Polar Explorer Plans To Ride Bike To The South Pole

Eric Larsen Will Ride His Bike To The South Pole In DecemberA journey to the South Pole is one of the more demanding and difficult endeavors on our planet and yet each year a number of adventurous souls undertake the challenge of crossing the Antarctic on foot. Most spend upwards of six weeks skiing across 700+ miles of snow and ice just so that they can get the opportunity to stand at the bottom of the world. But this year polar explorer Eric Larsen will make that journey in an entirely new fashion and as he intends to ride his bike to the Pole.

In December, Larsen will travel to the Antarctic where he’ll begin his ride at Hercules Inlet, the most popular launching point for travelers heading to 90°S. His route will cover approximately 750 miles across the coldest, highest and driest continent on Earth. Along the way, Larsen will face high winds, whiteout conditions and temperatures that routinely plummet well below zero, making this a bike ride unlike any other. When he arrives at the Pole, Eric will then turn around and ride back to where he started, crossing another 750 miles if weather and time permits.

As you can imagine, Larsen will be taking a specially designed bike on his adventure. In order to deal with the snow and ice conditions, not to mention the potential hazards of crevasse fields, his bike will need to be tough and durable. That’s why he’ll be riding a Moonlander from Surly Bikes which will be outfitted with 5-inch-wide tires that will help handle the unique surface conditions that he’ll encounter in the Antarctic. It may not be the fastest bike around, but it is built like a tank and can hold up to the challenging environment for the 1500 miles he could potentially ride.

This won’t be Eric’s first trip to frozen continent. In 2010 he became the first person to visit both the North and South Pole, as well as summit Everest, all within a 365-day period. Those individual expeditions have no doubt prepared him well for this next excursion and it seems clear that the man certainly enjoys cold weather.

Follow Eric’s progress on his website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Watch video of Larsen testing his bike in winter conditions after the jump.

[Photo credit: Eric Larsen]


British Explorer To Attempt Winter Antarctic Crossing

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is planning a winter Antarctic expeditionBritish explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is preparing for the expedition of a lifetime. The famed adventurer, who has already visited the North and South Pole, climbed Everest and ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, will soon undertake his most difficult journey of his illustrious career. In 2013, the 68-year-old will lead a team that will attempt to become the first to travel on foot to the South Pole, and back to their starting point, in the dead of winter.

The expedition will begin on March 21 of next year, when Fiennes and another skier, along with their support crew, will be dropped off on the Ross Ice Shelf to begin their journey to the South Pole. That date will mark the start of the Antarctic winter when daylight is practically non-existent and the temperatures can plunge to as low as -130°F. The plan is for Fiennes and his unnamed companion to ski to the Pole, flanked by two snowcats that will carry all of the gear and supplies necessary for a prolonged self-supported journey. The entire expedition is expected to take upwards of six months to complete and cover approximately 2000 miles.

Extreme cold and weeks of darkness aren’t the only challenges the explorers will face. High winds and intense storms could also hamper progress and they’ll begin the journey by making a slow, steady climb up to the Antarctic Plateau, a vertical gain of over 9800 feet. Surface conditions could also be problematic as large crevasses can sit hidden under the snow and ice. To help the support vehicles avoid those hazards, the skiers will drag ground-penetrating sonar behind them at all times. The sonar units will then relay information back to the vehicles, raising alarms to any danger that may lie ahead.

Many explorers consider an Antarctic winter expedition to be amongst the last big adventures that have yet to be accomplished and it is far from a foregone conclusion that Fiennes and company will succeed. This isn’t dissuading him from trying, however, as he hopes to use this endeavor to raise $10 million for Seeing is Believing, an organization dedicated to tackling avoidable blindness around the globe.

[Photo Credit: PA]

British woman completes solo traverse of Antarctica

Felicity Aston completes solo traverse of Antarctica British adventurer Felicity Aston completed her solo traverse of Antarctica yesterday, becoming the first person to accomplish that feat completely alone and under her own power. The journey took 59 days, and covered more than 1084 miles across the frozen continent.

We first told you about Felicity’s adventure back in November when she was still preparing to start the expedition, which began on the Ross Ice Shelf. Traveling on skis, and pulling a heavy sled filled with gear and supplies behind her, Aston first made her way across the Leverett Glacier and Transantarctic Mountain Range, arriving at the South Pole just a few days before Christmas. That stage of the journey covered 248 miles, and while 90ºS is traditionally the finish line for most polar explorers, for Felicity it wasn’t even the halfway point yet.

Over the course of the next few weeks, she battled a combination of high winds, bitterly cold temperatures, and blowing snow to make her way back to the coast. That leg of the journey covered another 835 miles, culminating with her arrival at Hercules Inlet yesterday. She spent one last night in Antarctica at that location before catching a ride aboard a transport plane headed back to Punta Arenas, Chile today.

Spending two months completely alone in the Antarctic, while struggling against the very harsh elements there, requires a lot of physical and mental strength. Aston has accomplished an amazing feat with this crossing of the continent and I salute her courage and sense of adventure.

[Photo credit: Associated Press]

Explorer Mark Wood reaches South Pole, completes first half of journey

Mark Wood travels to the South Pole, next up the North!Back in November, we told you about British adventurer Mark Wood, who was preparing to set out on an epic adventure. Mark was hoping to become the first person to make back-to-back journeys to the North and South Pole on foot, and at the time he was getting ready to travel to Antarctica to start his expedition. Fast forward a few months, and Wood has now reached the South Pole, successfully completing the first phase of his journey.

Last Monday, after 50 days on the ice, Wood officially reached the bottom of the world – 90º South. That was pretty much exactly on schedule for what he had predicted, which is remarkable considering he had to deal with challenging surface conditions, unpredictable weather, equipment failures, and whiteout conditions for much of the way. All told, Wood covered about 680 miles on skis, all the while towing a sled laden with his gear and supplies.

Despite the fact that it has now been more than a week since he completed his journey, Mark remains stranded at a research station located near the Pole. Bad weather has prevented a plane from coming to pick him up, although conditions are expected to improve this week. When they do, he’ll get airlifted back to Chile, where he’ll take some time to reorganize his gear, and recuperate, before immediately flying off to Canada to start the next phase of the expedition.

While skiing to the South Pole is an impressive accomplishment, traveling to the North Pole is considerably more challenging. The journey will be similar in that Wood will go on skis, once again pulling his sled behind him, but while the Antarctic is ice formed over solid ground, the Arctic consists of giant slabs of ice floating on top of an ocean. As a result, Wood will face much more unstable ground and will have to navigate around or across large areas of open water. That open water has become much more prevalent in open years thanks to global climate change.
Because the ice floats on top of the Arctic Ocean, he’ll also have to deal with the frustrating natural phenomenon known as negative drift as well. This is a condition that actually causes polar explorers to loose ground – even as they travel north – due to the shifting of the ice. It is not uncommon for someone traveling through the arctic to spend all day skiing northward, only to stop for the night, and wake the next day to find that they’re actually further away from the Pole than they were when they went to sleep. It can be very disheartening for the explorers, who sometimes describe the feeling as much like being on treadmill.

The presence of polar bears is another hazard that Arctic explorers must be aware of as well. While those traveling to the South Pole seldom, if ever, encounter any other forms of life, those going to the North must be ever vigilant for bears. Because of this, most skiers add a shotgun to their gear list before setting out, hoping that they won’t have to use it along the way. Polar bears are the largest land carnivores on the planet, and they have been known to stalk humans traveling through the Arctic, bringing yet another element of danger to an already challenging journey.

Mark’s accomplishment of reaching the South Pole on on skis is indeed an impressive one, and while he has now technically completed the first half of his expedition, it’ll only get tougher from here. The North Pole trek is expected to take roughly 65 days to complete, and will be another test of endurance and determination.

Photo of the day – On the rocks

photo of the day
Not many of us will have the chance to visit Antarctica, especially with the new heavy-fuels ban introduced this year to protect the environment around the Southern Ocean. Next season only about 25,000 tourists are expected, about the same who visit Walt Disney World every DAY. Unless you are joining an adventure travel group like Quark Expeditions or happen to be an explorer like our own Jon Bowermaster, you may have to be content with gorgeous photos like this one from Flickr user Terra_Tripper. This gargantuan iceberg is just one of many you can marvel at near the South Pole.

Have you been to Antarctica? Add your best shots to the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.