Antarctica 2023-4: Injuries Mount; Colliard Sets Off

The weather in Antarctica is good, but injuries and gear issues are mounting. Despite an excellent start, Pierre Hedan is going to have to pick up the pace, while Georgina Gilbert and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe battle injuries and illness.

Back at Hercules Inlet, Vincent Colliard and Colin O’Brady start their race to the Pole.


Like last season, there are no full Antarctic crossing attempts.

Sam Cox’s 2,000km crossing from Berkner Island to the base of the Reedy Glacier via the South Pole is this season’s longest expedition. He is making good progress despite his heavier pulk. Over the last week, he has tacked on another 145km, bringing his total to 650km.

Recently, a steep incline forced him to shuttle his heavy load uphill in stages, in a grueling 14-hour day.

Cox reports excellent conditions. However, it has been a hot couple of days, sunny with little to no wind, which has made some of the uphills a slog.

Sam Cox in Antarctica.

Sam Cox works his way out of the mountains. Photo: Sam Cox


Hercules Inlet to the South Pole

James Baxter reports that “for the moment, the knee is behaving as it should,” as he soldiers on toward the Pole. Baxter’s daily distances are up, with a couple of days approaching 30km, though he’s being careful not to push his knee too far.

Baxter has 30 days of food left and is just over halfway after 30 days on the ice. He remains on track to finish unsupported.

Roughly a day ahead of Baxter, Georgina Gilbert and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe are also on schedule. Like Baxter, their daily totals are increasing as their pulks lighten. On Dec. 19, they completed their longest day yet (28km) and passed the halfway mark.

Gilbert is suffering from polar thigh. She’s managing the injury by keeping it as warm as possible and applying steroid cream. “Everything’s OK,” she said in a recent audio update. Meanwhile, Openshaw-Rowe had a chest infection and then diarrhea caused by the antibiotics. Fortunately, she seems to be over it.


In a measure of Antarctica’s increasing commercialization, Gilbert and Openshaw-Rowe also spotted an electric car this week. Scots Chris and Julie Ramsey were driving the vehicle on a “Pole to Pole” journey, from the 19th-century location of the Magnetic North Pole (much further south than today) to the South Pole.

Pierre Hedan was well ahead of the pack in our last update, but he might still need to pick up the pace. Hedan is running out of fuel. On Dec. 15, he discovered that 2.5L of fuel had leaked into his pulk from an open jerrycan. Heavily rationed fuel, coupled with a dodgy ski binding, means Hedan might struggle to finish his journey unsupported.

For now, he’s going for it. He’ll need to cover roughly 30km per day over the final 500km to avoid a resupply.

Speed record hopefuls

There are at least three Hercules Inlet to the South Pole speed record hopefuls. An anonymous woman set off earlier in the season, Vincent Colliard set off yesterday, and Colin O’Brady is due to start soon. O’Brady made a predictably dramatic last-minute announcement last week. So far, it doesn’t appear that he will be sharing his tracker publicly.

Colliard’s tracker is here.

The two men are aiming to best Norwegian Christian Eide’s time of 24 days, 1 hour, and 13 minutes, set in 2011.

The women’s record is held by Colliard’s partner, Caroline Cote. Cote finished her solo, unsupported run from Hercules Inlet in 33 days, 2 hours, and 55 minutes last season.

Berkner Island to the South Pole

Canadian Patrick Bernier is 712km in and looking strong. You can listen to his audio updates (in French) here.

Fat-biking to the Pole

Omar Di Felice is very keen to emphasize that he isn’t concerned by his slow pace.

“[I’m] allergic to numbers and averages. Every day, the situation can change and you quickly go from being stuck in the tent to cycling more than 20-25km, which is a very good distance. For this reason, you don’t need any calculators until the end of the adventure…The only thing that matters is to keep pushing to the end,” he wrote in a recent update.

Omar Di Felice in Antarctica.

Photo: Omar Di Felice


While positive thinking might help Di Felice push on, it’s not useful for covering his journey, so I’m afraid I’ll have to ignore his advice to bin my calculator. Di Felice is 376km into his journey after 30 days, averaging 12.53km per day. With 766km to the Pole, he’ll need a very impressive kick to finish.

Yet his social media suggests unwavering belief. A recent update even suggests he might have time to continue past the Pole! “If there will be time and chance, we will go towards the Leverett Glacier. Every extra kilometer beyond the Pole will be the distance record cycled in Antarctica,” he wrote.

Preet Chandi exploited that idea last year: Rather than stop at the South Pole, go a little further even if it leads nowhere, because then you can claim a record distance.

Guided trips

Kustaa Piha, Anders Brotherus, and guide Poppis Suomela have less than 600km to go to the Pole. After a bit of cloudy, snowy weather they have been enjoying the sun and relative “warmth” of -10°C.

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 in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.