Antarctica: Titan Dome and Katabatic Winds

Reported wind-chill of below -40.

(Correne Coetzer) While the North Pole experienced ice-melting high temperatures the past days, the South Pole skiers were stopped in their tracks by too cold katabatic winds.

For Henry Worsley, who is heading North from the South Pole, it is not downhill yet, he still has to get across Titan Dome, the highest area on his route. Titan Dome rises to just above 10,000 ft but Henry hopes to avoid that area.

Some teams are racing against time to get to the South Pole before the cut-off date.

Wrap-up January 3-6:

Note: Definitions below according to

assisted = resupplies

supported = kite/car/skidoo support u2028

HENRY WORSLEY (55) UK, solo, Unassisted Unsupported traverse 1100nm / 2037km, Berkner Island – Geographic South Pole – Shackleton Glacier (Ross Ice Shelf), Started November 13, 2015 South Pole January 2, 2016 (Day 51).

Henry slept most of the day (Jan. 3) at the South Pole. Rather to start the next day heading North, he decided to start his traverse leg at 8 pm that evening. Henry assured that he didn’t compromise his solo status at the Pole by taking anything of anybody. He treated it only as another campsite.

Out of the Pole, towards the Shackleton Glacier, snow surface was even and soft, but uphill. Further on, snow got firmer. In the mornings, Henry gets underway at 7 am and travels very long 13 hour days, a huge task at this stage, already above 9,700 feet.


Day 52 January 3, S89º 57.193 E68º 14.804, Time Travelled 3 Hours, Distance 5.4 Nautical Miles, Accumulated Distance 576.9 Nautical Miles, Altitude 9300 ft, Temperature -18°C Wind Speed 0 mph, Weather Glorious.

Day 53 January 4, S89º 43.569 W178º 00.790, Time Travelled 13 Hours Distance Today 13.8 Nautical Miles, Accumulated Distance 590.7 Nautical Miles, Altitude 9341 ft, Temperature -28°C Wind Speed 8 mph, Weather Fine.

Day 54 January 5, S89º 29.931 W174º 35.134, Time Travelled 13 Hours 30 Minutes, Distance 13.8 Nautical Miles, Accumulated Distance 604.5 Nautical Miles, Altitude 9517 ft, Temperature -36°C, Wind Speed 8 mph, Weather Fine.

Day 55 January 6, S89º 17.216, E179º 30.995, Time Travelled 13 Hours, Distance 13.3 Nautical Miles, Accumulated Distance 617.8 Nautical Miles, Altitude 9720 ft, Temperature -36 to -44°C, Wind Speed 5 mph, Weather Glorious.

LUKE ROBERTSON (30) UK/Scotland, solo, Unassisted Unsupported 1130km, Hercules Inlet to Geographic South Pole, Started December 5, 2015.

Luke is in 87 degrees South and in the infamous sastrugi fields, and battled a 45mph headwind. Yesterday he was at 2500 m and satisfied with his progress.

DOUG TUMMINELLO USA, Assisted (emergency supply) Unsupported 1130km, Hercules Inlet – Geographic South Pole, Started December 6, 2015, at 7 pm, skiing for an hour.

Doug reported on January 4: “Today the wind came out screaming. For the entire day I was fighting a headwind that was at least 30 mph, with stronger gusts. Yesterday’s weather was so peaceful, and then this. I finally had to stop after 8.5 hours – too cold. It took me the better part of an hour to get my tent pitched.”

His day starts at 6:30. He skis in 90-minute sessions, 80 minutes plus a 10-minute break; 9 to 10.5 hours skiing until around 7pm.

Yesterday Doug described how he experience sastrugi. “People imagine the snow of Antarctica to be relatively flat and smooth, easy to ski. If only! With wind comes sastrugi – bumps, ridges and dunes that can be as tall as you are. With the high winds of the past several days, the surface has become a sea of wind-hardened sastrugi snow. Imagine fish scales atop fish scales, several feet high, long narrow knife-edged ridges cutting across the line of travel, rock-hard dunes feet high, ocean waves of hard snow. That’s sastrugi, and it’s a bear to ski through.”

Latest position: 33 miles from Thiels.

CARL ALVEY (UK, ANI guide), EMMA TAMSIN KELTY (UK), Assisted Unsupported 1130km, Hercules Inlet – Geographic South Pole, Started December 5, 2015.

Emma’s cough is under control. The duo passed the halfway mark. They picked up their second of three resupplies at Thiels Corner where they had dinner with the ANI/ALE staff, eating real food and drinking beer, “it tasted so good and talk about sensory overload!” Emma wrote, “Spoke to 5 different people (after a month of seeing and chatting to only one person – the guide), sat at a table and there was even a sit-down toilet too!”

Two days ago, the cold wind stopped them after 4 hours skiing. Emma explained, “With today 5/1/16 being the first time for a couple of days of not wanting to constantly dash to the windy and uber cold toilet in the snow…. and there is of course a wee bit of comedy action trying to remove layers and skies in super quick fashion! Surely the luck has to change sometime??!!! Uphill, sastrugi , bitter cold and windy was the order for today. I was really pleased that I had my uber warm wool mitts! A god send when you see fingers turn white within seconds….. Kinda scary and knowing that it will only get colder.”

Reported distances: 13.5m, 18.5nm

DEVON MCDIARMID (CA, ANI guide), STEW EDGE (UK), MOSTAFA SALAMEH (Jordan), SHAHROM ABDULLAH (Malaysia), Assisted Unsupported 890km, Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner) – South Pole, Started Dec. 9, 2015.

The men crossed 88 degrees late yesterday and about to pick up their third resupply.

Mostafa reported about crossing sastrugi “up and down” and slippery blue ice. Yesterday he reported, “I have to say today was the hardest ever day, it was all uphill and the wind was blowing 30 miles an hour in our faces all the time, I felt so cold and someone like hitting me all the time in my face. My face was block of ice.”

Stew reported 20 knots winds with a wind-chill of -40, and a mental and physical challenge across the sastrugi. He added an extra layer of clothes; his “down vest on top of my jacket and my down skirt on protecting my thighs and felt quite comfortable.”

Everyone is doing well, he said, and we have not dropped below 14 nm for the last 17days. “The sastrugi fields in 87 degrees were challenging. “Our bodies are starting to get more tired now and the last pull of the day is the hardest and requires a lot more effort than it did for the first 3 weeks.”


Gateway port Cape Town, South Africa:

To ALCI /TAC base camp Novolazarevskaya / Novo

70° 46’37”S, 011° 49’26”E

Gateway port Punta Arenas, Chile, South America:

To ALE/ANI base camp, Union Glacier

79° 45’S, 083° 14’W elev 708m

Lat: -79.760591 Lon: -82.856698

Hercules Inlet is located at 80°S near Union Glacier, 1130 km from the Geographic South Pole.

The Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner) start is 890 km in a straight line from the Pole.

Novolazarevskaya to South Pole of Inaccessibility (POI) is 1610 km in a straight line.

South Pole of Inaccessibility (POI)

2011-12 position: S82°06.696, E055°01.951 (Copeland/McNair-Landry)

On Dec. 14, 2014 Frédéric Dion reported the position the POI (at Lenin’s bust) as S82º 06.702′ E55º 2.087′ at an elevation of 3741 m.

Geographic South Pole (GSP): 90 degrees South

According to the Rules of Adventure at, to claim a “solo” achievement requires an unassisted status – therefore, no supplies carried by pilots or car drivers, or anything (food, fuel, etc) received from any person along the way. A solo person may be wind supported (kites/sails). Note that the Polar Rules were compiled by early Norwegian and British Polar explorers and are maintained today by the current community of veteran polar skiers.

1 nautical mile (nm) = 1.852 km

1 nm = 1.151 miles

1 knot = 1.852 km/h

1 degree of Latitude is 110 km / 60 nm / 70 miles

Sastrugi are hard snow bumps and can be as high as 10 feet

A nunatak is a top of a mountain visible above the snow surface.

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