Antarctica: Colliard On Track For Speed Record

Vincent Colliard needs only nine (very) big days to break Christian Eide’s impressive Hercules Inlet to South Pole speed record. Meanwhile, Pierre Hedan is soldiering on with limited fuel and a finicky ski binding.

Hercules Inlet to the South Pole

James Baxter found the soft snow around 86° tough going. There was a slow drizzle of snow on Dec. 29-30, and “these small snow particles, like caster sugar, grip the runners of the pulk and don’t let it pass easily,” he wrote. “I felt like a large plow horse pulling a three-bladed plow through an everlasting field of sorbet.”

Over these two days, Baxter dropped his daily distance totals by design. He focused on four five-kilometer sessions in the deep snow rather than his usual six sessions.

Fortunately, the snow firmed up in the New Year and he is back to 20km+ days. You can read his excellent, in-depth daily summaries on his website.

Georgina Gilbert and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe are a little over a degree ahead of Baxter and will cross into 88˚S tomorrow. They also found soft snow around 86˚ (and battled through a few whiteout days), but increased their daily ski time to stay on schedule. They are hoping to arrive at the Pole in eight days.

Pierre Hedan needed to hurry to the Pole because of a fuel leak, but his dodgy ski binding adds an extra complication. The binding is extremely difficult to open and close, and he’s nursing it through some big days.

Binding repairs.

Binding repairs have not solved Hedan’s problem. Photo: Pierre Hedan


Hedan has passed 1,000km and is on the plateau. “It is flat, not a single sastrugi, but it is cold, snowing, and windy. I’ve now got my biggest gloves on…and the sweat from my socks freezes while walking,” he wrote in his most recent update.

He is managing his fuel well, and his rationing means that he should reach the Pole without a resupply. He has just 90km to go as of this morning.

Speed record hopefuls

Of our three hopefuls, only Vincent Colliard is still on the ice. Colin O’Brady aborted after a scary crevasse fall, leaving Colliard as the lone skier attempting to best Christian Eide’s overall speed record from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole.

Preet Chandi has already finished her secret run to the Pole, handily breaking Caroline Cote’s record from last season. Chandi finished the 1,130km route in 31 days, 13 hours, and 19 minutes. She bested Cote’s time by 1 day, 14 hours, and 34 minutes. She maintained an average of 36km per day.

Colliard is flying along, wrapping up 2023 with an astonishing four straight 50km+ days. The New Year has seen more of the same. He covered 102km over the previous two days, despite lots of powder, and is now on his seventh 50km+ day in a row. He’s on track to break Eide’s record, roughly 37km ahead of where Eide was after 15 days. But he has now crossed 86˚, where the other skiers reported soft snow.

Colliard has set up his sleds in a catamaran style to deal with the combination of whiteouts and sastrugi over the last few days. This setup helps stop the sled from overturning.

“I’m really pushing my body to the edge. I think it is a fine line between failure and success. I have nine days to reach the South Pole,” Colliard said in an audio update yesterday.

Colliard is right. Eide put in an almighty kick to finish his 2011 run, including around 90km on the last day. It’ll be touch and go till the end.

Berkner Island to the South Pole

Canadian Patrick Bernier has covered 1,034km and is consistently managing 25km+ days. He is on target to finish before Jan. 16, as planned. You can listen to his audio updates (in French) here.

Fat-biking to the Pole

Soft snow makes for tough work. Photo: Omar Di Felice


Omar Di Felice’s daily average has hovered around 14km per day for most of his expedition. Now, just under 618km into his 1,130km journey, conditions are perhaps harder than ever. Fresh, soft snow has slowed him to a crawl. In yesterday’s update, he spent an hour and a half dragging his gear 800m before electing to stop for the day.

“[This is] the most difficult place to cross that I have ever faced. Physical and mental effort do not help, so stopping for a few more hours, eating and trying to relax, is the only thing I can do right now,” he wrote.

Barring a miracle, ALE will cut his expedition short before he reaches the Pole. ALE imposes a Jan. 18 deadline for expeditions to finish.

Guided trips

Kustaa Piha, Anders Brotherus, and guide Poppis Suomela have 300km to go. They have a couple more days of altitude to gain before the polar plateau.

The climb to the polar plateau.

The climb to the polar plateau. Photo: The Pole Expeditions

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.