(By Correne Coetzer, updated Oct. 1, maps added) About world speed ski records and age records.
Veteran American Polar guide, Doug Stoup, will be leading British teenager, Parker Liautaud, to the Geographic South Pole (90ºS) at the end of the year. They will be starting at the bottom of the Leverett Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf, Parker told ExplorersWeb.
In November the two skiers will fly with ALE from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Antarctica. With them in the Ilyushin-76, Russian cargo plane, will be a 6x6 truck designed by Arctic Trucks in Iceland. This car has been entirely custom-built to accommodate the logistical and communications requirements of the expedition, stated the expedition website.
The vehicle will be further modified when a set of satellite antenna are mounted on the flat-bed back to facilitate live broadcasts of science and weather experiments and the ski leg of the expedition.
The car team together with Doug and Parker, will start driving from Union Glacier, ALE/ANI’s base camp, to eventually arrive at the bottom of the Leverett Glacier. It is not clear on the website if their driving route will take them to the South Pole before tuning to the Leverett Glacier. Both the routes from Union Glacier to the SP and from the SP to the Leverett Glacier had been done with vehicles several times before.
Upon arrival at the bottom of the Leverett Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf, Parker and Doug will strap on their skis and sleds and on December 3 (weather permitting) start backtracking up the Glacier towards the South Pole (appr. 510 km in a straight line).
The car team will drive with, carrying their communication equipment to connect them to the outside world.
Fastest South Pole skiers
Parker has caused a stir in the Polar community with this aim, “to beat the current world speed record”, as written on his website and on his social network pages (in the mean time wording on the website has changed).
The “world speed record” here refers to that of Christian Eide, bagged on January 13, 2011 on the classic Hercules Inlet route, a distance of 1130 km (in a straight line). He was solo (no vehicles driving with and no team mates) and did a time of 24 days, 1 hour, 13 minutes, averaging 46.98 km/day, in 9-10 hours skiing per day.
Before this, the solo speed ski record for this route was held for 10 years by Norwegian lady, Liv Arnesen. She completed the route in 50 days in December 1994. In January 2004 the record was broken when British Fiona Thornewill completed it in a time of 42 days. Then another lady took the challenge; Hannah McKeand cut off another two days in the 2006-07 season.
As for the fastest team on the Hercules Inlet route, in January 2009 Richard Weber (guide), Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab (all Canadians) completed the trek in 33 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes. No cars driving with.
The Hercules Inlet route and the above mentioned solo/team ski attempts are in different leagues/categories/styles than what Parker Liautaud wants to achieve on the (much shorter) Leverett route.
The South Pole route starting at the Leverett Glacier at the Ross Ice Shelf has only been skied once before. In the 2011-12 season Felicity Ashton started at 85° 25.938S, 150° 26.414W, according to her tracker. This calculates a distance of 510 km in a straight line, which she has completed in 26 days.
On another coastal start point, Axel Heiberg Glacier, also at the Ross Ice Shelf (535 km), the fastest time has been done by two Norwegians, Jacob Meland and Ottar Haldorsen, 21 days and 23 hours on their stopwatch.
In another different category and a feat by itself, Australian Pat Farmer ran from Union Glacier runway (a non-coastal start point) to the South Pole, a distance of 1140 km in a straight line, in 21 days, averaging 57 km per day. Pat had a car and a skidoo driving with, carrying his gear and doing his comms.
Youngest South Pole skiers
Parker Liautaud turned 19 in August this year and another goal of his is to become the youngest male to ski a route starting from a coastal point.
In the 2004-05 season Eric McNair-Landry became the youngest male to ski from a coastal start point. He was 20. Eric skied with his sister, Sarah, then 18, their mother Matty and two friends from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. They pulled all their equipment with them. At the Pole the team picked up a supply of kites, food and fuel and kite-skied back to Hercules Inlet; completing a distance of 2260 km in 69 days.
In the 2011-12 season, Norwegian Teodor Johansen, who was then 3 months older than Eric was in 2004, skied with a team, unassisted and unsupported from Axel Heiberg to the Pole, picked up a resupply and kites, and kite-skied across the continent to Hercules Inlet; covering 1165 km in 48 days.
Doug Stoup will be celebrating his 50th birthday at the end of the year. He had done two full route expeditions to the South Pole, one from Hercules Inlet and the other from the Recovery Glacier at the Filchner Ice Shelf, which was a new route he pioneered. Added to that he had guided many Last Degree SP expeditions.
Parker Liautaud attempted the Last Degree North Pole (110 km) three times, guided by Stoup. During one of these attempts they were airlifted by helicopter across big open water.
Gateway port Punta Arenas, Chile, South America:
To ALE/ANI base camp, Union Glacier
(79° 45'S, 083° 14'W).
Hercules Inlet is located at 80°S, not far from Union Glacier.
Leverett Glacier is located just inside 85º South on the Ross Ice Shelf.
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