Antarctica 2022: Flat Light, Soft Snow, and New Year’s Celebrations

Sastrugi, low clouds, and soft snow continue to plague the expeditions. But victory is on the horizon for several groups now approaching the South Pole.

Crossings

There are three variations of Antarctic crossings this season. No one is attempting a full crossing of the continent.

Gareth Andrews and Richard Stephenson

Andrews and Stephenson got a brief respite from their sastrugi nightmare on New Year’s Day, and celebrated with a dram of single malt as they rang in 2023. But alas, the next day (day 50) of their expedition came with “sastrugi, soft snow, and uphill.” The duo is burning more calories as temps drop. But the good news is, they finally broke free of sastrugi and saw their first flat ground in nearly two weeks.

Andrews and Stephenson were happy to finally break out of the sastrugi's that plagued them for over a week. Photo: Andrews, Stephenson

Andrews and Stephenson finally left behind the sastrugi that had plagued them for over a week. Photo: Andrews/Stephenson

 

“We made some great progress,” they wrote in their most recent update, with palpable relief.

Preet Chandi

In our last update, we noted how many of  Chandi’s reports begin with slight variations of “it was another tough day.” That trend continued this week, with Chandi powering through soft, powdery snow and low visibility. As of Jan. 5, she was 100km from the South Pole.

“Still pretty slow going,” she noted in her latest Instagram update.

Six-person Australian team

The team is in seemingly high spirits and estimate just 12 days until they reach the South Pole. “Bodies are getting sore and they are missing home but hanging in there,” according to the team’s Twitter account.

The Spirit Lives team getting excited with 12 days left to the South Pole. PHoto: The Spirit Lives Antarctica

The Spirit Lives team getting excited with 12 days left to the South Pole. Photo: The Spirit Lives Antarctica

 

Hercules Inlet to the South Pole

Mikko Vermas and Tero Teelahti experienced a period of bizarre, cloudless, windless weather on Dec. 26, but normal conditions quickly reasserted themselves. The team took a half rest day on New Year’s Day, with 388km remaining.

On Jan. 3 (day 39), they reported a good day of skiing at 87˚S, despite uphill travel, sticky snow, and “a lot of sastrugis [sic].” The team shared a photo of Vermas’ thigh on their most recent update, which, well, you can see for yourself.

“This trip will leave him with impressive scars!” they wrote.

Vermis' thighs in rough shape. Photo:

Vermas’ thigh is in rough shape. Photo: Tero Teelahti

 

Mateusz Waligora has 195km to go. He crossed the 88th degree on Jan. 3. His next day’s update mentions cold and fatigue.

Meanwhile, Ben Weber reached his resupply cache and is feeling good about the gradual climbing to come. According to Weber’s Jan. 5 update, he now has enough food to take a day off.

“If conditions tomorrow are similar to today, I’ll be very tempted,” he writes.

Norwegians AK Gluck-Teigland and Kjartan Bergsvag are still on their speedy pace, having logged 1,104km in just over five weeks.

Speed record

Caroline Cote is still smoking along. Twenty-eight days into her expedition, she’s halfway between the 88th and 89th degrees.

“Conditions are getting colder here,” she reports in a recent audio journal. “I’m eating a lot of butter.” Cote seems confident she’ll be able to remain on pace.

Guided groups from the Messner Start

The Inspire 22 team was happy to reach their cache on Jan. 5. Due to some fortunate scheduling, the team was able to leave trash behind for immediate air pickup.

“Hardly believable we’ve been blessed to call Antarctica our home for over a month,” they write.

According to an update on their Instagram page on Jan. 6, the team has “less than 4 days of skiing and less than 100km to the Pole, and feels like the home straight.”

“Still whiteouts, high winds and freezing temperatures, but thoughts of finish and home, showers and home-cooked food are increasing,” they continue.

"Our red Hilleberg tents [are] the perfect home," writes the Antarctic Inspire 22 team. Photo: Antarctic Inspire 22

“Our red Hilleberg tents [are] the perfect home,” writes the Antarctic Inspire 22 team. Photo: Antarctic Inspire 22

In our last update, we reported the Ousland Explorers were enjoying good weather and “amazing” conditions. Unfortunately, that run of luck seems to have dried up shortly after the team crossed the 89th degree. Cold weather and flat light descended on day 47, but day 48 saw them “tracking awesomely.” They reached the Pole on Jan. 6. In total, it took them 50 days.

Another commercial group, led by long-time Antarctic guide Are Johansen, also completed their trek today.

 

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Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew's essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals. You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).