Showing posts with label South Pole. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Pole. Show all posts

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.

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: Mike Horn Waits for Pick-Up

It seems that the 2016 Antarctic season is the one that never ends. On more than one occasion when I've posted updates recently I've said that the end is in sight. But, there is still one man out on the ice, and he is struggling to reach the finish line, where he won't find his lift off the frozen continent waiting for him after all.

Swedish explorer Mike Horn is the lone skier still making his way across the Antarctic. As you probably recall, Horn is in the midst of making a traverse of the continent via the South Pole using kite skis. He has completed nearly the entire journey, but hasn't quite reached the far side of the Antarctic just yet. But when he does, his time on the ice won't quite be over as he had expected.

While all of the other South Pole skiers have received outside assistance from a logistics company like ALE, Horn was dropped off on the coastline by his own ship, the Pangaea, which then planned to sail to the far side of the continent and wait for him. In fact, the ship was in place just last week, waiting for Mike to wrap up his traverse, which was hampered by either a lack of winds or whiteout conditions. But according to Mike, the Pangaea suffered an electrical failure and was forced to sail for Tasmania for repairs. That means that when he does arrive back at the coast in another day or two, the ship won't be there waiting for him after all.

Progress over the past week or so has been slow. Some days, all Horn can do is sit in place as the weather howls around him. The winds have been so rough that they have torn one of his kites – which he has since repaired – and left him unable to proceed. He hasn't posted an update since Sunday, but the online tracker on his website shows progress and it seems that Mike is now just a short distance from the coast. How long he'll have to wait for a pick-up remains to be seen however.

The austral winter is now starting to close in, and conditions will soon take a turn for the worse. Horn should still have time to get off the continent, and he is nearly at the coast. But, temperatures will be dropping dramatically in the days ahead and the storms will only become more powerful. Hopefully he won't have to wait too long for his ride.

We'll keep an eye on things and watch how the last few days of his expedition develop. Hopefully he'll be safely retrieved from the ice soon. For now though, he is safe and pressing forward as planned.

Antarctica 2016: And Then There Was One...

The 2016 Antarctic season is all but over. Only one skier remains out on the ice, as everyone else has wrapped up their expeditions and headed home. And true to form, the frozen continent has already started to make things more difficult, with colder temperatures, blizzard-like conditions, and thankfully for this explorer, howling winds.

Mike Horn is still working on completing his traverse of the Antarctic continent. He reports that the winds returned with a vengeance yesterday, saying they are the strongest he's encountered yet. Considering the fact that he is kite skiing, having strong winds is better than no winds at all. Propelled along by these gusts, he's now 92 km (57 miles) closer to his goal, but he still has 430 km (267 miles) yet to go before he reaches the coastline, and the safety of his ship, the Pangaea.

In his most recent update, Horn says that he has been facing a constant battle with the winds, which have helped get his kites in the air, but haven't always been cooperative. Any kite-skier will tell you that you want strong winds, but not too strong, as they can be unruly and difficult to maneuver in. That's what the Swiss explorer has been dealing with over the past few days, coupled with large sastrugi on the surface that have made things interesting as well.

As you may recall, Mike is attempting to circumnavigate the globe via the poles, and this is just the first of his major ice cap crossings. Once he reaches his ship, he'll actually set sail for New Zealand and Australia, before heading north to the Arctic. But, there is still plenty of work to be done before he leaves the Antarctic.

Depending on wind conditions and how well he can work the kite, Horn could reach the coast line in as few as two days. But, if he manages to maintain the pace he has had over the past couple of days, he's more likely to finish around the end of the week. Should the winds disappear however, that time could extend further.

We'll continue to follow Mike's progress until he's off the ice. That shouldn't be too much longer, but his adventure isn't over just yet. The Antarctic summer is quickly coming to an end though, and he'll be departing just in the nick of time it seems.

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: 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.

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.

Antarctica 2016: Johanna Davidsson at the Pole and in Record Time!

Before taking a hiatus for the holidays last Friday, I posted a story about Swedish adventurer Johanna Davidsson, who was on the verge of reaching the South Pole, and breaking the speed record for a female skier to reach that point on the planet. Now, we can confirm that she has indeed completed that stage of her journey, and has established a new mark for the fastest time from Hercules Inlet to 90ºS by a woman.

In the original story that I posted, I wrote that Johanna was aiming to reach the South Pole by December 25 – Christmas Day. Instead, she crossed the finish line on December 24, which mean that her journey took 38 days, 23 hours, and 5 minutes. That's 10 full hours faster than Hannah McKeand did it back in 2006.

ExWeb reports that for Johanna, this was a completely unexpected record. It was never part of her plan to set a ski to the Pole in such a quick time, and had originally told the website that she planned on a 50 day journey. Instead, she found that her training and gear were more than up to the task, and while conditions were challenging at times, she was able to cover further distances than she had originally intended on daily basis.

The final stretch wasn't an easy one however. Whiteout conditions made skiing a challenge, and the snow was soft enough that it slowed Johanna's progress. But, she pushed on with her goal in sight, and was able to finish one very long day of skiing to make it the research station located at the bottom of the world, where she was welcomed by the staff there with a hot meal and champaign.

The journey isn't quite done just yet however. She'll rest briefly at the Pole before turning around and heading back to her starting point at Hercules Inlet. If she's successful, she'll become the first Swede to complete the round-trip journey.

Congrats to Johanna on an amazing job setting a new speed record. We'll be following along as you head back to the coast.

Antarctica 2016: Solo Skier Johanna Davidsson Closes in on the Pole and a New Record

Yesterday I posted an update from the Antarctic during which I shared info on a couple of expeditions I hadn't written about before, and made some quick updates on several of the skiers making their way to the South Pole. But one of the skiers I failed to post an update on was Swedish adventurer Johanna Davidsson, who is now closing in on polar history at the bottom of the world.

As of now, Johanna is just 57km (35 miles) from reaching Pole, which is still a daunting distance of course. But, in recent days she has been skiing as much as 35 km (21 miles) per day, which means that if she manages to put in a solid effort, she should reach 90ºS on Christmas Day. As quickly and as efficiently as she has been moving, that seems like a real possibility at this point.

As ExWeb points out, if she does manage to complete the journey by December 25 Johanna will set a new speed record for a woman skiing solo along the traditional Hercules Inlet to the South Pole route, which covers a distance of 1130 km (702 miles). The current record is held by British skier Hannah McKeand, and stands at 39 days, 9 hours, and 33 minutes. Since Johanna started on November 15, she even has a few days to spare and could beat that record rather soundly.

Obviously she still has quite a bit of distance to cover, and this record isn't int he bag yet. In fact, it wasn't even part of her original plan. She had just hoped to ski to the South Pole and hopefully kite-ski back to Hercules if time permitted. It seems like she should be able to do that if she still wants to. Reaching the Pole by Christmas gives her plenty of time for the return trip.

The days in the Antarctic can be long and tedious, with little to break up the monotony of skiing. Most of the skiers look forward to Christmas as they typically have saved a few special treats to enjoy on that day, and perhaps even a present or two. But for Johanna, it could mean something even more special. The completion of the first leg of her journey and a celebration at one of the most remote places on Earth.

Stay tuned!

Antarctica 2016: New Route to the South Pole and Longest Expedition by Snowmobile

As the week draws to a close, and I begin thinking about shutting the Adventure Blog down for the holidays, I wanted to take one more opportunity to update readers on the progress of the teams currently making their way across Antarctica towards the South Pole, and other destinations on the frozen continent. It is shaping up to be a very interesting season at the bottom of the world, where in addition to the usual array of South Pole skiers, we continue to have some unique expeditions charting new ground.

One such expedition is unfolding as we speak, as a team of three polar explorers – Keith Tuffley, Rob Smith, and Eric Phillips – are working to open a new route to the South Pole via the Reedy Glacier. This remote, and largely unexplored section of Antarctica stretches for 160 km (100 miles), descending off the Polar Plateau and onto the Ross Ice Shelf. This area has mostly only been surveyed from the ski, with few humans actually putting their boots onto the ice, but it the route that these three men have chosen to make their way to 90ºS.

Keith, Rob, and Eric set out for Antarctica back on December 5, and began skiing on December 7. They spent the first two weeks of the trip traversing the glacier with some of the most stunning views on the continent. The sweeping ice and snow from Reedy feeds into the Ross Ice Shelf of course, but the team has also been traveling in the shadow of the Transantarctic Mountain Range as well, which has provided lots of beautiful scenery for them to enjoy. That isn't always common in the Antarctic, where most skiers see an endless plane of snow and ice with little change in scenery to break things up.

A few days ago, the trio wrapped up their crossing of the Reedy Glacier and have now moved onto the Polar Plateau. Their next goal is to reach the South Pole, but as of now they are focused in on passing the 87th degree. Three more to go until they're done, and a new route to the South Pole has been opened. From the sound of the team's dispatches, it has been a challenging one, with plenty of high winds, low visibility, crevasse fields, and sastrugi. In other words, business as usual in the Antarctic.

Meanwhile, ExWeb has the scoop on another Antarctic expedition that is about to get underway. A team of four adventurers that include Patrick Degerman, Pekka Ojanpää, Mika Listala, and Jón ólafur Magnusson are about to embark on a 4280 km (2659 mile) journey to the South Pole on four snowmobiles. The men will depart from Novo Station and follow a straight line along a road of sorts that has been taken by other vehicles in the past. They plan to be self supported out on the ice, and will not have a support vehicle with them at all. Instead, they'll drive independently to the Pole and then return to Novo to wrap up the journey.

Along the way they'll make nine supply drops with food and fuel, as well as one depot to refuel the snowmobiles as well. Each man is bringing about 80kg (176 pounds) of personal gear as well, including down jackets, an intense layering system, tents, sleeping bags, and so on. Their journey can be followed at

As for the other teams currently out on the ice, here are a few quick updates. The British Military team as topped out on the Polar Plateau and are nearing the Pole, but are finding it tough going. The combination of fatigue, altitude, and heavy sleds has them working very hard, even as they near the end of the expedition. They are still a number of days from the finish line, but it is now in sight and they seem happy for it.

Mike Horn is off and running, having covered 66 km (41 miles) yesterday using his kite to ski along at a brisk pace. It isn't an easy journey so far however, as their are still obstacles to overcome. At one point he lost a ski while traveling at a rapid pace, and had to find a way to come to a stop, avoid getting hit by is sled, and return to find the missing ski. Fortunately it all worked out, but it has been a wild start to his Antarctic traverse via the Pole.

Emma Kelty has crossed the 87th degree and now has three more togo before she reaches 90ºS. She's dealing with a massive sastrugi field at the moment, which is common at this portion of the journey. Once she reaches 88ºS things should start to smooth out and get better, but that will seem like a long way off at this point.

Finally, Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo has once again had to abort his expedition to the South Pole. In a message posted on his Facebook page that said he faced technical issues that would prevent him from having the time he needed to complete the journey and give search and rescue teams a safe window to retrieve him should the need arise. He is no doubt awaiting extraction now and planning on departing the frozen continent as soon as possible.

That's all for now. More updates as we get important news.

Antarctica 2016: One Skier Abandons South Pole Attempt, Another Gets Underway

As we approach the first full day of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, down south the Antarctic skiers continue to press on towards their goals. The current South Pole ski season has been underway for more than six weeks, and the faster teams are now starting to near the finish line, although there is still some miles yet to be covered before they are through. But the big news this week is that one skier has abandon his attempt to ski to 90ºS, while another is now on his way to that point.

One of the expeditions that we've been following closely this season is that of sit-skier Aron Anderson, a paraplegic who was attempting to travel to the South Pole. But unfortunately, Aron was forced to abort that attempt last week when he took ill. He had been suffering from a stomach bug that was zapping his strength, and after 20 days of struggle, he finally felt it was best to end the full distance expedition. ExWeb says that he may still try to reach the South Pole however, but will ski the last degree instead, provided his health allows.

Meanwhile, Mike Horn is now officially underway on his kite-ski expedition to the South Pole. So far, the winds have been favorable, helping him to cover solid distances in a relatively short period of time. Just yesterday alone he managed to cover 45 km (28 miles), but had a scare when he broke through a snow bridge, which put a bit of a scare into him. For now, he is proceeding with caution as he makes his way through the early stages of the journey. Remember, Horn will be traversing the continent as he continues his attempt to circumnavigate the world via the Poles.

Elsewhere, the six-man British Military team is now closing in on the South Pole. They estimate they could be just one week away from reaching that point. After 34 days out on the ice, the squad is now nearing the top of the Polar Plateau, and even though they've been covering excellent distances, they expect the pace to pick up nicely over the next few days as well. Yesterday, the group crossed the 88th degree, which means just two degrees remain until they are at the bottom of the world.

Emma Kelty continues to press on towards the Pole as well, and now she is racing a deadline. She has said that if she doesn't reach the Pole by the New Year she might not be able to complete her return journey back to the coast. Right now, that looks like it could be tough, although it isn't out of reach just yet. First, she'll need to get past the 86th and 87th degrees, which are home to a large sastrugi field, which will obviously test her strength and commitment.

Johanna Davidsson reports that temperatures have dropped dramatically as she has climbed higher in altitude. At the moment, she says that it is -35ºC (-31ºF), although inside the tent is is quite warm. She has now been out on the ice for 36 days, and while it has been a challenge, she seems to be enjoying herself quite a bit. When she reaches the South Pole, she also intends to kite-ski back to Hercules Inlet, so she is racing the clock to a degree as well. 

The other skiers currently on the ice are making good progress in a variety of weather conditions. Most are still lagging a bit behind these skiers, but they are on track to reach 90ºS well before the end of the season in January. For now though, the press forward each day, and will soon celebrate the holidays on the frozen continent. 

More updates to follow as we learn more. 

Quiz: How Much Do You Know Bout Polar Exploration?

If you're a fan of polar exploration like I am, and enjoy the history that surrounds the famous expeditions that ventured into those remote places, we have a real treat for you today. National Geographic has posted a fun quiz designed to test your knowledge, and perhaps teach you a thing or two at the same time. As someone who writes about the history of polar exploration from time to time, I still picked up a couple of nuggets of information along the way. There are ten questions in total, and I managed to score an 8. Not bad, but still room for improvement. Take the quiz below and see how you fare.

Antarctica 2016: Celebrating 50 Years of Mountaineering on the Frozen Continent

There isn't a lot to discuss today in terms of progress for the South Pole skiers since I posted an update yesterday. Presumably, explorer Mike Horn has started his traverse of the Antarctic continent, although he hasn't posted a dispatch as of yet. Meanwhile the other teams have put another day of hard work out on the ice behind them as they inch ever closer to their goals. But that doesn't mean there aren't interesting stories to share today as well, including an article that looks back at the history of mountaineering at the bottom of the world and a somber visit to the Antarctic by the family of a fallen hero.

First up, I wanted to share a rather interesting story that comes our way from the Adventure Travel Trade Association. The ATTA publishes a website called Adventure Travel News that mainly focuses on information that is of interest to its members. But, yesterday the site also posted an article entitled "Celebrating 50 Years of Antarctic Mountaineering," which takes a look back at the milestones for climbing on the frozen continent. That story begins with a 1966 American expedition that included alpinists Pete Schoening, Bill Long, John Evans, and Barry Corbet. That team went to the Antarctic to knock off the four highest peaks there, including Mount Vinson, the tallest mountain on the continent at 4892 meters (16,050 ft).

That might not seem like an incredibly high altitude when we routinely discuss expeditions to the Himalaya and Karakoram on this blog, but back in 1966 just getting to the start of the climb was a logistical challenge. On top of that, when you add in the extreme latitude of Vinson, it actually ends up climbing like a much taller mountain. And of course, the high winds and brutal temperatures experienced there create a challenge unlike any other.

As the article points out, climbing in Antarctica remained a strictly private affair for a couple more decades. It wasn't until 1983, when Dick Bass and Frank Wells climbed the mountain as part of the original Seven Summits bid, that anyone thought about making a commercial climb up the mountain. In 1986, those operations began as more people sought Seven Summit goals.

Over the years, Adventure Network International – now Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions – handled the organization of most of those teams, and continues to do so today. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first mountaineering expedition to the continent, ALE has organized five different climbs on Vinson this year. The first one completed last week, and the second is already underway and scheduled to wrap up on December 18. The three reaming expeditions will begin on December 18, December 29, and January 9 respectively.

Explorers Web has one other story of interest today. As you may recall, last year British polar explorer Henry Worsley lost his life in an attempt to ski solo and unassisted to the South Pole and back to his starting point on the coast. At the time, he was the hoping to become the first person to accomplish that feat, setting out with a sled filled with 150 kg (330 pounds) of gear and supplies. But, unfortunately he was never able to complete that mission, as he took ill while out on the ice. An emergency evacuation team picked him up and flew him to Chile, where he later passed away in a hospital there. It remains a truly sad story from a place that has has always been incredibly brutal on the explorers that travel there.

Now, ExWeb reports that Worsley's family has made the pilgrimage to Antarctica to experience the place that he loved so much. Over the course of his travels there, Henry made three full-distance expeditions to the Pole, and felt at home in the Antarctic. While this is obviously a somber experience for this family members who are now visiting that place as well, hopefully it also brings them some peace and solace too.

More updates as the news warrants.

Antarctica 2016: Mike Horn Begins Antarctic Crossing

The Antarctic season continues to move forward with most of the teams now out on the ice and making their way towards the South Pole. It has been another busy week on the frozen continent, where challenges continue to abound. But, most of the skiers have now found their stride and are making their way toward their various goals.

We'll start today with an update on Swiss explorer Mike Horn, who is about to begin the Antarctic stage of his Pole 2 Pole journey. His ship, the Pangea, has been anchored off the coast for a few days now, but an update this morning indicates that Horn is now ready to get underway. His plan is to ski to the South Pole and then continue on to the far side of the continent, where Pangea will pick him up once again. Horn is hoping to eventually circumnavigate the globe via both Poles, something that has only been done once previously. For now though, he'll concentrate on heading to 90ºS first.

Meanwhile, the six-man British Military squad continues to press forward. Last week they passed the half-way mark of their journey to the Pole, as they continue their long, slow slog up to the the Polar Plateau. The South Pole is located at an altitude of 9000 feet (2743 meters), and the team is currently at 6100 feet (1859 meters), but making steady progress upwards. Once they reach the top of the plateau, things will get a bit easier, but for now they are focusing on putting one skin in front of the other. The weather has taken a bit of a turn for the worse, but after 28 days out on the ice – without a single rest day – they remain in good spirits and are as committed to reaching their goal as ever, despite the fact that they have all run out of music on their various electronic devices.

Emma Kelty is starting to feel the strain of the travel. Physically she's feeling fine, but there is a major deadline looming for her. On Sunday, she reached the halfway point of her journey to the Pole, and she now finds that she must reach 90ºS by December 31, or risk not being able to complete the return journey as she had originally planned. She, along with several other skiers, faced a 2+ week delay in getting out of Punta Arenas at the start of the expedition, which has now tightened up the schedule significantly. She'll continue to press on as quickly as she can and hope for the best. With two weeks to go however, it's going to be close. And if she does intend to ski back to Hercules, she'll need to not burn up all of her energy on the first leg of the trip.

Johanna Davidsson is celebrated her birthday out on the ice yesterday with lots of congratulatory messages and satellite phone calls. While that was indeed a time for celebration, she has lots of work to get done yet as well. She continues to cover solid distances every day, and is now on pace to reach the Pole before Christmas provided everything goes according to schedule. 

Canadian Sébastien Lapierre is also making great time, making steady progress towards the Pole, as is Risto Halliainen, who has now crossed the 85th degree and is halfway to the bottom of the world as well. Both are on pace to wrap up their expeditions on schedule. 

Finally, there has been no substantial update on Italian explorer Michele Pontrandolfo's progress in days. He has been attempting to kite-ski to the South Pole starting from the Novo station, but it has been a couple of weeks since he posted a progress report. The same thing happened last year, when he was forced to abandon his attempt, so hopefully he's making progress but hasn't had a chance to share his location, or perhaps he's suffered an equipment failure and isn't able to post as often as he'd like right now. We'll just have to wait to see how things go once he has a chance to share his position.

That's it for now. More updates as the skiers close in on the Pole. 

Antarctica 2016: Sir Ranulph Fiennes Summits Mt. Vinson

We have a few updates from the Antarctic today as we round out our adventure news heading into the weekend. For the most part, the South Pole skiers continue to press on, but we have updates on two legendary explorers who have Antarctic ambitions this year.

First, we have news that Sir Ranulph Fiennes has summited Mt. Vinson, the tallest peak on the Antarctic continent at 16,050 feet (4892 meters). At 72 years of age, Fiennes is making a return trip to the polar region that he has visited several times in the past. On his summit push he faced -40ºC/F temperatures and high winds, as he topped out in demanding conditions. The climb is part of the explorer's Global Reach Challenge, in which he is hoping to summit the remaining Seven Summits by May of next year. He has already knocked off Everest, Elbrus, and Kilimanjaro in that pursuit. He'll now face Aconcagua, Denali, and Carstensz Pyramid in the next few months. His goal is to raise  funds for the Marie Curie Foundation.

Sir Ran wasn't the only one to summit Vinson in the past few days. The RMI team, led by Dave Hahn, also topped out, putting every one of the group's five clients on the summit. They reported calm conditions on their summit day, going up and down safely from High Camp. They have since descended back down the mountain and caught a flight back to Union Glacier, so it looks like the squad will be headed back to Chile soon with their mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, Swiss explorer Mike Horn has now reached the Antarctic continent. He and his crew have been sailing across the Southern Ocean for the past couple of weeks in preparation for Horn's attempt to traverse the continent via the South Pole as part of his Pole 2 Pole expedition. Mike hasn't made landfall on the ice yet, but should be preparing to set off in the next few days. He'll then ski to 90ºS before proceeding back to the coast, where his ship – the Pangea – will be waiting to pick him up. From there, he'll continue the journey, eventually heading north to attempt a similar crossing of the Arctic.

ExWeb is reporting that solo skier Risto Hallikainen, who intends to travel to the South Pole and back, suffered snow blindness earlier in the week. This painful ailment is caused by sunburnt corneas on the eyes and causes temporary loss of vision. This slowed his progress for a few days, but he seems to be back on track. Risto has also lightened his load some by leaving a supply depot with food and fuel behind. He'll pick that cache back up again on his return trip.

Finally, the six-man British Military team skiing to the South Pole have now reached the halfway point of their journey. They've crossed the 85th degree and are now making good time towards their end point. Spirits seem high, and conditions have been warmer than expected so far, so all is good.

We'll have more updates from the Antarctic next week. Stay tuned.