In the world of extreme adventuring, there is always another expedition to be had. Always another mountain to climb, route to accomplish, or journey to experience. However, there is one achievement that many world class adventurers strive for, The Explorers Grand Slam. The Explorers Grand Slam combines climbing the tallest mountain on every continent (The 7 Summits) and skiing at least the Last Degree to the North and South Poles. Each of these expeditions is a challenge in its own right, but most often adventurers complete the 7 summits before continuing on to the Poles. Spending that much time on mountains will turn any climber into an expert, but the North and South Pole offer some distinctly different challenges that can pose a serious threat to those unprepared for the experience.
We asked Ian Clarke (shown LEFT) and John Dahlem (shown RIGHT), both expert expeditioners and Grand Slam completionists, to weigh in on the differences between their Polar Expeditions and 7 Summits. Hopefully their advice will help you in your journey to The Explorers Grand Slam.
The teams woke up to a clear, cold day roughly 45 nautical miles away from the South Pole. However, as they started skiing, the clouds began to move in, reducing contrast to zero for most of the day. Imagine standing inside a gigantic ping pong ball, not having the horizon, or any of the features in front of you as a reference. Skiing in zero contrast conditions is incredibly taxing both physically and mentally, but both teams accomplished 9 nautical miles South despite the challenges. Keith's team reported that the temperature reached 0°F during their last push while the sun came out for long enough to roast the team. It's hard to imagine being too hot in Antarctica, but it does happen!
Listen to the linked audio update and leave some feedback for the team on our Facebook page!
Photo below from Keith's team featuring right to left (Keith Heger, Rob Burns, Rob Jeffery, Danny Lubert, and Michael Gibbons)
Our teams woke up to a sunny and relatively calm day with temperatures hovering around -25°C with a light wind and mostly clear sky. As the day progressed clouds moved in, reducing contrast and visibility while the wind picked up to 20 knots (37kph). The first day of any expedition is spent dialing in equipment, figuring out your layering system, and getting accustomed to the cold. Today was no exception. Both teams set a slow and easy pace to allow ample time for everyone to continue adjusting to the altitude. This evening, Annie's team even had burgers and fries for dinner!
All parties are looking forward to a good rest tonight and another productive day tomorrow. Have a listen to the audio updates from each team below to get the rest of the details! Also follow us on Facebook where the expedition updates will be posted each day and leave a note in the comments for us to pass on to the team!
Both teams have successfully made it to the Last Degree where they will begin skiing. After a final morning of anticipation, our two teams loaded up one two separate Twin Otter planes and began the journey to their expedition start point. The flight is long enough that the planes need to make a stop to refuel, at which Annie's team reported to have met several of the Ice Maidens (an all female team skiing coast to coast across Antarctica). Our teams were dropped off around 7:15pm in beautiful conditions. -25°C temperatures with markedly less wind than at Union Glacier. Both teams chose to ski for a short distance (around half a nautical mile) to get their blood flowing and warm up before setting up camp. When they checked in, everyone was in excellent spirits, and settling in for their first night on the Last Degree. Listen below to their respective audio updates and stay tuned for more!
Photo by Eric Lillstrom (South Pole Last Degree 2017)
In addition to all of the other challenges involved with traveling in the Polar Regions, the conditions can take a serious toll on your electronics. This can be dangerous; if your camera is frozen up or your batteries are dead, how will you get the shot of your buddy being dragged helplessly along by the dogsled to send to all his friends? After all, If there isn’t a picture of it, it didn’t happen.
Here are some tips, tricks, and recommendations for caring for your electronics in the cold.
Graeme Shankland is 56, married with two grown up children, lives in London and has worked in finance all his working life. He currently has his own private equity business, Caird Capital, investing in UK companies in a broad range of sectors. He has a passion for the Antarctic and is a keen supporter and admirer of Ernest Shackleton. Graeme was kind enough to share some insights from his experience as a first-time polar explorer, skiing the last degree to the South Pole with PolarExplorers.
This morning, a Twin Otter was finally able to fly into Vinson Base Camp to gather the team off the Branscomb Glacier. A short 40 min later they were back in Union Glacier, awaiting the Ilyushin 76 which touched down on the Blue Ice Runway around noon.
We just heard from the team that they had safely landed Punta Arenas where a hot showers and soft beds await. Tomorrow morning, with much regret, the team will dissolve as people catch flights back home.
Thank you to everyone who followed along and engaged with us on social media, and thanks to all of the staff, guides, and team members that have made this expedition such an incredible success!
The team is still in a holding pattern to make the flight to the South Pole, but they are not idle. Today the group was given a tour of the Novolazarevskaya Station. Their tour guide was an Astrophysicist, and he took them to every corner of the base.
The "Novo" Antarctic Research station is located at Schirmacher Oasis, Queen Maud Land, 75 km from the Antarctic coast, from which it is separated by Lazarev Ice Shelf. It was opened on January 18, 1961 by the 6th Soviet Antarctic Expedition. The maximum summer population is 70.
The team will be going back to the station tonight to oserve the launching of a weather baloon.
The team woke early for an excursion to the Emperor Penguin colony, but the flight ended up being delayed for several hours. Eventually, after the delay had been sorted out, half of the team made the flight to the penguin colony and had the chance to explore around for an hour and a half. At this time of year, the chicks are very large, but still easily recognizable by their thick grey downy feathers. The other half of the team went to explore the nearby ice caves. Warm temperatures have caused the commonly empty cave to have a river rushing through it, but they still had an amazing hike on the ice shelf.
The team has touched down in Antarctica!
The 6-hour flight was smooth and conditions were cloudy but calm when the plane touched down. From the runway, the team was transferred 12km to The Oasis for a nice lunch. They had time to settle into their accommodations before going for a hike to see the ice shelf.
Everyone is in great spirits and settled in after a nice dinner. If the weather improves tomorrow, the team plans to go see the ice cave near base camp.