South Pole update: skier evacuated

Posted: Dec 31, 2014 10:09 am EST


(By Correne Coetzer) Vincent Piguot asked for an evacuation. 


Faysal Hanneche is still tested with too weak winds to get his sails in the air and opted for hauling to gain long miles. He still has more than 10 degrees of latitude to cover. The other kiter, Frédérick Dion is a bit more lucky with winds.


The other teams still heading for the Geographic Pole are in 88 and 89 degrees. Several teams reported sticky snow, and the infamous sastrugi fields. 



Unassisted Supported

(no resupplies, wind-support)


Solo traverse Novo - GSP - Hercules Inlet

Faysal Hanneche (FR)


Faysal tells himself to be patient and opted for man-hauling when the winds do not give him a chance to kite.   


On Dec 28 the solo kiter traveled 55 km and reported it was “hell” on his knees over the sastrugi. "At noon, having lunch, I had a revelation. It's decided, I have to stop whining against the wind ... The scenery is beautiful here. I'll take things as they come. I have about three weeks of supplies. I must take this opportunity given to me.”


A Norwegian friend advised him to use longer lines on his sails. "This is more risky but it should allow me to hang above the winds.” But when he wanted to start sailing he saw his bar was broken. It took the whole morning to do repair with freezing fingers.


Faysal says in general the wind blows in the morning and stops around 15h/16h. He still managed to sail 45 km and walk 5 km on Dec. 29.


S 79° 22’37" E 011° 49’ 59,83" 

altitude 2927 m 

1186 km from the South Pole.



Assisted Supported

(resupply, wind-support)


Kite-ski Novo (November 10) - South Pole of Inaccessibility (December 14) - Geographic South Pole (December 24) - Hercules Inlet

Frédéric Dion (CA)


After a rest day at the Geographic South Pole on Christmas Day and hanging out with Stéphanie, Jérémie, Are and the ANI staff, Devon, Chef Malin and Nigel, Fred started kiting north to Hercules Inlet. Food wise, Frédéric left the South Pole with 6 additional days of rations to add to the 8 he had, his home team reported. “I’ll start eating the fresh food and if I need it, I’ll eat my old food,” Fred added.


He kited 200 km out of the South Pole and said it was hard work for his legs and back. Entering the infamous sastrugi fields he was amazed by the shapes and sizes. 


Although the winds tend to play “hide and seek” with Fred, he is luckier than Faysal and gains long distances every other day: 199, 16, 136, 25 km.


December 29, Day 50   

S86º 39.563' W 085º 22.718'  

altitude 1911 m



Assisted Unsupported

(resupplies, no wind/vehicles)


Traverse Messner - Geographic SP (December 23) - Hercules Inlet

Stéphanie Gicquel(FR)

Jérémie Gicquel (FR) 

Are Johansen (NO) 


As these three are only skiing they reported doing only doing 6.5 km on the first day, late afternoon, out of the Pole north to HI. Thereafter they picked up with full days skiing, traveling 25+ km per day. Being from Norway and knowing snow very well, Are reported soft, dry and irritating snow and their sleds are not running at all. 


Are (or AJ as he is now known) reported pain in heels and Achilles and they try to be patient.


December 30, 2014 

S 88° 50‘ W082° 57' 

Daily distance: 27.1 km 

Temp: -24°C (Feels like: -35°C)

Soon they will be descending from the Antarctic Plateau; 2,800 m in 1130 km to HI.



Newall Hunter(UK, Messner to GSP)


Out of the sastrugi, Newall reported just miles and miles of soft snow, which is hard work to pull his two sleds through. "It's also very easy to loose focus now that the end is in sight,” he wrote. "It's important to stay focused and continue pacing myself. It would be all to easy to push the pace, thinking the end is near, and pull a muscle or cause some other injury."


Newall entered the last degree (110 km) on Day 36, Dec. 30 and reported colder temps. "I don't want to stop and take off my face mask, it's so cold. Worse is putting the mask back on because it has frozen solid in the time I have it off (even storing it inside my jacket under my arm)."



Adventure Consultants team

Hercules Inlet route

Einar Torfi Finnsson (IS, guide)

Hugh Dougall (CA)

William (Bill) Morrison (UK)

Tim Garrett (AU)


The team, coming from Hercules Inlet, had the Thiel Mountains in their view and passed 86 degrees on December 30. Einer says they hope to meet Fred and Are, Stephanie and Jeremie. They men are covering around 25 km per day. Surface conditions changed from snow like a covered frozen lake in Iceland to sticky snow, which made sled-pulling hard.



ANI Messner Route team 

Robert Smith (guide)

Paula J Reid (UK)

Arabella Slinger (UK)

Julian Thomas (UK)

Vincent Piguot (Switzerland)


The team has stayed put for a few days. Alex from Paula’s home team reported that they were waiting for the plane to evacuate a team member. "Vincent has been struggling for while now and has decided to call it a day and leave the expedition. […] This is not a medical evacuation - Vincent just felt that he couldn't continue. The rest of the team is fit and well and heading off for the last 295km.”


Alex explained that the pilots have to have good weather at Union Glacier, at the location of the ANI team, at 89 degrees where they drop last degree skiers and at the Pole (90 degrees), before they can fly. 


Julian reported on December 29 that they have started skiing again and encountered large sastrugi fields.



31st Dec 2014 @ 12:00:21 UTC

87° 53.27S, 082° 00.25W 



PolarExplorers team

Messner route

Keith Heger (CA, guide) 

Ian Evans (CA) 

Andy Styles (UK) 

Bradley Cross (UK)


The PolarExplorers team took a rest day on Christmas. They also encountered the sastrugi but are now into 88 degrees. They cover about 12 nautical miles per day (about 22 km). 


Ian reported, "We have almost completed the 60nm between degrees 87 and 88 South - by far the hardest 60 miles we have skied. The sastrugi are like speed bumps on steroids, the elevation gain has been huge, the air temperature is rarely above -25°C and the winds are consistently strong ..........from the south.


Ian’s observations of the week:


- This expedition has done nothing to quell my hatred for oatmeal. 35 consecutive breakfasts so far has just confirmed it.


- Ditto for Power Bars - eating 6 per day will be sufficient for the rest of my life.


- Oscar the cat - mascot of Borderbrook School in Wales is having a great trip and has pride of place in the tent every night - see photos.


- If you have struggled for 9 hours in zero visibility over the said speed bumps, guaranteed within 2 hours of stopping and camping the sky will be clear (twice in last 3 days).


- By the end of a day’s sledding, your whole front is iced up, so everything has to come off in one frozen “board” in the tent including smock, face mask and headphones - plus a few beard hairs.


- A big milestone is coming up - Ernest Shackleton’s furthest South in 1909 of 88 degrees 23’.



Follow daily team blogs with RSS feeds in the News Stream at Explorersweb


Have a happy 2015 full of exciting adventures! 




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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"


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


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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

On Dec. 14, 2014 Frédéric Dion reported the position the POI (at Lenin’s bust) as S82º 06.702' E55º 2.087' at an elevation of 3741 m.













The traverse trio, Are Johansen, Jeremie Gicquel and Stephanie Gicquel taking a selfie in the silver ball marking the Ceremonial South Pole.
Fred on his way to Hercules Inlet reporting to his home team: "Hi Chantal! If I stay in the tent, I might miss a breeze. So I do my naps on the sled." He reports quite warm temperatures but by this time Fred should be well acclimatised. (click to expand)
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
Newall: "There were some stunning "sun-dogs" this morning. But by the time I got the camera out they had faded. At one point the sun had to completely circular rainbows around it."
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
The Adventure Consultants team, Einar Torfi Finnsson (IS, guide), Hugh Dougall (CA), William (Bill), Morrison (UK) and Tim Garrett (AU) celebrating Christmas. (click to expand)
courtesy Einar Torfi Finnsson, SOURCE
Antarctica ski and kite routes.
courtesy Map compiled by Explorersweb, SOURCE
VIDEO bonus: Italian Arctic solo skier, Michele Pontrandolfo, sent this over to ExWeb: his entertainment at 86º 007'56'' N, 061º 054'31'' W during a North Pole attempt...
courtesy Michele Pontrandolfo, SOURCE