Antarctica: The Home Stretch for Some, A Long Way to Go for Others

In this week’s update, Preet Chandi flies into the home straight, Masatatsu Abe celebrates his birthday, and Justin Packshaw and Jamie Facer-Childs can’t seem to get on the right side of the Anemoi.

Packshaw and Facer-Childs kite-ski expedition

I hate to sound like a broken record, but Packshaw and Facer-Childs are still struggling with the wind on their way to the South Pole. On day 45 of their expedition, they still had 638km to go, with only 1,539km under their belts so far.

Having abandoned their original plan to travel via the Pole of Inaccessibility because of their slow progress and lack of enough supplies, they now face the prospect of having to ration just to make the South Pole. Lately, the problem has been not enough wind.

Even in low wind, the kites can be tricky beasts to control. On December 28, they had one of their more violent struggles: “Jamie’s pulk had turned over on some sastrugi. I was kiting behind him and started to move up to the pulk to right it. When I was a couple of feet away one of my brake lines just snapped, causing my kite to aggressively dive, taking me into the air over the pulk and straight into Jamie. It knocked him and I for six!” Packshaw recounted.

Fortunately, neither man was seriously hurt. Polar travel is usually slow and methodical and injury-free, but people have hurt themselves kiting.

Martin Hewitt and Lou Rudd

Hewitt’s Achilles tendon is recovering nicely. Rudd and Hewitt are planning to complete a last-degree ski trip to the Pole. However, first, they have to wait for the other last-degree teams to finish so that they can hitch a ride on the plane that goes out to pick them up.

On December 23, ALE reported that the first of their last-degree teams had finished. Photo: Christopher Michel/@chrismichel

If all goes well, they will then move on to climb Mount Vinson.

Solo expeditions

Preet Chandi has made light work of her journey and is now into the final 60 nautical miles to the Pole. She continues to churn out the kilometres during long days. Most recently, she put in a 20-hour shift. Round-the-clock sunshine at that latitude makes such marathons hard but possible.

Now as she approaches the Pole, she reports fewer sastrugi and lower temperatures.

On his route to the Pole, Masatatsu Abe isn’t out of the sastrugi minefield yet. His days have oscillated between good and poor visibility, with the bad days making the sastrugi very hard to spot. However, the snow is getting firmer and he has been able to pick up his pace.

On Christmas Day, Abe spied the South Pole Overland Traverse (SPOT) road: “There is a ‘highway’ on the Ross Ice Shelf. Of course, instead of paved roads, snowmobiles cross the Ross Ice Shelf diagonally from McMurdo Station on the coast to Amundsen-Scott Station in Antarctica, a route created by burying crevasses for the transportation of goods. I thought it would hit somewhere, but it was more north than I expected.”

Abe spots the SPOT road. Photo: Masatatsu Abe

Today Abe celebrates his birthday, the second time he has done so in Antarctica.