Antarctic Traverses: Worsley started, Pontrandolfo ready to go

Kind surface and unbelievable silence, on Henry Worsley’s first day on Berkner Island. Catching up with Michele Pontrandolfo in Cape Town.
(Correne Coetzer) Henry Worsley (55) has started his solo ski traverse from Berkner Island via the Geographic South Pole to the Shackleton Glacier at the Ross Ice Shelf, November 13.

In Cape Town, Michele Pontrandolfo (44) is ready to fly to Novolazarevskaya on November 15 to start his solo kite-ski traverse to Hercules Inlet via the South Pole of Inaccessibility and Geographic South Pole, as reported yesterday on Pythom.


2037 km unassisted, unsupported

21 Days after arriving at Punta Arenas, Henry left Union Glacier at mid-morning, he said in a voice report. Two and a half hours later the pilot landed at a fuel depot at the Southern end of Berkner Island about a hundred miles from the Antarctic land mass. He sorted out his sled, took a bearing South and was underway by mid-afternoon.

The surface was kind, soft at places, but not demoralizing, he said. His sled is a “fair“ 150 kg in weight. Lots of familiar noses returns, that of the ski poles, the sled and the skis, “and then when you stop, the unbelievable silence”.

He is aiming for the southern end of Berkner Island and then the Wujek Ridge.

Distance covered:

3.9 nm over 3.5 hours


Sunshine, no wind. -7ºC

“…just the best place on earth right now,” he assured.


3620 km unassisted, wind-supported

Bad weather has been delaying the Ilyushin flight from Cape Town to Novolazarevskaya and will hopefully get the go-ahead tomorrow.

Pythom/Explorersweb caught up with Michele in the Cape Town. He said he has two sleds, a 2.4m sled and a small Paris sled. The small sled carries 2-3 week’s supplies. When empty, he will put it as a cover on top of the big one. His big sled is custom made of kevlar and strengthened at the front to take the beating of kiting across sastrugi.

The sleds carry 180 kg, with food and fuel for 68 days. He calculated that he has to travel a minimum average of 55 km per day to reach his pick-up date at Hercules Inlet, January 21, 2016. Michele said he is willing to pul the sled if he does not get enough wind to kite.

4 kites in his sled:

Krono, Ozone, 15 square meters, for weak winds, 6-8 knots

Access, Ozone, 10 m2

Access, Ozone, 6 m2 for use in strong winds

Summit, 12 m2.

Sebastian Copeland, who has kite-skied this route before, and Dixie Dansercoer, who has kite-skied 5013 km around the area, were Pontrandolfo’s advisers. Copeland recommended a kite line of 100 meters to catch high winds but Michele said he has only a maximum of 75 meter and hopes it will be good enough.

Although he is looking forward to the experience on Antarctica, Michele said he lost his heart in Resolute Bay in Canada’s high Arctic. He has been going there since 2006, six times. His Geographic North Pole attempts are still fresh in his memory, in particular the 52 days on the Arctic ice, with 10 days waiting for a pick up and days preparing a runway with an ice axe.

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