Expedition Successes, Surprises & Routines

Antarctic expeditions seldom play out as expected and this season is no exception. Catch up on the experiences, achievements, and lessons learned from our 2013 expedition teams.

The Teams

Richard Parks

Richard Parks set a new British record and recorded the second fastest time in history for a solo, unsupported and unassisted journey to the South Pole. Richard completed the 1150km/715mile solo journey from the geographical coastline of Antarctica in 29 days, 19 hours and 24 minutes, arriving at the South Pole January 4, 2014. Despite not completing the journey in his target of 23 days to break Christian Eide’s incredible world record, Parks’ new British record sees him become the only other person in history alongside Eide to reach the South Pole solo, unsupported and unassisted in less than 30 days. Trying to sum up his achievements, Richard commented ‘I felt quite overwhelmed in the last steps getting to the South Pole marker.  So many emotions were bouncing around in my body.  It was not quite the script that I had planned but I was full of gratitude and pride because I know what I achieved is special.  I skied to the marker, took a few minutes just to savor it and take it in, it will probably take a lot longer than that, I will probably be reflecting on this for some quite time.’ richardparks.co.uk/solo-south-pole-expedition

Pink Polar Expedition – Geoff Wilson

Adventurer Geoff Wilson has carved his own piece of history in Antarctica’s ice, becoming the first Australian to complete a solo and unsupported crossing of Earth’s southernmost continent. Geoff completed his 3428km/2130mile journey in 53 days, smashing the record that Norwegian Børge Ousland had held for 17 years, by 11 days*. Geoff jokes that he also set another unofficial record, becoming ‘the only man in history to drag a pair of pink boobs across Antarctica’. Geoff’s blog highlights some of his most memorable moments including experiences in polar survival and trust; focusing on the now, step by terribly small step; courage after a near-death experience; mind control to stay calm and avoid panic, boredom, and lonliness; intense frustrations and the sense of triumph of achieving his goal. 5thelementexpeditions.com/pink-polar

Willis Resilience Expedition – Parker Liautaud and Doug Stoup

On December 24, 2013, The Willis Resilience Expedition, led by 19-year-old Parker Liautaud, arrived at the South Pole; achieving the goal of setting a new record for the fastest-ever unsupported walk from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and in the process becoming the youngest man ever to ski to the South Pole. Parker and expedition partner Doug Stoup skied from the Ross Ice Shelf, up the Leverett Glacier to the South Pole. willisresilience.com

White Ice Cycle – Maria Leijerstam

British adventurer Maria Leijerstam became the first person to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the Antarctic continent. Maria made quick progress on a recumbent trike designed specifically for the challenge, completing her 644km/400mi expedition, after 10 days of cycling. Maria’s route took her from the Ross Ice Shelf, up the Leverett Glacier to the Pole.  whiteicecycle.com

The Scott Expedition – Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere

Ben Saunders posted an emotional blog on January 2, 2014, explaining his decision to request a re-supply, after he and Tarka reached the limit of their endurance. Ben and Tarka had hoped to complete Captain Scott’s route to the South Pole and back, unsupported and unassisted. Ben explains how this goal has been eclipsed by the reality and experiences of the expedition. ‘I hope our journey has not been diminished in your eyes now it is “imperfect”…For us humans, perfection can never really be reached, contentment is either here today, with the striving and the mess we all inhabit, all open loops and half-finished lists and could-do-better-next-times, or we will never find it. And the biggest lessons -to me at least- of this very long, very hard walk, are perhaps that compassion is more important than glory…The joy of being outdoors and alive in the wild, pushing ourselves harder than anyone will ever understand, will I think in time prove more wholesome and satisfying than the pride of any public recognition on our homecoming.’ scottexpedition.com/blog

Youngest to the Pole – Lewis Clarke

Lewis and ALE guide Carl Alvey are ‘doing well’ and skiing ‘long days, long miles’. After 37 days, Lewis now feels quite at home in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth – and perhaps is even enjoying it a little. This, despite skiing in complete whiteouts, that are like being ‘inside of a ping pong ball’ and working their way through the infamous sastrugi fields between 87S and 88S. One more day and things should start to flatten out. They estimate arriving at South Pole around January 16, 2014. youngesttosouthpole.wordpress.com/

ALE Ski South Pole – Messner

The team faced some challenging conditions between 87S and 88S, with poor contrast and huge sastrugi, ‘as tall as cars’. They skied under bright sundogs on New Year’s Day and were thankful for cards, treats, and presents in their last re-supply at 89S. Now in the Last Degree, the team expect to arrive at the South Pole around January 11, 2014.

3 Below Zero – Marty and Chris Fagan

Chris and Marty crossed 88S and are out of the worst of the sastrugi and heading onto the polar plateau proper. Their blog gives a great insight into the day to day challenges, suprises and emotions of a polar expedition. Our favorite entry describes the simple pleasures of their ‘awesome’ Christmas rest day (Dec 21). ‘We cooked up our big Christmas dinner…stuffing, mash potatoes and gravy creation, with some Chilean style Spam…And we watched videos that people made for us which were really awesome…We took a little bath and washed my hair, washed some clothes. It was really great. I sewed a few things. Marty worked on our skis a little bit. We snacked a lot. And we ate some yummy cookies we brought and the penguin gummy bears…All in all it has been a really awesome day here.’ 3belowzero.com/blog

Education Through Expeditions – Antony Jinman

Antony is staying positive as he makes his way through the big sastrugi between 87S and 88S. ‘I actually really enjoy skiing through the Sastrugi – if you imagine a really stormy ocean, which has then frozen in a moment of time, that’s what the landscape looks like. It’s an amazing thing to see, with all the waves being eroded by the wind and always changing. It also creates a bit of a puzzle for me, trying to negotiate the best route through the maze of frozen waves.’ Despite enjoying the sastrugi, he is looking forward to getting out of the rough ground and onto the ‘home run’ to the South Pole. Antony continues to share his experiences inspire students, through the Education Through Expeditions website.

Vesa Luomala

For Vesa, being able to experience Antarctica is first priority. ‘Everything else comes as a bonus on top of it. To have a possibility to do a solo expedition as a first Finn is just an interesting historical fact, as there are a lot of people in Finland who could have done it long time before my attempt. So I don’t think it is very important.’ Vesa is skiing a steady 14.5 nm per day and nearing 87S. todeepsouth.blogspot.ca

The South Pole Epic – Dan Burton

Dan is keeping a sense of humor as he copes with mechanical issues, sastrugi and crevasses on his bike expedition to the South Pole. He explains how his final 365km/227mile to the South Pole is just like a bike race called LoToJa, ‘other than these minor details’.

‘This is 21 miles longer. LoToJa is on a road, this is on snow. In LoToJa, I have skinny, smooth tires. Here, I have 5 inch wide knobby tires. LoToJa goes through three states, and, of course, this is Antarctica. It is 100 degrees (F) colder here. LoToJa has three big climbs, but also three nice downhills. This doesn’t have as steep of climbs, but you can’t coast on the downhills. I travel about 20 miles an hour doing LoToJa, but here I’m happy to get 2 knots. LoToJa is a one day event, but I still have two weeks of travel left here. On LoToJa, there are rest stops where family or friends are there to give you food. Here, I drag my food and gear behind me on two sleds. LoToJa has a wheel car that gives you a new wheel if you need it. But here, my wheel had to be flown in by plane. (Huge Thank You to Borealis!!!!!) It will be in my next cache. For LoToJa, you have to finish before dark. Well, here I have to finish before dark, too. South pole here I come!’ epicsouthpole.blogspot.ca

Juan Menendez

Juan is enjoying the technical challenges of cycling through sastrugi, and then again, sometimes not. His latest post refers to a very difficult day, with strong winds, sastrugi and crevasses, that is likely to repeat itself as he continues through the 87th degree. Despite all this, he is determined the South Pole will not escape him. juanmenendezgranados.blogspot.com.es

* In 1997 Børge Ousland completed a coast to coast crossing on a different route, from the northeastern corner of Berkner Island at the edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf to McMurdo Base on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. His 3000km/1854 mile crossing took 64 days.

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