Antarctica 2022: Searle Aborts, Remaining Expeditions Approach The Plateau

Antarctica has been a struggle for most teams this year. With any chance of a speed record slipping away, Wendy Searle aborted her expedition this week.

Elsewhere, Thiels Corner was positively overrun with expeditions on December 21, and most teams from Hercules Inlet are now approaching the Antarctic Plateau.


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

Gareth Andrews and Richard Stephenson

Last week’s soft, deep snow continued as Andrews and Stephenson moved from the Sallee Snowfield to the Median Snowfield. However, over the last two days, the surface has firmed up into mini-sastrugi as they approach the Antarctic Plateau.

Andrews and Stephenson have been pulling two sleds each so far, to help spread the load over a greater area over soft snow. Yesterday, they decided to nest these together into one sled each. This should help them better maneuver through the hard sastrugi obstacle course of the Antarctic Plateau.

Preet Chandi

Chandi has made steady progress and is a little under halfway through her journey, having covered 759km of her total 1,770km.

Like Stephenson and Andrews, she has slogged through more soft snow than she’d like.

Six-person Australian team

After a rest and repair day on December 16, the Australian team put in a couple of big days to get to their food cache on December 21 at Thiels Corner. They’ll be easing back into things today “after a day of feasting during the summer solstice”.

Hercules Inlet to the South Pole

Mikko Vermas and Tero Teelahti moved to half-skins for the first time on December 16. Initially, they were whizzing along, with an immediate uptick in their skiing speed. But soon “Antarctica showed again who rules and who whines,” as they put it. There was more sticky snow, some friction problems, and a detached ski skin.

Mikko Vermas drags his sled in Antarctica.

The smoothest day that Mikko Vermas and Tero Teelahti have had in quite some time. Photo: Tero Teelahti


Just under halfway through, the duo will soon approach Thiels Corner.

Mateusz Waligora has picked up his pace and put in a couple of nearly 30km days to pass 85°. Waligora’s burst meant he caught up with Ben Weber again, who had passed him during our last update. In fact, it was rather a busy day at Thiels Corner on December 22, with Weber, Waligora, and the Australian team all present.

A Twin Otter plane also stopped by, and Weber reports that the pilot told him that this year’s sastrugi are the worst in eight years. Not ideal for such a busy year!

But perhaps conditions are improving for some expeditions. Norwegian solo skier Hedvig Hjertaker reported a really strong last two days, with perfect weather and 33km yesterday. However, she also mentions that she is nursing “a couple of frostbites”.

Norwegian duo AK Gluck-Teigland and Kjartan Bergsvag have also just passed Thiels Corner, overtaking the Australian team today when they passed 85°.

Speed record hopefuls

On December 19, Wendy Searle aborted her South Pole speed record attempt. Searle had made a decent start, though she was behind the pace needed to break the record from the off.

In an emotional message, Searle announced that she would abort after 340km with “the record slipping away”. She is awaiting pickup by ALE. Her expedition manager, Lou Rudd, wrote that “multiple factors have conspired against Wendy [Searle], most significantly the worst conditions in a decade and a chest infection that won’t clear despite antibiotics”.

Caroline Cote is still going and is flying along, considering the conditions. She is approaching 84° and sounds very positive, averaging a touch over 30km per day. For her, Johanna Davidsson’s 2016 time remains within reach.

Guided groups from the Messner Start

The 10-person Inspire 22 team has crossed its halfway point and is still going strong.

The Ousland Explorers team is a bit further ahead and reports perfect snow conditions as they passed 86°.

Two people drag sleds across Antarctica.

Photo: Ousland Explorers

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found out in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.