(ThePoles.com) Borge Ousland and Mike Horn are finally on the Arctic ice. After waiting two days for ice conditions to improve and getting up-close and personal with the some of the locals - polar bears (see previous story), the two explorers set off for the Pole over the weekend.
In some ways, Rune has already made it. He has achieved the longest polar traverse to date: 4600km. Another 160km, and he will be at the shore of the Antarctic Ocean at Terra Nova Bay. However, before he hits the water, Rune needs to safely find his way among a crevassed glacier.
The Venezuelans are barely three days away from the South Pole, but the team is running on its last bits of energy.
In Norway, Conrad and his team are done with their week-long ski trip. Marching from hut to hut, they were unaware that all of Northern Europe was frozen under the worst cold spell of the decade.
Antarctic crossing teams
Rune Solo Antarctic crossing: Tears of joy
On Saturday, Rune kited for 204km, and finally got the first glimpse of the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. This is what he has been working for the last four years, remarked his home team. This is a dream come true for Rune and he told us on the phone that he cried a few tears as he kited towards the mountains. Rune has covered 4600km he is just 200km away from Terra Nova. The last leg is the worst and most dangerous, but the goal is in sight.
On Sunday, Rune started descending Priestley glacier. There are crevasses all around him, but most of them are covered under the snow, reported Gjeldnes team. The good thing with the snow is, it creates snow-bridges safe enough to cross the crevasses. The bad thing is that it that it is hard to know which bridges are not safe! Anyway, Rune is getting closer to Terra Nova. He covered a distance of 28 km on Sunday that is, hes got 160km more to go.
South Pole teams
Proyecto Cumbre SP team: On the last degree
The cold is more and more intense each day luckily, the wind is not blowing hard. Temperatures are dropping, so we have changed our progression: We make more but shorter stops (about five minutes long), so we dont get stiff. Some of us dont even stop at some breaks; we keep moving around while the other rest. We march for nine or ten hours our days here are 26 hours long. We can afford that, since there's no night to break our progression."
The team covered 23,6km in 10 hours yesterday. According to plans, they should be at the Pole in three more days. They are only 66,3km away.
North Pole teams
Ousland and Horn: On the ice!
Borge Ousland and Mike Horn were airlifted to Cape Arktichevsky on Friday. The pair attempted to start that same day, but turned back to the Cape after 700m, due to poor ice conditions (check previous story).
On Saturday, they also stayed put. Ice conditions are very difficult, with a lot of slushy ice that isnt freezing properly, reported Ousland. It would be very difficult to make much progress. But the main reason were staying put, is that the ice is drifting rapidly southeast. So Mike and I are maintaining our camp here until the wind abates. As soon as the ice stops drifting so much, we can make real progress.
The weather forecast calls for colder weather Monday and Tuesday, which will freeze the open leads between the ice sheets, making it possible to cross between them. Right now we can neither paddle the dinghy nor ski in the area.
Camped at Polar bears' metting point
We are camped just 20 m from the point, in a spot that hasnt proved opportune. Apparently all the polar bears that are wandering along the shore seem to be passing through. Last night, after our first visit, another polar bear came and ripped a gash in one of the rubber dinghies. With the strong wind, it took a while before we heard the bear and could scare it off with a new signal flare.
Since then, they have left us alone. Most of the day weve been busy repairing the dinghy.
Finally, yesterday Borge called from the ice. Hi, were finally on the move again, he says. Our current position is N81º17'39", E95º5'09. Even though were drifting rapidly towards southeast, we decided to start today while the ice was in contact with land. According to the GPS, weve only progressed 2 km northwards, but Im sure we have walked and paddled 10 km more than that.
Weve put behind us some rather rough areas of difficult ice and open leads, and five or six times today paddled the dinghy across open water.
It's cool after all
Where we are now, conditions are pretty good. Even though it is very dark pitch black and snowing were managing to navigate well. But we cant see very far ahead. Were staying alert, constantly scanning our surroundings. Its very easy to be surprised by a polar bear wandering around.
I must admit that its exciting to be moving in this shifting landscape with only our headlights.
Classic North Pole expedition: Through unknown tracks
What an amazing day, reported Conrad yesterday. The first 3 hours could only be described as torture. It had snowed heavily overnight and the temperature had dropped down to -15C. We tried to make headway but the snow was so deep that we had to rotate the lead to 10 minutes each. Fortunately the route was marked because the track waved in and out of impenetrable willow scrub. After three hours we had only covered 3 km.
We realized it would take us 14hours to reach the hut, so we headed for a forest track. Eventually we found a path recently cleared and blown clear of snow so we decided to follow it. The problem was we did not know where it was leading as it ran off our map. After 2 km we came across a sign which showed the path led down to the main valley in 25 km.
The track was incredibly fast and got steeper! In 30 years skiing it is the first time I have seen sparks come off the bottom of skis! All in all we did the 25 km in 3 hours and caught a bus down to Lillehammer where we discovered that over the last 3 days Norway had ground to a halt because of the extreme weather...we thought it was just a bit snowy and cold!
As Conrad's Norway ski trip came to an end, he was looking ahead to the real challenge: The week has been excellent for training for the North Pole, he said.
Spanish Trans-Antarctic expedition Larramendis site (Spanish/English)
Norwegian Hvitserks SP teams dispatches
Hvitserks expeditions (Norwegian)
Proyecto Cumbre SP expedition (Spanish/English)
Numis Polar Challenges website
Omega Foundation - Antarctica 2005
Slovak Trekland team
Borge Ouslands website
Mike Horns website
North Pole Classic 2006 - Conrad Dickinsons website
Arios Alone Across Alaska (Italian)
Airborne Ranger Club of Finland NP expedition (Finnish)
Alpine Ascents International
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
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