Aaron Linsdau has reached the South Pole at last. As expected, he reached the 90ºS point yesterday after another trying day out on the ice. But all of the challenges and difficulties that he has faced over the past 2.5 months are behind him now and the American is simply resting and waiting for a flight back to Union Glacier. His relief must be incredible.
As you probably recall, Aaron had originally intended to make a round-trip journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back, skiing over 1400 miles (2253 km) in the process. But a slower than expected pace, coupled with equipment failures, physical afflictions and other unexpected challenges made the return trip impossible. He also gave up his unsupported status when he had ALE make a couple of supply drops for him along the way, but despite those adjustments to his expedition plan, I'm sure he feels fantastic today as he waits to see if he can catch a flight back to Union Glacier.
Congratulations on a job well done Aaron! Your dedication, perseverance and focus are an inspiration to us all.
Meanwhile, Richard Parks is finding that his final week out on the ice isn't going to be an easy one. For the past two days he has been battling whiteout conditions and flat light, which makes it impossible to navigate or making any substantial progress. Richard took the opportunity to stay in his tent longer than usual and that allowed him to rest and regain some strength, and when he finally hit the trail he was able to make some meaningful distances before conditions deteriorated again.
As you can imagine, these stops and starts are like a roller coast for his morale. Between the poor weather and horrible surface conditions, he has gone from making an incredibly good pace to barely a crawl at times. And now that Parks is within the 88th degree, he is feeling anxious about wrapping up his expedition and heading home. It doesn't help that he's also racing the clock, as ALE's last flight from the South Pole is scheduled to take place next Monday. That gives Richard a week to cover the final two degrees and catch his flight out.
For now, he'll just have to take what ever Mother Nature throws his way and keep plugging away at the mileage when he can. The sastrugi on the surface should subside soon, which will help his speed immensely. Provided the weather cooperates, he should be back on the trail and focused on the South Pole in no time.
Richard is the last of the skiers still out on the ice. When he reaches the finish line, it'll bring down the curtain on yet another Antarctic season.