Monday, December 03, 2018

Antarctica 2018: More Skiers Begin South Pole Ski Journey

Last week I was off to take care of some family business and didn't get the chance to post any updates, but a lot has happened while I was away, particularly down in Antarctica where the expedition season is in full swing at this point. In addition to the skiers we've already been following, a few more explorers have launched their expeditions too with a host of individuals now making their way to the South Pole.

We'll start with an update on Colin O'Brady and Lou Rudd, both of whom are attempting to become the first to ski solo and unassisted across the frozen continent. Both are now 30 full days into their journey and after a month out on the ice they've certainly found their rhythm but continue to struggle with the conditions. Because they are traveling in parallel to one another their updates tend to sound rather similar with whiteout conditions and sastrugi dictating their speed and distance each day. O'Brady has been knocking out more than 17 miles a day recently, which has allowed him to open up a slight lead over Rudd, who reports that he is now just 1500 feet (457 meters) from reaching the polar plateau. Conditions don't necessarily get much easier once the skiers are at that point, but at least they aren't going up hill any more.

Both O'Brady and Rudd still have a long way to go to reach the South Pole and that's just one of their checkpoints. From there, they'll continue on to the Ross Ice Shelf as they look to finish the traverse sometime in January. There is some good news for the men, as they are now a month into their expeditions and the sleds are starting to get lighter as they consume food and fuel. That should make things easier and allow them to go faster over the long run.

Meanwhile, Eric Larsen is well into his attempt to set a speed record for skiing to the South Pole, but the surface and weather conditions aren't exactly being cooperative. Deep, soft snow has made it tough going so far, as have sastrugi and whiteouts. As of this writing, he still 550 miles (884 km) to go and is 8 days into the challenge. That means that in order to hit the speed record, he'll need to average about 36 miles (58 km) per day. So far, he's been covering close to those distances, so if the continent starts to cooperate some, he still has a fighting chance. It won't be easy however and there is still plenty of hard work to be done.

Other new additions to the ice since we last updated include Japanese adventurer Masatatsu Abe, who has taken a slow, but steady approach to his expedition so far, and Canadian Laval St. Germain, who is not only skiing to the South Pole but will climb Mt. Vinson afterwards. Also preparing to start their journey to 90ºS are Edwin and Liesbeth her Velde, who will be driving a solar powered vehicle across  Antarctica. Matthieu Tordeur has also launched his South Pole expedition, as has Jenny Davis and Barry Gray. In other words, there are plenty of teams and individuals to follow at this point, as the season is good and truly underway.

Over the next two months we'll continue to keep a close eye on each of these skiers. Most are barely underway at this point and it will be some time before they reach the Pole. Still, there will be a lot to report on as they make their way across the Antarctic, with updates and big and small to share along the way. It looks like it will be another exciting and inspiring season, so stay tuned.

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