Showing posts with label Traverse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Traverse. Show all posts

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: 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.

Ueli Steck Gearing Up For Lhotse Traverse in Spring 2017

It is hard to believe that 2016 is quickly drawing to an end, and soon we'll turn the page to a new year. That means lots of new opportunities of course, and a time to start look ahead to some big adventures to come, including the spring climbing season on Everest, which is sure to be a busy and interesting place after a return to normalcy this year. One climber who is already anticipating his expeditions to the mountain is Ueli Steck, who as usual has some big things planned.

Steck, who climbed Everest without bottled oxygen back in 2012, only to return the following year and find himself embroiled in a high-profile brawl with Sherpa guides, is now gearing up for a very ambitious expedition in the spring of 2017. The Swiss climber will return to the South Side of Everest to attempt what he calls the Lhotse Traverse, which will start with a summit of Everest and continue with him – and his climbing partner Tenji Sherpa – continuing across the saddle ridge to the summit of Lhotse, Everest's closest neighbor and the fourth highest mountain in the world at 8516 meters (27,940 ft). As with his last expedition to the world's tallest mountain, Ueli plans to make the climb without supplemental O's.

Recently, Steck sat down for an interview with journalist Stefan Nestler, during which he talked about this upcoming expedition, which he has already started preparing for. In that interview, Ueli says that he hopes to climb the Everest along the tough West Shoulder, and then after summiting, continue on to Lhotse in a single long, and difficult push. But, that said, he has also acknowledged that conditions might not be right for such a route, so he may shift to the normal route of Everest first, and complete the traverse that way instead. But, he says that this project is one of his dream expeditions, so there is a likelihood that if he does have to take the normal route, he may return in the future to try the West Shoulder again.


In the interview, Ueli also touches on the 2013 brawl, saying that he has now put that ugly incident behind him. It impacted him greatly immediately after the incident, leading to him not trusting other climbers quite so much and taking a different approach to his expeditions. He says that it has shaped his perspective moving forward, but that he is at peace with what happened and is ready to just concentrate on climbing in the High Himalaya instead.

As he prepares for the altitude he'll face on Everest and Lhotse, Ueli says he has begun picking up the volume of his training to get ready for the challenge ahead. Dong lots of vertical climbing at a rapid pace – something he is well known for – allows him to stay in the Alps and still prepare for the Himalaya, and while the start of the expedition is still more than three months away, he is already getting his body ready.

If successful, Ueli will be the first person to complete the Lhotse Traverse without the use of bottled oxygen. He seems very confident that he can pull this off, and knowing what I know about the "Swiss Machine," I wouldn't bet against him.

Antarctica 2016: Italian to Attempt Traverse of the Frozen Continent Again, Researcher Dies in the Field

Preparation for the start of the 2016-2017 Antarctic season is now underway, with the advance team from ALE now arriving on the ice to prepare the permanent campsite at Patriot Hills for the arrival of the first skiers of the season. It will take them a few days to get the camp ready, and they'll spend a considerable amount of time preparing the runway that will allow the big Ilyushin aircraft to begin transporting supplies, crew, and explorers out to site. That typically begins around the end of October, although the weather ultimately decides when those flights out of Punta Arenas, Chile actually begin.

Elsewhere, the McMurdo Station on the Ross Iceshelf has started to return to life. The station is an important research outlet for the U.S., and during the Antarctic winter it is manned by just a skeleton crew. Now, essential personnel are arriving there to prepare for another busy season ahead as a full compliment of scientists, researchers, and military crew have started to flow in.

Similarly, the Russian base called Novolazarevskaya is also starting to come to life with its crew scheduled to begin arriving later this week. That station is manned and supplied out of Cape Town, South Africa, with the first flight planned for Friday, weather permitting of course. If all goes as planned, one of the passengers on that flight will be Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo, who will once again attempt to traverse the continent via the South Pole.

Last year, Pontrandolfo made the same attempt, hoping to use his kite to cover large chunks of ground at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, he never was able to capture the winds like he had expected, so as a result his expedition was much slower than planned. He never managed to get much momentum going, and eventually had to pull the plug. Now, he's back for another go. Hopefully this season he'll have better luck. We'll of course be following his progress in the days ahead.


There is some sad news coming our way from the Antarctic today as well. ExWeb is reporting that an Antarctic researcher has died in the field while collecting scientific data. Gordon Hamilton, who was on the frozen continent as part of a climate research team from the University of Maine, was killed when the vehicle he was driving fell into a crevasse. The accident occurred this past Saturday as Hamilton and his teammates were exploring an area known as the "Shear Zone" not far from McMurdo Station. According to the report, that region is known for being heavily crevassed, with ice that is as much as 650 feet (198 meters) thick at some points.

Hamilton's body was recovered from the crevasse and is being prepared to be taken back home to his family in Maine. My condolences go out to his friends and family after this tragic accident.

That's all for today. As we get closer to the start of the season, we'll have more updates. Most of the South Pole skiers are now preparing to depart for Punta Arenas, and head to Antarctica, which will soon be a very busy place once again.

Polar Exploration Community Responds to the Death of Henry Worsley

As you can imagine, the community of polar explorers that have visited the North and South Pole is an extremely small, and close knit one. Most of the men and women who have traveled extensively in the Arctic or Antarctic know each other to some degree, and they are shocked and saddened by the loss of Henry Worsley over the past weekend. 

Some of them have issued statements expressing their grief over the situation. For instance, yesterday the team at Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions issued a statement that shared more information. That statement reads as follows:
It is with great sadness that we report that polar expeditioner Henry Worsley died at a hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile yesterday after complications caused by bacterial peritonitis. Henry returned from Antarctica on January 23 after nearly completing his Shackleton Solo Expedition. 
Henry began his expedition in November 2015 in support of The Endeavour Fund, an
organization that supports wounded soldiers in the UK. He was attempting the first unsupported and unassisted solo crossing of the Antarctic landmass, a journey from Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf via the South Pole. The route was expected to take him 75-80 days and at the time of pickup, he had been in the field for 71 days and travelled over 900 statute miles. 
ALE maintained daily communication with Henry throughout the expedition on scheduled satellite phone calls. On January 22, Henry contacted ALE asking for pickup and was subsequently transported by Twin Otter aircraft to ALE’s Union Glacier camp. Upon arrival, he received treatment for extreme exhaustion and dehydration by two ALE doctors trained in remote emergency medicine.
Early on January 23, he boarded ALE’s Ilyushin-76 intercontinental aircraft and received
treatment from an ALE doctor for the duration of the flight to Punta Arenas, Chile. Upon landing, Henry was transported by ambulance to hospital, where he was diagnosed with peritonitis and admitted for surgery. He was subsequently transferred to the hospital’s intensive care unit where he passed away on January 24. ALE remained in close contact with the hospital throughout and continues to work closely with the family. 
Henry was an experienced polar expeditioner and recently ended a 36-year career in the British Army. He had a strong passion for the pursuits of the early Antarctic explorers including Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen and had completed two previous Antarctic expeditions, one in 2009 celebrating Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition and one in 2012 that recreated the Amundsen route to the South Pole.
The entire ALE team sends its deepest condolences to Henry’s wife, Joanna, children, Max and Alicia, and extended family at this very difficult time.
Meanwhile, the Race Against Time team, who are preparing to set out for the North Pole from the Russian side of the ice in a few weeks knew Henry well. In fact, he was serving as one of the patrons for their journey. They said:
The Race Against Time 2016 Polar Expedition Team comprising of Mark Wood, Mark Langridge MC and Paul Vicary MSc has learnt today that their Patron Lt Col Henry Worlsey has died whilst crossing Antarctica.

Both Mark Langridge and Paul Vicary have both served alongside Henry and were part of the six man team that successfully reached the South Pole in 2012 following Robert F. Scott’s route as part of the 100 year anniversary of this iconic explorer. 
“This is terrible news and we are all devastated. We have had many friends especially in the military that die at a young age or doing their job. Henry was doing something that he loved. He was a respected, admired, inspirational leader and the world has lost a great explorer. We have lost a dear friend. Our hearts and prayers are with Joanna and Henry’s family at this time.”
Devon McDiarmid and Stew Edge, who just wrapped up their Antarctic expedition earlier today, called Henry's death a "tragic end to Shackleton Solo expedition," while Britain's Prince William – who himself was a Patron of Henry's expedition – said “Harry and I are very sad to hear of the loss of Henry Worsley. He was a man who showed great courage and determination and we are incredibly proud to be associated with him. We have lost a friend, but he will remain a source of inspiration to us all, especially those who will benefit from his support to the Endeavour Fund. We will now make sure that his family receive the support they need at this terribly difficult time.”

Alexandra Shackleton – the granddaughter of Earnest Shackleton – told the BBC News “Henry will be a huge loss to the adventuring world. The fact that he very nearly made it, only 30 miles short of his goal, makes it in some ways even worse.”

This is just a camping of the outpouring of emotion that surrounds Henry's death. He was a strong spirit and a major inspiration for many, and he will certainly be missed. 

Video: Trailer for Death Valley Trek - The First Unsupported Crossing of Death Valley on Foot

Back in October of 2015, Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke set out to complete the first ever solo and unsupported expedition across Death Valley on foot. It was not an easy journey to say the least, and there were times when he wasn't sure he'd make it, but after eight says in the wilderness, he was able to complete the crossing of one of the most notoriously difficult environments on the planet.

Now, we have a trailer for the film that will share his story with us. As you'll see in the two-minute clip below, Loncke set out with a heavy pack that would contain the supplies – and water – that he'd need to survive. And he needed all of it, as the environment in Death Valley is about as unforgiving as they come. I can't wait to see the full film.

Video: Traversing Iceland by Mountain Bike

We'll wrap up the year in fitting style with a fantastic video of a true adventure. This ten-minute clip takes us to Iceland, where we'll follow pro mountain bikers Hans Rey and Steve Peat as they traverse the country by bike north to south. Along the way, you'll get a chance to see some of the amazing landscapes that the country is so famous for, and since this is the last video of the year, let is serve as a good inspiration to get your 2016 off to an adventurous start too. Happy New Year!

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.

Iceland Traverse Team Seeks Shelter From Storm Desmond

If you've been following the news over the past couple of days you probably already know about the powerful storm Desmond that has been ripping through the U.K. and the North Atlantic. That storm is now impacting Iceland as well, where a team of young adventurers is attempting to make an unsupported traverse of country in conditions that would have already been described as difficult.

The team, which consists of 19-year old explorers Charlie Smith, Angus Dowie, and Archie Wilson, as well as their 20-year old friend Stefan Rijnbeek, set out on their journey at the end of last week. They are calling their expedition The Coldest Crossing, which seems fitting considering they expect to routinely face temperatures of -25ºC (-13ºF). Their plan was to trek for 250 miles (402 km) in just 18 days, first crossing through Iceland's relatively flat interior before proceeding into a mountain range that rings the southern portion of the country. At that point, they expect to be crossing through a portion of Iceland that may not have ever been explored completely before.

In the early stages of the journey, the team will pull 40 kg (88 pound) pulks loaded with their gear and supplies. But once they reach the mountain stage, they'll switch to backpacks for the final push to the end. If they are able to complete the journey, they will be the youngest – and possibly the first – to have traversed Iceland along this route.


For a time, their expedition looked to be in serious jeopardy due to the storm named Desmond. The four young men were exposed to the elements, and the high winds and rain were bearing down on their position quickly. But, they found a place that could serve as a shelter from the storm, although they did have to complete a 14km (8.6 mile) trek to reach that point. According to the squad's Facebook page, Charlie, Angus, Archie, and Stefan have now reached the relative safety of the village of Kópasker, where they will wait out the storm. They expect to resume the expedition sometime tomorrow, provided Desmond has completely passed on at that point.

On a sad note, one member of the team – it has not been announced exactly who yet – will not continue once the storm abates. One of the lads is suffering from what is described as a pre-existing lung infection which was not brought on by the expedition, but was exasperated by the physical exertion in cold conditions. This team member will remain in Kópasker while the other resume the adventure when they can.

Since they're losing precious time while they wait out the storm, the three remaining members are also looking at alternate routes. Their three-week expedition was always on a tight schedule, but not it is even more so. The boys plan to announce any changes in the next couple of days.

So, just how bad have the weather conditions been for the Coldest Crossing Team? Reportedly it is a "Storm of the Century" type situation in Iceland right now, with hurricane force winds, heavy snows, and extreme temperatures. There have been reports from locals who describe it as the worst weather they have ever seen, making the remote areas of the country very dangerous. The boys on this expedition are currently safe however, and will resume their traverse once they can.

Thanks to my friend Louis-Philippe Loncke for keeping me updated on this situation.

Belgian Adventurer Becomes First Person to Cross Death Valley Solo and Unsupported

History was made in Death Valley a few days back when Belgian explorer and adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke completed the first ever solo, unsupported crossing of that desert. Loncke made the journey without the use of roads, resupplies, vehicle support, or pre-placed food and water caches. In fact, he had never even visited the national park prior to his departure.

The expedition began back on October 30, with Loncke estimating that it would take approximately six days to cover the 150 miles (242 km) he would walk north-to-south through the park. That estimate proved to be too optimistic however, as it actually required eight days to finish the trek.

This isn't the first time someone has attempted to cross Death Valley in a solo and unsupported fashion. Explorer Todd Carmichael attempted the something back in 2010 and 2011. But Carmichael's approach was to drag a heavy cart filled with supplies behind him as he went. Loncke took a completely different approach however by loading all of his gear and supplies into a backpack. That includes all of the water he would need for his time in the desert. when he set out on the expedition, that pack weighed an incredible 95 pounds.

This approach proved to be crucial to his success however, as the terrain proved to be incredibly unforgiving. He discovered that not only was Death Valley incredibly hot, it is also very rocky, featured deep canyons, scorching sand dunes, and difficult washouts. That terrain also reflected back the heat of the sun, increasing the temperature even further.


The gear and supplies that he carried with him on the trek left him little room for error, particularly as his six-day journey turned into eight. At one point he almost abandoned the attempt as well, as the salt water he was drinking to help avoid dehydration prevented him from sweating as much as he should have. His body was overheating, and his heart was pounding, even in the overnight hours when temperatures dropped dramatically. Thankfully, Loncke found fresh water on his exit route, and after purifying it he was able to dilute the salt water enough to allow him to continue. From there, he was able to find his stride and complete the journey.

This isn't the first time the Belgian adventurer has crossed a desert on foot. In fact, he seems to thrive on those challenges. In fact, his previous "world firsts" include a traverse of the West McDonnell mountain range and the crossing of the Simpson Desert, both in Australia.

Lou-Phi says that he owes a debt of gratitude to Todd Carmichael, whose footsteps he marched in. He says that Carmichael was the inspiration for this trek, and studying his approach helped him to prepare for the Death Valley expedition. He reached the finish line on November 7, with a total time of 7 days, 23 hours, and 40 minutes for the traverse.

You can find out more about the journey, his preparation, and the challenges he faced, on Loncke's website. Congratulations to Lou-Phi on an amazing expedition, and showing us just what can be accomplished when you set your mind to a project. Well done my friend.

Antarctica 2015: Delay Confirmed for Henry Worsley

Yesterday I posted the news that weather was threatening the start of the 2015 Antarctic season, and today we have confirmation of that delay. The first flight to the Union Glacier camp on the ice was expected to take place today, but there is now word that the flight has been scrubbed, and it could be a few days before the next window of opportunity opens.

For the most part, the South Pole skiers and Antarctic explorers are only now just gathering in Punta Arenas, Chile to prepare for their journey across the frozen continent. This delay will have very little impact on their expeditions, as this first flight was mainly meant to deliver fuel, supplies, and personnel to the Union Glacier. Most of the travelers won't be arriving on the ice for a week or two yet, so no one is feeling particularly bothered by this not-unexpected turn of events.

But Henry Worsley is already watching the clock, and is hoping to fly out soon. He is attempting to become the first person to ski solo and unassisted across Antarctica, which will require up to 80 days to complete. For him, every day matters and it was his intention to be on this first flight out. He isn't panicking just yet however, as his schedule had accounted for potential delays at the start of the expedition, and by his own accounts, as long as he is underway by November 10, he'll have the time he needs to finish his traverse.

The next flight out to Union Glacier is now scheduled to take place on Saturday of this week, weather pending of course. That gives the team at the camp a bit of extra time to finish their prep work, which includes finishing up the temporary runway that allows aircraft to come and go. ANI, the company that maintains the camp and shuttles travelers to and from Antarctica, uses big Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft to carry explorers and all of their gear. Those planes need a bit of space to land, so having a good airstrip in place is important.

Right now, the weather remains on the dicey side through the end of the week. But hopefully it won't be so bad as to prevent flights out. I'm sure Henry in particular is anxious to get going, and soon others will be in line to follow.

The Antarctic season is just on the edge of truly ramping up. In the weeks ahead, you'll hear a lot more about the efforts of men and women who will be skiing across that challenging environment. But for now, it is the calm before the storm. Stay tuned for more to come.

British Adventurer to Attempt First Solo, Unsupported Antarctic Crossing

As mentioned yesterday, the 2015-2016 Antarctic season is still a few weeks away from getting started, but as we speak, eager adventurers across the globe are preparing to head south to take on the frozen continent. One of them is veteran British polar explorer Henry Worsley, who is preparing for an epic challenge to say the least.

During the upcoming season, Worsley will be attempting the first ever solo and unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent, a journey that will cover approximately 2735 km (1700 miles) and will take upwards of 80 days to complete. He is undertaking this incredibly grueling challenge to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition, which was to have attempted the first ever crossing of the Antarctica back in 1915. In honor of that event, Worsley hs dubbed his journey Shackleton Solo.

Henry has already set out for Chile, and should arrive in Punta Arenas today. He'll spend a bit of time organizing his gear and packing all of the food and supplies he'll need for the expedition, but hopes to fly out to the Union Glacier base in Antarctica on October 27, weather permitting. From there, he'll spend a few days preparing for the start of the journey before traveling to his starting point. If everything goes as expected, he hopes to be underway by November 10 at the latest.

The route that Worsley plans to take starts in Gould Bay on Berner Island, not far from where Shackleton had intended to launch his traverse as well. Henry will then proceed across the Antarctic continent to the Geographic South Pole located at 90ºS. When he reaches that point the journey will only be half over however, as he'll then continue to the Ross Ice Shelf, becoming the first person to descend the Shackleton Glacier as well.


Since this is a solo and unsupported expedition, Worsley will have to travel completely by himself, and receive no outside help along the way. That means he'll need to carry all of the gear and supplies that he needs with him as he goes. He'll ski under his own power, while pulling heavy sleds filled with food, equipment, and emergency supplies with him the entire way. Henry says that he is hoping to wrap up the expedition in just 75 days, but is carrying 80 days of food just in case.

As he makes this crossing of Antarctica, Worsley will face some serious challenges. In addition to the endless miles of open, frozen, expanse, he'll endure incredibly cold temperatures, high winds, whiteout conditions, and more. At times, the surface will be covered with sastrugi – ridges made of ice and snow – that will impair his progress, and make it very difficult to drag those heavy sleds. But, Henry has been in these conditions before, and knows what lies ahead of him.

And lest we forget, Shackleton never even got the chance to attempt this crossing himself. His ship became trapped in the ice, preventing his team from ever setting out. After the Endurance was eventually crushed by ice, the crew spent months waiting for a rescue, before eventually launching their own desperate bid to cross the Southern Ocean to seek help. All told, they spent nearly two years trying to survive in the Antarctic, without a single man losing his life. But they returned to civilization to a world gone mad, as World War I was in full swing.

I'll be following Henry's expedition closely in the days ahead. Something tells me he'll have a bit more lock that Shackleton did.

Polish Adventurer to Attempt New Speed Record for Iceland Traverse

A Polish adventurer by the name of Rafal Bauer is preparing for a very big adventure in July. That is when he will travel to Iceland to embark on an attempt to set a new speed record for traversing that country north to south on foot. He'll also be making the journey completely solo and unsupported.

The trek will start in Rifstangi, the northernmost part of Iceland, and will continue south until reaching the ocean in Kotlutangi. All told, the route will cover approximately 560 km (348 miles), a distance that Raf hopes to cover in just 13 days. That means he plans to cover more than 43 km (26.7 miles) each and every day, while crossing over rough terrain and carrying a pack that weighs 25kg (55 pounds). No easy task to say the least.

Raf is no stranger to adventurous endeavors. In the past he has hiked the length of Scotland along the Cape Wraith Trail, and has spent a lot of time backpacking through remote regions of Northern Europe. He has also participated in ultramarathon events, which will likely serve him well on this journey too.

One of the more challenging sections of the trek will take place when he passes through Iceland's volcanic desert. For roughly two days he will have no available sources of fresh water, so he'll be forced to carry plenty with him on that leg. Additionally, since he hope to complete the expedition in an unsupported fashion, Raf won't be able to accept outside aid of any kind from anyone he meets along the way.

Bauer is still a few weeks away form launching his Iceland traverse attempt. Once it does begin however, you'll be able to follow his progress on his official website, his Facebook page, Link to Poland, and National Geographic Traveler.

Incidentally, the record he looking to beat is 19 days, which was set back 2007 by our friend Louis-Philippe Loncke. If successful, Bauer will complete the trek 6 days faster. Good luck Raf!