Extreme Ski Touring: Antarctica
Sweat Your Way to the South Pole
South Pole ski expeditions are for serious adventurers only. If you think it will be fun (as well as an extreme challenge) to ski 6 to 10 hours a day over the top of a 3km-thick (2-mile) ice pack day after day, all the while pushing against relentless winds, perhaps this trip is for you. You’ll have to train for months ahead of time because you’ll need terrific endurance and stamina to spend so many days hauling a heavy sled across the Polar Plateau. And when it’s time to camp, you must have enough energy left over from the day’s trek to set up tents, make dinner, and heat snow for water. People who have made this trek say there’s nothing to match the extreme beauty and isolation of the Polar Plateau. The collective experience of knowing you may be the only people within hundreds of miles gives you a sense of the ultimate challenges faced by the original teams who explored this region. And reaching the geographical South Pole by your own efforts will change you forever.
Polar Explorers, which has been ranked as one of the Best Outfitters on Earth by National Geographic magazine, offers trips to the Geographic South Pole, the most southerly point on earth. You could take the South Pole One Degree Ski Expedition or the longer South Pole Two Degree Ski Expedition, the two shortest trips. They run simultaneously, once a year around New Year’s, when the sun never sets in this part of the world. (Polar Explorers also offers a two-month ski touring expedition across the White Continent.)
Both Polar Explorers South Pole Expeditions start at Patriot Hills base camp in the Antarctica. Weather permitting, after a few days to acclimate to the cold and prepare for the expedition, you’ll fly to either 88° or 89° south (depending upon the trip you choose) to start your expedition. Six to 19 days (again, depending which trip you choose) of ski touring across the Polar Plateau later, the South Pole will be in sight. After popping the cork and celebrating your arrival, you’ll camp and await the return flight to Patriot Hills. If time permits, you may tour the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Center.
Another outfitter also conducts South Pole expeditions. Each year, Adventures Network International (ANI) offers several options for Ski South Pole All The Way expeditions. The first is a 1,175km (730-mile), 2-month trek from Hercules Inlet on the Antarctic coast to the South Pole. The shorter 40- to 45-day version, a mere 934km (580 miles), begins where Reinhold Messner began his famous Transantarctic crossing. Skiers are picked up by aircraft for the return trip. Other start points are possible but all require a resume of previous expedition experience. Minimum numbers are required for these guided expeditions but ANI will support self-guided ones. —LF
Tours: Polar Explorers ( 800/732-7328 or 847/256-4409; www.polarexplorers.com). Adventure Network International ( 801/266-4876; www.adventure-network.com).
When to Go: Mid-winter.
Carlos Ibañez del Campo International Airport, Punta Arenas, Chile.