After covering a total distance of 4500Km in 63 days - currently the longest and fastest non-motorized polar traverse ever - the Spanish trans-Antarctic team proved their kite-sled. For Larramendi, the traverse has been a dream come true, after six years of hearty fight. Image over Contact 3.0 courtesy of the expedition.
ExplorersWeb Week in Review

Posted: Jan 14, 2006 11:21 pm EST
Antarctica finals turned into a thriller as one team broke the world distance record using a very unusual sled while another team lost a skier to frostbite. North Pole is kicking off in pitch darkness. The Ocean rowers had men overboard in a chaotic few days. And Lafaille is not alone freezing out there; Pakistan quake survivors too are getting the full force of Hiamalayan winter. A white spider spun its final thread and the last surviving member of the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition passed away at 100 years old, his legacy; Dream Big and dare to fail. Later adding: You only fail when you quit.

Makalu winter update Taking advantage of a small brake in the wind speed, Jean Christophe Lafaille set off from BC, and spent the night at 6000m hoping to reach reaching Makalu la, at 7400m and spend a night there to complete his acclimatization process before going for the summit of Makalu. JCL reported some delicate passages through crevassed sections on the glacier, he expected winds to be high - but gusts reached up to 120-140 Km/h, (35 ms/80mph), one sweeping away the small tent. Lafaille retreated in the strong wind - at times, the climber got literally lifted in the air, clinging to the wall only by his ice-axes. At least, Lafaille had time to check Makalu's upper slopes. "The Messner variation is completely dry, to be climbed entirely on rock," he reckoned. "The French route looks slightly better, but also rather dry. There are not so many cornices to be seen on the summit ridge." Last, Lafaille planned to rest in BC and study the weather forecasts.

Heinrich Harrer: The White Spider has spun his last thread The Austrian climber passed away on January 7th at 93 years old. The world lost a remarkable explorer, at times haunted by his political past. In his book The White Spider, considered by many to be one of the best mountaineering stories ever written, Harrer recounted the 1938 climb of The Spider on the upper half of Eiger's North face. But the climbers left a different spider on the summit: A black four legged spider known as the swastika. Seven Years in Tibet marked a change in Harrer; My personal political philosophy grew out of my life in Tibet. It is a belief that reflects many tenets of Buddhism and places great emphasis on human life and human dignity. And it is a philosophy which leads me to condemn as strongly as possible the horrible crimes of the Nazi period." Heinrich Harrer departed for his last expedition with a great calm, his family reported Saturday.

ExWeb interview with Silvio Mondinelli: Stand up and fight - on Shisha, Lhotse, and perhaps Annapurna 2005 was a bitter-sweet year for Italian Silvio Gnaro Mondinelli. He summited Nanga Parbat, his tenth 8000er, but also lost a friend on Annapurna. Dreams of a summit vanished the moment Kuntner died in Silvios arms. Silvio is far from giving up though. His first goal for 2006 is Shisha Pangma, with a variation of the normal route. If there's time, he'll give Lhotse a try, possibly with Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. And then Annapurna perhaps, with Abele Blanc who wants to try a new route there in fall, "he seems ready to go back," Gnaro told ExWeb.

Brendan Cusick on Christian Kuntners last hours: "Six grown men sat around him crying" Among the survivors of the tragedy that took Kuntner's life, was a "Doctor from Colorado," who attempted to save Christian Kuntner. Read his diary entry from Annapurna, about the final hours of one of the world's greatest climbers.

March of the underdogs: In Ed Hommer's footsteps - Nawang Sherpa back for Cho Oyu You can kill a climber but you can't kill the dream. In 1981, Ed Hommer lost his lower limbs to frostbite. In 2000, on the other side of the world, mountain guide Nawang Sherpa lost his leg in a motorbike accident. Ed got Nawang a new "climbing leg" and the two men set out to scale Everest together. The next year however, on September 23, 2003, a rock struck and killed Ed Hommer on Mount Rainier. With the new leg that Hommer's foundation had given him and the help of American Tom McMillan, the Sherpa alpinist amputee finally summited Everest in 2004 - a climb for which he was awarded special mention as best of the year by ExplorersWeb. This year, Friendship Beyond Borders Expedition has come together once more: Americans Tom McMillan and Pete Lardey will assist Nawang in his quest to summit Cho Oyu and become the first amputee to summit two 8000ers. Mark Inglis, a double-amputee from New Zealand, will be attempting Mt. Everest and both teams will be in close contact via sat-phone, in order to motivate each other to the top.

Earthquake update: Cold, politics and oblivion - the dead and the climbers still out there After the quake came the land slides; then came the rain; now a terrible cold has descended on Pakistan and Kashmir. Thursday, local media reported about 230 dead in Northern India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Dal Lake in Srinagar, (capital of Indian Kashmir) has frozen up for the first time in 10 years. Oblivion is adding up to the misery, but the climbing community has not forgot, or given up their efforts. Check who's still out there helping out.

Sharpen your picks: It's all systems go for the Ice Climbing World Cup After two years of local tournaments and a World Championship, ice climbing competition has finally made it to to the World Cup arena. The five-stage World Cup competition begins January 20-22 in Valle di Daone, Italy. Hundreds of climbers have already assembled in the town located in the Trentino region (northern Italy), ready to compete with the best.

Blankonthemap: Shipton's tracks across Pakistan's hidden valleys Shipton was a team-member on all four Everest expeditions during the 1930s and found the route that Hillary and Tenzing would follow to the top of the world. Next, Eric's focus shifted to Karakorum, the explorations published in his book Blank on the Map. Bruno Collard, webmaster of the French website Blankonthemap, completed the great traverse from Shimshal to Askole, Northern Pakistan in June 2005. Following Eric Shiptons notes, and footsteps, he led a small group across one of the most remote corners of the Himalayas. The amazing trip included hidden mountain passages, strange wildlife, breathtaking landscapes and a heap of mysterious bones found in a cave. This last discovery has led Bruno to plan a new expedition. In fact, he is looking for historians and archeologists to join the team.

Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race Rescue: Crew rescued by US Coast Guard On Sunday, January 8th, at 16:53 the US Coast Guard picked up two distress signals from the crew of Digicel's Atlantic Challenge, after they had lost control over their rudder. Because phone contact was not possible, the Coast Guard immediately put together a search and rescue mission, saving the crew. Next, a broken steering mechanism left Digicel Atlantics crew without any control over their vessel and they capsized. They were rescued by a Spanish tanker.

The rescue mission was not even complete and another rower - this time solo - Chris Martins boat Pacific Pete also capsized. Luckily for Chris, the Woodvale support vessel 'Aurora' was not far away and has supplied him with replacement oars so he can continue the Race. Yet another incident was also in the works. Gurkha Spirits Al Howard and Nick Rowe nearly experienced a similar fate as their boat was hoisted into the air catapulting Al overboard, "When I surfaced, miraculously still wearing my glasses, the boat was up on its side at 90 degrees and overwhelmed with water, reported Al. The crew has decided to remain in the Race. All this drama has caused a sudden safety drive on board, the Row4life guys are spending most of their time outside with their life jackets on and strapped to their boat.

Colin Yeates Update: 'Charlie Rossiter' safely recovered Colins boat and all his equipment are now safely back on dry land in Port Stanley thanks to the efforts and expertise of local volunteers that pitched in to help. It looks likely that the expedition may be under-way again in around two weeks time. This is an amazing turn-around from the bleak situation Colin faced last Tuesday night and way exceeds any of our expectations. Thanks almost entirely to the help and support of the local Falkland Island people, reported Colin and team, the rower now looking to begin his non-stop row around Antarctica as soon as the Charlie Rossiter is ready to go.

ExWeb interview - Borge Ousland: "No need for sunscreen!" Norwegian Borge Ousland and South African Mike Horn have joined forces for a bold North Pole expedition. We will try to do the entire trip during the dark period, and arrive before the 23rd of March, which is the first day of Spring and when the sun begins to appear above the horizon at the North Pole, Ousland told ExplorersWeb in an interview. A reader pointed out that if Borge and Mike want to see the sun rise at the North Pole they have to reach it before 15h54 UTC on the 18 of March. If they only want to be there before spring, they will have to reach it before 18h25 UTC on March 20. In any case, the men have arrived Norilsk, the northernmost city in Siberia, tasting 35 and 40 degrees below zero. Already this weekend, they plan to leave for Sredny, planning on staying not much more than 24 hours.

Antarctica: Rune's the man! Rune knows well what awaits Borge and Mike. The skier crossed the entire Arctic ocean in an outstanding unsupported trip (Rune and Torry started out mid February and initially traveled in perpetual darkness, a fate now awaiting fellow countryman Ousland). These days though, Rune is on the far side of the earth, doing pretty good there too: Monday, Rune Gjeldnes broke the world record in the longest solo kite-trek without resupplies at Antarctica! Since he began his Antarctic crossing (no supplies, kite-supported), the Norwegian explorer has covered a total distance of 3880 Km.

Spanish trans-Antarctic team: Non-stop race to (another) finish line! The Spaniards were in a non-stop race, covering up to 280 Km in a day, heading towards a specific point on the Antarctic plateau, where a helicopter will pick them up and air-lift them straight to the Russian Ice Breaker which will take them back to civilization. The three members have been riding their kite-sled in a mad charge over the ice, losing the ARGOS, satellite phone, solar panels, and food. They had no choice but to backtrack for the lost gear on foot, in whiteout conditions. Back on the sled, the trio decided to rest for a while before proceeding. We had not eaten or slept for 24 hours, they reported.

But the battle paid off: After covering a total distance of 4500Km in 63 days - currently the longest and fastest non-motorized polar traverse ever - the guys proved the utility of the kite-sled as an innovative, clean mean of transportation. For Larramendi, the traverse has been a dream come true, after six years of hearty fight. The Spanish explorer came up with the idea of building a kite-sled during a trip to the North Pole years ago. Since then, he has fought - and conquered - lack of funds and all skepticism. This is proof that, if you really want something and you persevere in your dreams, in the end everything is possible, Ramon added.

Proyecto Cumbre SP team: 206 Km in ten days? How? Together with Rune, the Venezuelans are the last men standing on Antarctica's ice, fighting for every step of their unsupported trip to the South Pole, marching for 10 hours a day in strong headwinds. Proyecto Cumbre member Carlos Castillo was evacuated with frostbite. The Venezuelan expedition now sadly loses its unsupported status, a bitter turn of events considering all the work they put in and being so close to the finish line. Less than two degrees from target, the unsupported expedition shows that in unsupported polar crossings - distance is the greatest obstacle. A lesson learned at a far greater expense, by Scott's team many years ago.

Dream big and dare to fail: An era of polar exploration dies with Norman Vaughan The last surviving member of the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition, Norman had hoped to celebrate his 100th birthday December 19th 2005, by drinking champagne on his own mountain; Mt. Vaughan, a 10,302 ft. peak in Antarctica. He made the 100 but not the peak. One day before Christmas, American musher Norman Vaughan passed away, in peace and surrounded by his family. The adventurer's saga was pretty typical of great explorers: A wild brew of expeditions, wars and politics, failed marriage and business ventures, fame, triumphs - and through it all; a fearless and passionate zest for life leaving an everlasting impression on the people around him. His conclusion, Dream Big and dare to fail. Later he added: You only fail when you quit.

Falcon another attempt to fly February 8 The Paypal founder's space venture is turning into a thriller, getting us all involved. Elon is "one of us" a regular, self-made guy (losing his money at rocket speed) trying to build his own shuttle. So far, the odds are bleak, considering this is Elon's umpht attempt to leave ground. Anyways, the latest from our rookie space hero is that the new launch time is February 8 at 4:30 p.m. California time with Feb. 9 as a backup day.

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