Antarctica 2022: Slow Progress

Last week’s roller-coaster weather slowed progress and some skiers are still struggling to ramp up the pace. Slow and steady isn’t necessarily a big problem for most teams, but it certainly won’t do for solo speed record hopefuls Wendy Searle and Caroline Cote. Searle is up and running while Cote should set out today or tomorrow.


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

Gareth Andrews and Richard Stephenson

If Andrews and Stephenson wish to avoid a resupply, they are going to need to drastically pick up the pace. Last week, they had 48 days left and 1,650km still to go. Warm, soft snow on days 20 (a balmy -8°C) and 21 have made it tough. They have been averaging a solid 23km per day, but need to be closer to 35km to make the Ross Ice Shelf on schedule.

On day 24 they completed their crossing of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf and stepped onto land for the first time. Climbing toward the Antarctica plateau, the pair are now headed for the Wujek Ridge: “We are hoping that the cloud clears for our ascent of the Wujek Ridge. Otherwise, we may lose a few days of travel waiting for a weather window to safely ascend through the mountains.”

A man stands in light ski gear in Antarctica.

During a particularly warm day, Andrews and Stephenson stripped down to just hoodies. Photo: Antarctica 2023


Preet Chandi

Preet Chandi is also struggling to pick up the pace. She made a solid start but is still averaging only 18km per day. “I’ve come across a lot more sastrugi so far this year so it’s still pretty slow, either trying to go around it or through it,” she wrote in a recent update.

Six-person Australian team

After an easing of the sastrugi last week, the Australian team reports that the hard snow waves have returned with a vengeance. They spent December 6 picking their way through “a beautiful but wildly deformed landscape” before the sastrugi flattened out again by December 8.

The team has upped their daily distances since our last update, dragging their average up to a more respectable 17km per day.

Hercules Inlet to the South Pole

Mikko Vermas and Tero Teelahti are still slogging up toward the plateau. December 1 offered them little in the way of entertainment — a whiteout day for six of their seven ski legs. December 2 and 3 were much better and they made the most of it. They increased their mileage from around 13km to above 18km.

By December 7, they seemed to have found a groove. With “good and slightly sticky snow”, they knocked over 20.5km, their longest day yet.

Mateusz Waligora is having some kit troubles. The problems include a broken shovel, a torn tent guide rope, and cracks in the lining of his down jacket. He is patching things up and making do. On day 18, he passed 82°. He has progressively ramped up his effort, covering 22.5km on day 21.


Ben Weber and his troublesome neck got back on track over the last week. He repeatedly broke his daily distance totals despite some whiteout days. He described the days inside a ping-pong ball rather well: “it was just skiing through a white void. Have you seen The Matrix? It’s like the construct for the matrix, when Neo says ‘guns… lots of guns’, only definitely no guns. Or anything else of note really.”

However, Weber’s medical resupply went badly. A coordinates mix-up meant that Weber spent time searching for his resupply seven kilometres directly east of the actual drop. When he phoned in and the error was corrected, it meant several kilometres of wasted effort.

Norwegian solo skier Hedvig Hjertaker seems chipper and is making steady progress 12 days in.

Another team popped up on our radar this week. Norwegians AK Gluck-Teigland and Kjartan Bergsvag set out from Hercules Inlet on November 28. Today they passed 82°, leaving only 900km to the pole. They’ve made good time so far, averaging around 23km per day.

Speed record hopefuls

Hoping to avoid early-season weather instability, both Wendy Searle and Caroline Cote chose an early December start. Each hopes to break Swede Johanna Davidsson’s time of 38 days and 23 hours from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole.

Cote has not set off yet but is in Union Glacier completing her final preparations and kit alterations. She hopes to fly out to Hercules Inlet today.

Searle is already off. It was windy on day 1 but she managed 20km in six hours during the initial climb away from Hercules Inlet. By day 3, she had ramped up to 25km despite the sastrugi. “It’s been a long day, but I know they’re going to get longer,” Searle said in an audio update from her tent.

Four days in, Searle has covered 88km. It’s a good start but still slightly behind Davidsson’s 2016 record pace.

Cycling across Antarctica

Cyclist Omar Di Felice has aborted his ride to the South Pole. Di Felice had struggled from the beginning, with multiple windbound days. “The beginning, more complicated than expected, is affecting my morale rather than the body,” he wrote on December 3.

On December 4 his expedition abruptly ended, with ALE evacuating him back to Union Glacier. In a long social media post, Di Felice detailed some mental health struggles. “Stopping for a moment before risking completely losing clarity was the most painful step but the only possible one,” he wrote.

Guided groups from the Messner Start

The 10-person Inspire 22 team is increasing their ski sessions from seven 50-minute legs per day to seven 60-minute legs “to create a bit of a buffer in the event of bad weather”. They have just over 700km remaining to the Pole.

The Ousland Explorers team had originally planned to swing by two food depots on their way to the Pole. However, unusual weather meant that these were never set up. Instead, they’ve had to arrange an airdrop to refill their dwindling food supplies.

A person stands by a red tent amongst sastrugi ridges in Antarctica.

Camping amid the sastrugi. Photo: Ousland Explorers


A food bag was dropped on day 18 and they are now approaching Thiels Corner. “The speed is now just above 20km per day, [we] are a well-oiled machine with clockwork routines and very high spirits,” they wrote in a recent update.

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.