Thursday, December 20, 2012

Antarctica 2012: Eric Larsen Is Still Waiting To Ride

It has been emotional roller coaster for Eric Larsen the past few days and reading his most recent dispatch makes that clear. The veteran polar explorer who intends to ride a specially designed mountain bike to the South Pole has been delayed once again, and that has brought on some self doubts as he anxiously waits to begin. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the frozen continent, others are continuing to make their slow marches to the bottom of the world, knocking off miles as quickly and efficiently as they can. None are particularly close to reaching the finish line yet, so we'll continue to track their progress in the weeks ahead.

Yesterday was suppose to be the day that Larsen loaded up his bike on the Twin Otters aircraft and caught a ride over to his starting point at Hercules Inlet. But as the day progressed a fog set in over the camp at Union Glacier, grounding the flights and preventing him from getting started. He spent the day resting, but his sleep wasn't very restful as he struggled with nagging doubts. He chalks these feeling up as pre-expedition jitters and after months of planning, he is simply anxious to get started. An afternoon bike ride helped to calm him to a degree, but until he actually begins riding, he is probably going to continue to struggle with his emotions.

Fortunately he won't have to wait long. As I wrote this piece, Eric sent a tweet that simply read: "All systems go for departure to Hercules Inlet in one hour!" That means that he'll finally hit the trail today and start his 700+ mile (1126 km) journey to the South Pole. We should start getting updates on his progress as early as tomorrow, and it should prove interesting to see how this new mode of travel works in the Antarctic.


Richard Parks has been having a bit more success on the start of his solo South Pole ski. He set out a few days back and is already off to a good start. He claims to be easing into the start of the expedition, but yesterday he managed to ski for seven hours, covering 25.4 km (15.78 miles). That's a pretty good clip for someone who is just getting warmed up. Richard admits that he isn't "firing on all cylinders" just yet, but he has a very positive outlook and is very focused on his goal. The weather has been spotty so far, with some whiteout conditions, but nothing too horrible just yet. All in all, he has to be very pleased with his progress thus far.

Also continuing to pick up steam is Vilborg Arna Gissurard├│ttir, who has now been out on the ice for a month and seems as determined as ever to complete her solo and unsupported journey to the Pole. After a bout of homesickness earlier in the week, she seems to have bounced back nicely and is now covering more distance each day. Yesterday it was 23 km (14.3 miles) in very good weather. She also treated herself to a "Christmas Buffet" dinner, enjoying some tasty treats that she has been saving just for this occasion. I'm not sure why she's having her Christmas dinner early, but perhaps its because she is celebrating the fact that she has now passed the half-way point of her expedition and each mile now brings her closer to 90┬║S and eventually home.

Aaron Linsdau reports that he had one of his best days so far, with incredibly good weather allowing him to knock off about 11 miles (17.7 km). He's now about 22 miles (35 km) from his next supply cache and he's hoping to reach that in the next two days. He has roughly enough food and supplies for 5 days, so he has a nice little cushion in case things don't go as smoothly as he'd like. Over the past few days, Aaron has been fielding questions from friends and family following along at home, with someone asking him what he intends to do when he reaches the South Pole. Obviously his roundtrip journey from Hercules to the Pole and back seems doubtful at the moment, but Aaron hasn't completely given up on the prospect. He says at this point he really hasn't decided what he will do just yet, as he is completely focused on one day at a time.

Finally, over on Mt. Vinson the climbing teams have been stranded in Base Camp. After making some gear shuttle runs up to Low Camp yesterday, bad weather set in keeping everyone in BC for now. This weather pattern could last few a couple of days, which means everyone will be well rested, yet anxious to get the climb underway. Hopefully early next week they make the push up to High Camp and assess the situation on when they'll make their summit bids.

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