Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Antarctica 2014: Faysal at the South Pole!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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