where he has already climbed up to Camp 2 in his attempt to summit that mountain. If the weather holds and he is feeling physically fit enough, a summit bid is likely by this coming weekend.

Finally, Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel took a rest day yesterday as they geared up for their final push back to the coast. They have already skied to the South Pole, and are now on their return journey back to Hercules Inlet. They now have 14 days to wrap up their expedition, and still have 570 km (354 miles) left to go. That means they have to ski 40 km (24.8 miles) each and every day just to get to their end point on time. That's a tall order, particularly when they are already exhausted, and they have not been hitting those distances with consistency in recent days. Hopefully the rest day will give them the energy they need to cover the final portion of their journey.

January 28 is the absolute last day to catch a plane out of the Antarctic. If the teams have not finished by then, they will have to be picked up where they are at, and taken off the ice. That leaves them just two weeks to finish. The clock is ticking, and for several of these explorers it is going to be a tough push to the end.

Antarctica 2014: Two More Teams Arrive at the South Pole

The number of teams skiing to the South Pole has been reduced by two, as more skiers arrive at 90ºS. With the end of the Antarctic expedition season nearly in sight, things are starting to wrap up at the bottom of the world, and while it is almost time to pack it in again for another year, there are still a few hardy souls out on the ice.

Earlier this week, Ian Evans and his squad reached the South Pole, arriving at about 5:45 PM local time on Tuesday, January 6. The team, which also consisted of guide Keith Heger, and Brits Andy Styles and Bradely Cross, made the journey along the Messner Route, covering some 890 km (553 miles) in the process. The team set off on November 24, which means it took them almost exactly 44 days to finish the sojourn across the ice.

In his final report, Ian says that he is now the oldest Canadian to ski to the South Pole. He also indicates that there was no major outpouring of emotion when they reached the finish line, just a numb feeling and a sense of relief that the journey was over at last. He reports that he and his teammates are completely exhausted, with no energy left in the tank. Fortunately, he has already flown out to Union Glacier, and should be on his way back to Punta Arenas, Chile soon as well.

They're not the only team to wrap up their South Pole excursion this week. The four-person squad that includes Paula Reid should finish their journey today as well. As of last night, the team was just 14.5 km (9 miles) from the Scott-Amundsen station, which they reported seeing before clouds set in. That means they should finish early today, and could potentially catch a flight out to Union Glacier this afternoon too. The weather is predicted to take a turn for the worse however, so they may ended up stranded at the Pole for a few days instead.

Congratulations to each of these men and women. Skiing to the South Pole is quite an accomplishment, and each of them should be very proud of their efforts.

Meanwhile, Faysal Hanneche continues to struggle, with the wind. The kite-skier has not had much luck in having strong gusts to help pull him to the Pole, and as a result, he still has hundreds of miles to cover before he is done. As of his last report, Faysal indicated that he still had 674 km (419 miles) to go before he is done, and with time running short, that may be a tall order. If the winds turn in his favor, that is more than doable, but considering how much he has struggled so far, a successful end to his expedition is not guaranteed.

Sastrugis are not helping his cause any either. Faysal also reports that he has been battling the ice ridges that accumulate on the surface for the past few days too, and they have taken their toll as well. Going over or around the sastrugi can be time consuming and energy sapping work, which is coupled with the frustration of frequently falling down. Still, Henneche continues to press ahead and is determined to give his best effort until the very end.

Finally, the team of Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel continue to steam along on their return trip to Hercules Inlet from the South Pole. They are now on Day 55 of their expedition, and have covered another 35.5 km (22 miles). They report that the weather has warmed some, allowing the trio to ski without the need for wind jackets today. They hope to reach their final supply depot in the next few days, and after that it will be clear sailing back to the coast. They're also racing against the clock to a degree, but considering how well they are moving, it seems that they will be in a good position to wrap up the expedition before the season closes at the end of the month. 

That's all from the Antarctic for today. Soon there will be only a few teams left to report on. I'll still keep updating on their progress. 

Antarctica 2014: Frédérick Dion Completes Antarctic Traverse

We have another update from the Antarctic today, where one explorer has made history, and others continue to inch closer to their ultimate destination at the South Pole. It now appears that within the next few days the number of expeditions that we'll be following will drop significantly, as the end of another season looms at the bottom of the world.

We'll start with an update on Canadian kite-skier Frédérick Dion, who has now reached the Antarctic coast at Hercules Inlet after more than 54 days out on the ice. During that time, he has traveled from the Russian Novo Station to the Pole of Inaccessibility, then on to the Geographic South Pole, and back to the coastline. His route has covered 3620 km (2250 miles), as he set four speed records along the way.

The expedition was not an easy one for Frédérick, especially in the final day. According to his home team, the explorer kite-skied for 24 hours and 53 minutes straight, covering an unbelievable 627 km (389 miles) in the process. During that time, he managed to catch winds that exceeded 100 km/h (60 mph), which can be extremely dangerous for a kiter.

Apparently, the expedition wrapped up over this past weekend, and Fréd has already caught a plane back out to Punta Arenas, Chile on Sunday. That means he is off the ice and headed back to Canada for a much-deserved rest.

Congratulations to Fréd on an amazing expedition through one of the harshest and most challenging environments on the planet.

Meanwhile, elsewhere two other teams are fast approaching the South Pole. Yesterday I indicated that Ian Evans' squad should reach 90ºS any day now, and while we continue to wait for word of their arrival, another team is closing in on the end too. The four-person group that includes Paula Reid has crossed the last degree and is now making its way to the finish line too. They expect to arrive sometime on Friday, wrapping up their journey at long last.

With those teams quickly approaching the end, that will leave just solo kite-skier Faysal Hanneche and the team of Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel out on the ice. Faysal continues to press on towards the South Pole after struggling to make meaningful progress early on. But the winds seem to have turned in his favor, and he has picked up the speed in recent days with a sense of urgency in his movements. Meanwhile, Are, Stéphanie, and Jérémie have already been to the South Pole and are now skiing back to their starting point on the coastline. They are making good progress, but have a long way to go until they are done too. The next few weeks should prove interesting as these remaining explorers race the clock to the end.

That's all for today. More updates as the news warrants it.

Antarctica 2014: Newall Hunter at The South Pole!

The Antarctic expedition season is starting to draw to close, with just a few more weeks to go before it wraps up for another year. While it hasn't been quite as active on the frozen continent has it has been in recent years, there have still been some tremendous efforts put forth by the skiers heading to the South Pole, and elsewhere. While most of us enjoyed the arrival of the New Year with friends and family, the explorers in the Antarctic have continued to press ahead towards their goals. That includes one skier completing his journey at last, while others are starting to draw near as well. 

Yesterday, solo-skier Newall Hunter arrived at the South Pole after spending 40 days out on the ice. He wrapped up his journey at approximately 3:30 AM local time, which mean he reached 90ºS only to find the entire research station there asleep. Fortunately one of the liaison officers noticed his arrival, and actually went out into the cold to meet him and snap a few photos. Newall than went inside where he found some cookies, a Coke, and a comfortable chair waiting for him. It was the first time he had sat down on a piece of furniture since he set out on his journey. He now plans to fly back to Union Glacier later today, and then wait for a flight to Punta Arenas, Chile before heading home. 

Congratulations to Newall on a job well done. He managed to ski from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in just 40 days. That's a solid effort to say the least.

Meanwhile, Ian Evans reports that his team is nearing the end of their journey as well. As of Friday, when he made his last dispatch, the squad was a mere 49 miles (79 km) from the Pole, which means they could arrive as early as today. That arrival won't come soon enough, as Ian has indicated that the expedition has taken its toll, and he is feeling physically worn down from the challenges of skiing for hundreds of kilometers across the harsh, unforgiving landscape that is the Antarctic. 

Elsewhere, kite-skier Frédérick Dion is on the final approach to Hercules Inlet, and is picking up speed in the process. In his most recent dispatch, Fréd reports that he covered 190 km (118 miles) in a single day, which left him just 410 km (254 miles) to go before he is done. That report came last Friday, which means if the winds held over the weekend, he could very well be back on the coast today or tomorrow. Hercules Inlet will mark the end of a remarkable journey for the Canadian, who began by first traveling to the Pole of Inaccessibility from the Russian Novo Station, then proceeding on to the Geographic South Pole, before heading back to the coast at Hercules. It will certainly have been quite a whirlwind tour of the Antarctic. 

Fellow kite-skier Faysal Hanneche is finding the winds blowing more favorably for him in recent days as well. After struggling through the early stages of the journey, he is now picking up speed greatly. In his latest dispatch he indicates that he covered 125 km (77 miles) in single day, which is a massive increase over what he has been doing previously. With the clock ticking on the Antarctic season, he needs to continue to capture these winds, as he still has quite a long way to go before he is done. He has however, passed the point of receiving assistance from his logistics company operating out of Novo. That means that if he reaches the South Pole, he'll have done so unassisted, something that he can be greatly proud of. 

Finally, the trio of Are Johnson and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel are now 52 days into their expedition and are on the return trip from the South Pole back to the coast. Today they picked up their second re-supply, and enjoyed some fine snacks and treats as a result. The return journey is going much better as they are now heading down hill. As a result, they skied 41 km (25 miles) today, and are feeling very strong and in good spirits. 

That's all from the Antarctic today. More updates soon. 

Antarctica 2014: Skier Evacuated From the Ice

I'll be making just a few posts today as we head into a long post-holiday weekend. But there are a few stories that I want to share none the less, including some updates from Antarctica where one skier has called for an evacuation. 

ExWeb is reporting that Swiss skier Vincent Piguot, who is traveling to the South Pole with a guided team, has asked to be picked up from the ice. Vincent is part of a group that includes guide Robert Smith, and teammates Paula Reid, Arabella Slinger, and Julian Thomas. According to the report, Vincent isn't in an emergency situation, he simply can't take the grind that comes along with skiing for miles across the frozen landscapes of the Antarctic day in and day out. The team has stopped for a few days to wait for a plane to come pick him up, while the rest of the group will continue on towards 90ºS. 

Elsewhere, Frédérick Dion continues his journey to Hercules Inlet. After visiting both the Pole of Inaccessibility and the Geographic South Pole, he now heading towards the coast, where he will complete his traverse of the Antarctic continent which began at the Russian Novo Station. A few days ago he managed to knock off 143 km (88 miles) in a single day, and as of his last update, he had about 607 km (377 miles) yet to go. Yesterday he enjoyed the New Year with a rest, but he should be back on the trail today. 

Fellow kite-skier Faysal Henneche continues to struggle to catch the wind however, although he has now elected to try a different strategy. Faysal is attempted to use longer ropes on his kite, with the hope that it will allow him to float the sail a bit higher, and pick up some breezes that have eluded him so far. This brings some risks with it, but at this point of the expedition he is more concerned with making progress. As of his most recent dispatch, Faysal should have crossed the 80th degree by now, which means he still has 10 degrees to go before he is done. That is still a long way to travel, and the days of the Antarctic season are starting to run short. 

That's all for today. Next week I'll get back to a regular posting schedule, and share updates on more of the skiers in the Antarctic. 

Antarctica 2014: Frédérick on the Home Stretch, Others Press Forward

It has been another busy couple of days in the Antarctic, where the teams of skiers continue to press on towards their goal despite difficult and trying circumstances. The South Pole has now seen several visitors this season, but others are still heading towards the bottom of the world as quickly as they can.

We already knew that the trio of Are Johnson, and Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel had reached the South Pole in time to celebrate Christmas. They arrived at 90ºS on Christmas Eve, and after spending a day recharging their batteries, the team has already struck out on their return journey to the coast. They have an additional 1100 km (683 miles) to cover on their way back to where they started, so while they were happy to reach the Pole, it was only the halfway point of the expedition.

Since resuming their journey Are, Stéphanie, and Jérémie have encountered poor surface conditions, with lots of soft snow, which has made for tough going. Additionally, they received a resupply at the South Pole, so now their sleds are very heavy once again. That said, the return journey should be an easier and faster one, as they will be traveling down hill, and over ground that they are already familiar with. Still, they are feeling the physical demands of the expedition more than ever, and it is going to be a long, slow haul to get back to the coast.

Canadian kite-skier Frédérick Dion also reached the South Pole, arriving at that point on Christmas Day. It took him nine days to travel the more than 800 km (500 miles) from the Pole of Inaccessibility to 90ºS, and while he was happy to add another milestone to his journey, Fréd isn't quite finished yet. He has already started on his journey to Hercules Inlet along the coast, which will be his final destination for what has been a long and difficult journey. He hopes to wrap up the final leg of the expedition in just five days, which would put him at Hercules by tomorrow. The winds will need to be working in his favor for that to happen, but even if he doesn't nab that record, there are several others he has the potential to set, including the fastest traverse ever. We'll have to see what his final numbers will be, but it looks like he'll wrap up the expedition later this week.

Fellow kite-skier Faysal Hanneche continues to press on towards the South Pole as well, although he hasn't found the winds to be quite so helpful as Frédérick. It has been slow going for sure, and often he is reduced to skiing without the use of his kite. Faceless last dispatch came on December 24, a day during which he only covered 6 km (3.7 miles). Frustration and exhaustion seem to be his biggest challenges, and with a long way to go before he is done, it isn't clear yet whether or not he'll actually reach 90ºS. Hopefully the winds will turn beneficial once again, and he can start covering longer distances at last.

Solo skier Newall Hunter is closing in on the Pole, and should arrive there sometime within the next week. As of yesterday, he had just 150 km (93 miles) to go until the finish, and since he is covering approximately 25 km (15 miles) per day, that would put him at the Pole around January 3 or so. It won't be easy covering those final miles however, as he too reports soft snow, which is making it harder to pull the sled. Still, he is just 34 days into this journey, and making great progress. Reaching the end in about 40 days would be an impressive accomplishment for sure.

Ian Evans and his team crossed the 88th degree this past weekend, inching them ever closer to the South Pole. He reports that the 60 nautical miles (111 km) between the 87th and 88th degree were by far the toughest of the journey. Not only did they continue to climb up the Polar Plateau, but they encountered plenty of sastrugi along the way. These hard ridges of packed snow and ice are obstacles that must be overcome by the skiers, as they make progress incredibly difficult and slow. Still, they hope to reach the finish line in another week or so as well, provided everything continues on schedule.

That's all from the Antarctic for today. More updates coming later in the week.