Thursday, November 15, 2018

Antarctica 2018: Whiteout Conditions Hit O'Brady and Rudd

When we posted our last Antarctic update a few days back, American Colin O'Brady and Brit Lou Rudd had just run into their first seriously challenging conditions in the form of large and relentless Sastrugi. Today they've added a new element in the form of whiteout conditions, which make things orders of magnitude worse. 

It is important to point out that both men have taken up the same journey –– a solo, unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent. But, they are following the same route, so whatever conditions one is experiencing, chances are the other one is enduring those conditions too. Since the two were dropped off on the ice 12 days ago they have provided similar reports on their progress as they intend to run parallel to one another from the Ronne Ice Shelf to the Ross Ice Shelf, via the South Pole. In order to maintain their "solo" status however, they won't be able to come in contact with one another at any point and they can't lend a hand to one another either, as that would negate their "unsupported" status too.

Today both men have been giving their followers a bit of insight into what it like to ski through a whiteout. On his Instagram, O'Brady had this to say: 
"Day 12: WHITEOUT! Imagine waking up at your house. After eating breakfast, you sit down in a dimly lit room at a table and you look down at a compass never taking your eye off it for the next 12 hours. Maybe try that tomorrow, if you want a taste of what my day was like today 😉. In my TEDx talk I described Antarctica as white in every direction, feeling like “standing inside the belly of a ping pong ball.” However today went deeper than that. When the sun is out, this place is expansive beyond imagination. But today, not being able to see the ground at all, I was forced to tune into my compass, to feel for and anticipate the ever changing ground. It’s challenging with all this sastrugi. Needless to say I fell hard a few times. However as the day wore on my body intuitively managed the repetition. Another hard and cold day in the books."
Meanwhile, Rudd went into some detail on his very long day out on the ice in a Facebook post.  He described the challenge of pressing forward today as:
"It was basically I knew I was going to be in for a day of essentially tackling an icy obstacle course, blindfold, dragging a bathtub behind me. And that’s kind of what it boiled down to. I was in two minds whether to travel today, I wasn’t thinking I’d make that much progress in these kind of conditions; it’s the kind of day where you can easily injure yourself, fall over, dislocate a shoulder, break a binding. But I decided to go out and give it a go anyway, with the reasoning that any distance I made would be a bonus."
In other words, it was a rough day dealing with the whiteout and having to continue to deal with the sastrugi, which are the bane of an Antarctic skiers existence. These hard ridges made of ice and snow collect form on the surface as the wind blows, creating very difficult obstacles for the skiers to either go over or around. This won't be the last time the two men will encounter them either, as they are abundant as they get closer to the South Pole as well.

In other news, Eric Larsen should arrive in Punta Arenas, Chili today to begin the prep work for his attempt at a speed record skiing to the South Pole. The plan is to spend the next week in the city before flying out next week to embark on the challenge. He hopes to complete the crossing from Hercules Inlet to the Pole in just 22 days, carving as much as two whole days off the current record. We'll be watching that expedition closely as well.

More to come soon.

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