South Pole update: "skiing in a pumpkin-field with a blindfold”

South Pole update: "skiing in a pumpkin-field with a blindfold”

Posted: Dec 04, 2014 07:00 pm EST


(By Correne Coetzer) White-out conditions made for blindfolded skiing over sastrugi and dangerous kiting in crevasse fields. Frederic Dion and his new second-hand sled (Dixie Dansercoer’s) are making good progress to the Pole of Inaccessibility.



Unassisted Supported

(no resupplies, wind-support)


Solo traverse Novo - GSP- Hercules Inlet

Faysal Hanneche (FR)


Faysal still battles against too high and too low winds and when winds are favorable, visibility is poor. He is still climbing towards the plateau therefore the crevasse fields are still present. Yesterday he had a scare when a gust picked him up and lifted him 2 meters. Faysal said fortunately he used a parasail and not a kite, otherwise he would have been in trouble.


Today he tried his 5 m2 sail but the white-out came in fast and he found himself navigating in white "soup". The wind peaked at 35-40 knots (80km/h) and he got a few scares, Faysal reported. He says he has 13 km to go to get on the plateau. 


Position December 4: 

S 71º 52 56.9, E 010º 56 46.7


Assisted Supported

(resupplies, wind-support)


kite-ski Novo - South Pole of Inaccessibility

Frédéric Dion (CA)


Fred’s home-modified kayak-sled-tent lost the battle against the concrete hard sastrugi and high speeds in the wind. It “exploded" 35 km before the ALCI/TAC fuel depot at 83ºS (FD83). Fred stitched together his sled with no less than 60 stitched and headed for FD83 where he picked up Dixie Dansercoer’s sled. It was used on Dixie’s 5013 km route on Antarctica in the 2011-12 season and stored at Novo Base. Fred enjoyed talking to the Russians manning the base at FD83. 


Fred describes his acrobatics during a kite-ski day, "Think of the most hunchbacked downhill skiing track you know, add a 20 pounds backpack on your shoulders, and 20 feet behind you, a sled with your biggest uncle in - who does not like being shaken. Plus, a giant kite that you must use sparingly to avoid exceeding a speed of 5 to 40km in 2 seconds. And finally find the time to keep an eye on your compass strapped to your wrist."


He fell once while kiting, something that should be avoided, reported his home team. Attached to his kite, he was dragged a few meters on this rugged land. But he reassured, his body is 100%. "I have no pain and I still have lots of energy. And the mind is fine too."


Day 25, Dec. 4 was a tent day as the wind blew 60 km/h gusting at 80.


Day 24, Dec. 3,  

101 km kited in not too strong wind on atrocious ground       

S 82 40.568'  E 37 42.334'  elev 3273



Assisted Unsupported

(resupplies, no wind/vehicles)


Traverse Messner - GSP - Hercules Inlet

Stéphanie Gicquel(FR)

Jérémie Gicquel (FR) 

Are Johansen (NO) 


The team reached their first resupply on Day 17 and took a rest day; eating, sleeping and taking photos.


Are Johansen described December 3, Day 20’s white-out in the sastrugi field as "skiing in a pumpkin-field with a blindfold”. Despite the hard work, falling over meter high invisible sastrugi and using their arms a lot to stay upright and going uphill, they managed 24,4 km in 8 stretches.


Position Day 20:

S 85º 32’ W081º 35'


Newall Hunter(UK, Messner to GSP)


Newall says he is getting to know his shadow quite well as he skis with him all day when the sun shines. "With 24 hour sunlight the sun just goes round the sky. First thing in the morning my shadow skis on my right, and by lunchtime he in front (wanting to go faster!) In the afternoon he is on my left, but by finishing time he has dropped back behind (tired by then probably).”


Newall wrote how important it is to charge all the batteries for the tech. He says he has to call Union Glacier Operations every evening and if he misses two calls ANI/ALE will start looking for him.


Adventure Consultants team

Hercules Inlet route

Einar Torfi Finnsson (IS, guide)

Hugh Dougall (CA)

William (Bill) Morrison (UK)

Tim Garrett (AU)


The team took a rest day on December 1 with winds blowing about 20 knots and a lot of spin drift. Some of the team members have blisters. 

Camp 9  at 81°16'795 S, 080°27'132 W


ANI Messner Route team 

Robert Smith (guide)

Paula J Reid (UK)

Arabella Slinger (UK)

Julian Thomas(UK)

Vincent Piguot (Switzerland)


They passed their first line of latitude (83) on Dec. 2. Still 7 to go. Julian Thomas reported a very tough day in difficult weather and terrain made for a hard, unrelenting slog. They are in good spirits nevertheless.


Position Dec. 4, 12:00 UTC

83º 38.36S, 071º 25.15W


PolarExplorers team

Messner route

Keith Heger (CA, guide) 

Ian Evans  (CA) 

Andy Styles (UK) 

Bradley Cross (UK)


The team has completed approximately 1/5 of the distance to the South Pole, and they have ascended 1/3 of the elevation, reported the home team.

Latest reported distance:

skied 10.5 nm (19.5km) in 8.5 hours of skiing.


Assisted Supported


Return Journey

Tractor expedition (Novo - GSP - Novo)

Matty McNair (US, Expedition Lead Guide)

Manon Ossevoort (NL, Lead driver)

Sarah McNair-Landry (CA, Expedition Guide and Audio-Visual Support) 

Nicolas Bachelet (Lead Mechanic) 

Simon Foster (Creative Director and Audio-Visual Lead) 

Arnór Ingólfsson (Expedition Leader and Arctic Truck Driver 1)

Jóhannes Guðmundsson(Arctic Truck Driver 2)

Arctic Trucks


The tractor is closing in on halfway to the Geographic South Pole.


Non-coastal start:

Outer Edge snow sailer (AU)

return journey

Polar Plateau South of Novo to GSP and possible return via POI to Novo Base

Kristan Ficher 

Charles Werb

Adrian McCallum (leader)

Jon Moody


Scheduled departure date: December 20.


Follow team blogs with RSS feeds in the News Feed at Explorersweb 





South Pole update: crevasse encounters


Ski North Pole from Russia: Victor Boyarsky talks to Explorersweb


ExplorersWeb Interviews


PolarExplorers guide, Keith Heger’s Top Tips, Gear, and Menu treats


ExWeb interview with Are Johansen, "snow is the best surface for long journeys”


ExWeb interview with Frédéric Dion, invention and modification for the South Pole of Inaccessibility


ExWeb interview with Ian Evans, skier with PolarExplorers on Messner Route


ExWeb interview with Newall Hunter, solo South Pole skier: "pretty hectic last preparations"


French married couple and Norwegian adventurer for South Pole crossing: ExWeb interview with couple


ExWeb interview with Tractor Girl, Manon Ossevoort: tractor passed tests and arrived in Cape Town


ExWeb post South Pole interview with Fagan couple


Lessons from a yachtswoman: Paula Reid to ski to the South Pole


Geoff Wilson’s Top 5 South Pole Tips


ExWeb interview with Faysal Hanneche, "I learned to be patient on Antarctica"


Rules and Regulations in No-Man's Land: ExWeb interview with ALE's Steve Jones


Mount Sidley, Antarctica’s highest volcano accessible to climbers


Polar Technology


Rules and Regulations in No-Man's Land: ExWeb interview with ALE's Steve Jones


Polar Tech Week Roundup: 2014/2015 Recommendations


Your Smart Phone going Global: Review of Iridium Go


ExWeb Special: 2014 Polar Tech Roundtable Conference


HumanEdgeTech Expedition Technology (e.g.CONTACT software)




2014-15 South Pole list - Updated


AdventureStats and Rules of Adventure


Ski North Pole from Russia: Victor Boyarsky talks to Explorersweb


Kenn Borek stops supporting North Pole expeditions


“While it is a risk, that is part of the appeal”, Bob Maxwell to sail and skidoo to the South Pole


Antarctica news bits


Mission to Mars: Stage 2 Report


A journey to the South Pole in a wheelchair


Antarctica video trilogy


Video: Second 2012-13 Ilyushin-76 flight lands at Union Glacier, Antarctica


NASA Worldview


Current Polar Sea Ice Situation (Sept 2014)


Animated map of global weather conditions


New satellite map of Antarctica freely available


Antarctic ski/climb/pole/science Logistic Operators


Adventure Network International (ANI and ALE)


Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI and TAC)



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


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.

The bottom of the Leverett Glacier, at the Ross Ice Shelf, is located at about 85ºS, a distance of 550 km from the Geographic South Pole.

Axel Heiberg Glacier start is also located at the Ross Ice Shelf and 535 km in a straight line from the South Pole.

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


According to the Rules of Adventure, 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.


South Pole of Inaccessibility (POI)

2011-12 position: 

S82°06.696, E055°01.951

Geographic South Pole (GSP): 90 degrees South













Fred had a fall with his kite and the skiers fell over sastrugi in white-out conditions. Imagine skiing blindfolded with sastrugi like these invisible in a white-out.
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
Faysal is still in a crevasse area as he climbs past the mountains towards the plateau.
courtesy Faysal Hanneche, SOURCE
The wind peaked at 35-40 knots (80km/h) and Faysal got a few scares while sailing between crevasses.
courtesy Faysal Hanneche, SOURCE
Fred has about 300 km to go to the South Pole of Inaccessibility.
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
Fred explains about his waste management, " to receive the permit to come t=o Antarctica, I had to build a complex plan that includes environmental was=te management. In some areas, you can't even let human waste. We have bags for this purpose to bring them where they can be disposed according to plan."
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
Total white-out as experienced by the traverse trio.
courtesy Stephanie & Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
Sunshine makes navigation easier because the shadow in front of the skier can be used, explains Newall.
courtesy Newall Hunter over CONTACT, SOURCE
Newall Hunter on the Messner Route.
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
Adventure Consultants team sewing skins under their skis.
courtesy Adventure Consultants, SOURCE
VIDEO: Nicolas Bachelet, Antarctica2 Lead Mechanic gives us an update on the ninth day of the Antarctica2 expedition.
courtesy Massey Ferguson , SOURCE