Antarctica 2023-4: The Weather Worsens

Although Antarctica’s weather is never exactly gentle, it’s been comparatively kind to this year’s expeditions so far. This bodes well for a high completion rate, especially for Vincent Colliard’s attempt to break the Hercules Inlet-South Pole speed record — the most interesting expedition of the season.

Yet flat light over the past few days shows how quickly conditions can change. And even with the (mostly) good weather, this week sees our first aborted expedition.


Like last season, there are no full Antarctic crossings announced.

Sam Cox has just stepped off the edge of Berkner Island and onto the ice shelf. He’s 338km into his 2,000km journey.

Sam Cox

After some overcast days, the sun came out and Sam Cox could charge his devices. Photo: Sam Cox


Cox reports that his left boot is still uncomfortable but he has made “some bodge repairs,” which involved butchering a bit of his sleeping pad for some extra padding. This hasn’t proven particularly effective so far, but pain medication has. Cox popped a couple of pills, “which made the afternoon fly by.”

Cox should be able to blitz through the next degree, which is mostly flat, before slowing for the grind up to the polar plateau.

Hercules Inlet to the South Pole

Jacob Myers has aborted his solo expedition just 13 days in. Myers had been moving quite slowly. Day 12 was the first day that he completed the minimum daily distance he needed to make the Pole with his supplies.

After nearly two weeks without meeting that 22.5km daily threshold, he would have to really pick up the pace. Instead, the next day he announced the end of his expedition.

“After evaluating the progress that I have been making and just the way my strength has been declining over the past week or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that…I’m simply moving too slow. I’m 25% of the way through my food rations today and I’m only 16% of the way through the journey.”

Myers was offered a resupply but decided not to take it because of his declining strength, both physical and mental. He is now stationary and waiting to hear where an evacuation plane will be able to land.

James Baxter is still battling knee issues, which he believes could be an “inflamed IT Band right at the bottom of the femur.” While taking some time off to rest it on day 11 (Nov. 30), Baxter spotted another solo skier pass by.

“I knew who it was, and they were trying to do it as quickly as possible. They also wanted to keep it under wraps a bit, so I won’t say more. They gave me a wide berth and continued past my tent at half a kilometer’s distance,” Baxter wrote.

After a bit of time off, Baxter has eased back into it, trying not to push his knee too hard. He’s understandably worried.

“It would be crushingly disappointing if I had to end my trip after so much time and expense. If my knee did not repair sufficiently, I could ski on at about 8-10km a day to the halfway point at Thiel Fuel Cache, where ALE planes regularly land…On the other hand, my knee might recover completely,” he wrote recently.

Pierre Hedan continues his slog uphill to the polar plateau. Though visibility has improved in the last few days, snow conditions may have deteriorated.

“Pierre [Hedan] finds himself pulling his pulka like a tire in sand,” his home team wrote in the latest update. He is covering around 18km per day, roughly on target to complete his expedition.

An Antarctic track from a pulk.

Hedan’s trail through Antarctica. Photo: Pierre Hedan.


British firefighters Georgina Gilbert and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe report tough conditions, with soft snow, strong headwinds, sastrugi, and whiteouts. But they seem to be making good progress, covering 21km yesterday and the day before.

British duo Alan Chambers and David Thomas are also en route to the Pole but don’t appear to be posting either. They bumped into James Baxter on Dec. 3. Said Baxter: “[They are] not here to set records but are just two old buddies out to have a trip to themselves.”

We’ll respect their trip as a personal one and won’t be providing updates unless something changes.

Berkner Island to the South Pole

Canadian Patrick Bernier has completed 335km, according to his tracker. His audio updates are in French, and he doesn’t appear to be asking for directions to the tourist information office or recounting his summer holidays, so my GCSE-level French has proven completely useless.

Fat-biking to the Pole

Omar Di Felice is struggling. In our last update, on day eight of his expedition, he had covered 99km. Now on day 17, he has totaled only 132km.

“Curved. By the wind, by Antarctica, by an unforgiving place, by the kilometers that don’t increase [although] every day I put more energy than the previous one, from the conditions that instead of improving continue to become more…harsh,” Di Felice posted yesterday.

He will need to drastically increase his pace to have any chance of reaching the Pole.

Cycling to the South Pole.

Omar Di Felice is well behind schedule. Photo: Omar Di Felice

Guided trips

Kustaa Piha, Anders Brotherus, and guide Poppis Suomela have also found the weather poor recently.

“In recent days, skiing has been in pretty tough conditions, but today was the most challenging weather so far,” they wrote yesterday. “More than 10 m/s headwind and -15 °C.”

Before slowing slightly, the team was making good progress, consistently putting in 20km+ days.

No news is hopefully good news for the other guided trips from the Messner Start.

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.