Antarctic ski wrap: "I thought I was ready for this"

Posted: Jan 16, 2013 07:35 pm EST

(Newsdesk) The three full distance skiers still on the ice are slowing down. Vilborg Arna Gissurardottir and Aaron Linsdau in the last degree of latitude are doing approximately 18.5 and 15 km per day, while Richard has hit the sastrugi in 87 degrees and are down from just over 30km per day to 20km. Two days ago German solo skier, Roland Krueger told ExWeb how the mix of monster sastrugi and whiteout were very difficult and he even had to crawl at times.

Aaron says in a voice report he remembers somebody telling him before the expedition he is probably not ready for this, "I thought I was," he admits, "mechanically I am but psychologically and emotionally, oh man, no fricken way, I've just gotten torn to ribbons, but I guess that's part of the experience. It's mind junk that just eats you alive here, everyone I talked to said yea the mind aspect of this trip just tears you to ribbons and shreds, oh my gosh. So hopefully as long as the weather holds, my body doesn't fall apart."

Richard is in the notorious sastrugi with two and a half degrees of latitude to go, says he doesn’t want to seem "all doom and gloom", as he still feels "very privileged and grateful to have the opportunity to undertake such a significant expedition on a continent which is very dear to me, it’s just bloody tough."

The skiers in the last degree are adjusting their compasses to round the end of the 7 km long antenna near the South Pole before they can ski the last few kilometers to the Pole maker.

Aaron Linsdau - Hercules Inlet start

Jan. 13th: Aaron crossed onto 89 degrees South. Distance traveled 8.3 miles, time of travel 9 miles.

Aaron reports typical last degree surface conditions, "although this area is pretty, pretty smooth, the snow is soft and you step in it with your boots you sink 4 to 6 inches." and added, "For travel towing a sled, I so desperately wish my sleds still had their skis."

He has constant problems with his goggles fogging up. "Today was a pretty nice towing day, I did an experiment and tried to run as cold as I possibly could, still had ice in my goggle in the left side for the first 2 sessions. I breathed on it somehow, I don't know, fortunately the sun was out so I was able to face it's still warm, it actually thaws it out, was able to get it wiped out there, get it back to normal but uh for the most part, at the end of every break session, I was shivering pretty violently, just to try and stay cool and during towing I virtually never over heated, just had to unzip a little but. The spectrum of cold to hot that I go through in that 90 minutes of break time to end of towing it's just, man it's almost unmanageable; it really sucks.

Jan 14th: Time of travel 9 hours, distance 8 miles.
Aaron ran into some mushy sastrugi from 89.03 to 89.06, he says, "it was all lateral to the traverse, uh that sucked, slowed me down, it was only a quarter mile slow down but slow down is slow down and my hip lets me know that yea dude not pleasant."

Again he tried to run as cold as possible, "when I'm skiing I'm just cold and when I stop I'm shivering and just miserable, to try and keep those goggles from fogging cause once they fog I can't navigate cause all the globs of snow out here is so small and subtle that your goggles aren't clear you just can't see em, that really sucks.

Jan. 15th. Distance 8.3 miles, time 9 hours.
Aaron got news of Vilborg who is about three days ahead of him and Sean Disney and his South African men skiing the last degree after they have summited Vinson, as well as news of Richard, "and then there's a crazy guy, poor guy, named Richard Parks, whose all the way back at 87 degrees 11 minutes. The weather's beginning to deteriorate and he's just entering the hell zone, I cannot even imagine going through that stuff in that deteriorating weather."

Aaron further noted, "Today was pretty much a serious day of real punishment, suppose to only be 10 knot winds and that's how it started but it got up to 20 - 25, I mean I just died. It got strong enough to where I started getting shoved around when I was facing away from the wind."

He says his butter supply has gone rancid. "I'm out 7/8 blocks of butter, oh boy, um, bonus, sled lighter, major drawback, I'm gonna be hungry, As long as I can hold 8.3 miles, I'll get to the Pole or at least a Geo camp sight and then I don't know what I'm gonna do because their gonna close down the camps so. Needless to say it's getting tight and kinda stressful so."

Location Day 74: S89° 17. 420', W080° 20. 831'

Vilborg Arna Gissurardottir - Hercules Inlet start

Jan. 14th: Distance 18 km. Sometimes days go different than her intention, says Vilborg. "I started throwing up last night and thought I was well in the morning and went off again." She got her appetite back and said she built herself up for the next day with food and drinks.

Jan. 16th: Distance 18.5 km. She didn't have much of an appetite and tried her best to gain her energy. It was very cold day and a headwind of about 8-9 m/s. She estimated 2 days of skiing to get to the South Pole, with 37 km to cover.

Richard Parks - Hercules Inlet start

Richard had planned to do a fast 35 to 40 day skiing to the Pole and has now hit the slow-travel sastrugi fields in 87°S with already 30 days out on the ice.

Jan 13th: Crossed 87°S Skied 27.1km/16 miles.
"Was fu***ng savage," he reported in his blog. "Climbing, sastrugi and a headwind. Was a brutal day. I felt like I was wrestling with my pulk, with my mind, with my body, every metre of the 27.1km/16 miles I did."

He said he was working as hard as he could but couldn’t generate enough heat, "the longest stretch I skied continuously was half hour. In between I was stopping and pulling my pulk over or through sastrugi." Richard said he had a couple of falls as well but was fine.

Jan 14th: Skied for 5 hours and covered 17.2km/10 miles/9.29 nautical miles.
"To put it bluntly I had a nightmare day today, it’s been a rubbish day. Yesterday was disappointing so this morning I was all revved up ready to go. I went out early, it was cold but conditions were good so the first 4 hours I made good progress and my legs didn’t feel too bad."

"Then I hit sastrugi, which was so big, I was skiing down them. I had a fall, which is common but today it just rocked me, everything just wobbled. Then the wind picked up and it was so cold. I was constantly fighting my hands and my toes and was constantly fighting to gain inches."

Jan 15th: Skied for 9 hours and covered 19.89km/12 miles.

Richard said he spoke to with Steve Jones from ALE [Ed not, Steve Jones is Union Glacier camp manager]. "After all the reports of massive sastrugi this season he has flown over the area and looked at it in detail, this year the sastrugi is abnormally big and heavy and it goes pretty much to 88.30 degrees so I had the news broken to me after probably my toughest day that I have another 100km of this ahead of me."

The Hercules Inlet route starts at 80°S and covers a distance of 1130 km in a straight line to the Geographic South Pole at 90°S.
The start point at the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner route) covers a distance of 890 km in a straight line to the Geographic South Pole at 90°S.

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, windblown snow bumps and can be as high as 10 feet
A nunatak is a top of a mountain visible above the snow surface.

South Pole of Inaccessibility 2011-12 position:
S82°06.696, E055°01.951
Geographic South Pole: 90 degrees South

Gateway port Cape Town, South Africa:
To ALCI 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).
Gateway port Christchurch, New Zealand:
To USA science station McMurdo, and other
(77°50'39"S, 166°40'22"E)

Expeditions/adventures/projects with RSS feeds can be followed in the live Dispatch stream at the Pythom App for iPhone and on Android as well as at ExplorersWeb.

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Archive image: 2006-07 ANI Hercules Inlet women's team taking a moment to have fun in an 87 degree sastrugi field. Denise Martin in the image, skiing down the huge sastrugi.
Image by Correne Coetzer (c) courtesy Correne Coetzer (c), SOURCE