Larsen Aborts South Pole Speed Attempt

Antarctic Poles
Showing how it's done during one of his polar training outings on Lake Winnipeg. Photo: Eric Larsen

Yesterday, Eric Larsen decided to yield to the inevitable and give up his South Pole speed record attempt after 21 days. He cites low food supplies as the main reason for his withdrawal. Larsen is now skiing the two days back to the runway at Thiels Corner to await pickup.

Like other Antarctic hopefuls this season, he has suffered from soft snow — the bane of all manhaulers. Already in the first week, he fell considerably behind Christian Eide’s 2011 mark. He tried to make up ground by putting in 15-hour daily shifts for the past two weeks and passed 85 degrees – roughly 41 percent of the 1,130km route. His original goal was 23 days.

The announcement on Larsen’s website reads:

“I’d rather be a live donkey than a dead lion” -Ernest Shackleton

“I’m writing this email with a heavy heart and tired legs. I have been pushing South toward the pole for three weeks now and have, unfortunately, reached the end of my ability to continue.

“In planning for this adventure, I made an “all or nothing” decision with my supplies. I would bring 23.5 days of food and fuel that could be stretched to 26 if need be. Even with my miserly saving on rations over the past week to extend that timeline even further, I don’t have enough to reach the pole. It would be close, but it would also be outside the realm of what I consider safe.

“The weather this year has been my biggest adversary. The constant snow (Antarctica is a desert ironically) has impeded my progress significantly. For the last three days, I was making 1.5 nautical miles per hour. My slowest rate of travel to date … The weather and snow this year are exceptional – not to mention the whiteouts – life sucking voids of nothingness. Surprisingly, it has been relatively warm (which is the reason for the snow and whiteouts). I don’t have much wiggle room in my schedule and already I had cut my sleep down to four hours a night hoping to make up distance. For the past two weeks, I have been skiing for 15 hours a day.

“There is Michael Phelps who won all the gold medals and “the other guy” our culture doesn’t celebrate second place or almost and so in that regard I feel like a failure… And I have cried long and hard over this. Still in comparison to the rest of the world and the struggles that plague our society my small defeat is insignificant really. Of course, that doesn’t make it hurt any less.”


About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK. He juggles a day job as a public health scientist with a second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, international magazines, and on various websites. Major bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Porsche, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

He holds two degrees in Exercise and Health Sciences, and a PhD in Public Health.

His areas of expertise are polar expeditions, mountaineering, hiking, and adventure travel. In his spare time Ash enjoys going on small independent sledding expeditions, outdoor photography, and reading adventure literature.

Read more at or follow Ash via @ashrouten on Twitter and Instagram.

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