ALE's Union Glacier Camp is up and running for the 2017/18 season so time for an overview of this years Antarctic & South Pole Expeditions. Alongside the usual Mt Vinson and Last Degree expeditions there a number of more challenging projects and guided trips.
Ben Saunders (Trans-Antarctic Solo) - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul attempt at an Antarctic crossing from the southern edge of Birkner Island to the South Pole and on to the Ross Ice Shelf via the Leverett Glacier. Based on Lt Col Henry Worsleys Solo Shackleton 2015/16 attempt. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Astrid Furholt - Two person team attempting an unassisted manhaul on the Roald Amundsen route by which the South Pole was first reached. Accessing the start point at Framheim by Twin Otter to the Ross Iceshelf and then by kite ski to the edge of the shelf. [unassisted]
Ice Maidens - Six women team from the British Army attempting an unsupported crossing of Antarctica from the Leverett Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf to Hercules Inlet via the South Pole. Two resupplies at the South Pole and Thiel Mountains. This 1700km route was used by Felicity Aston in 2011/12 on her Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic Expedition. [unsupported]
Ice Trek - A guided team of five attempting a new route from the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole via the Reedy and Kansas Glaciers
Scott Sears (Antarctic Gurkha) - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul along the standard 700 mile Hercules Inlet route to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Yasu Ogita - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
Davar Rostuhar - Solo, unsupported & unassisted manhaul from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. [solo, unassisted & unsupported]
ALE Ski South Pole - Guided team manhauling from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. Two Guides Carl Alvey & Christain with five clients
Paul Landry (Polar Consultants) - Guided team man hauling from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole
Robert Swan Energy Challenge - Guided team of four man hauling from the Messner Start to the South Pole. Expedition running on 'renewable energy & bio fuels' during the manhauling phase.
Leo Houlding (Spectre) - An innovative attempt to combine climbing, man hauling and kite skiing. After an ALE Twin Otter drop off the expedition will comprise a 300km kite ski to the Organ Pipe Peaks in the Gothic Mountains, an attempt on the 750m buttress of the Spectre (2020m) and other unclimbed peaks, a 400km manhaul onto the polar plateau and a 1100km kite ski directly back to Union Glacier. [unassisted]
Unsupported - Support in Antarctica is usually provided by kites i.e. wind assisted or vehicles. Unsupported trips are typically manhauling on skis
Unassisted - Assistance is usually in the form of resupplies, either planned or emergency. All solo trips are unassisted by definition.
A break from my normal of routine of guiding saw ALE fly a small team of us off to the South Pole to build the remote field camp for the various skiing, manhauling and kiting parties who would be passing that way. It's a long flight by Twin Otter refueling at the remote Theales Corner. The next week was spent digging and building in some pretty windy and cold conditions as we erected a luxory camp for upwards of thirty folk. A kilometer away the American base was also working hard taking advantage of the 24 hour daylight although on New Zealand time, 16 hours ahead of us. The arrival of our first guests gave us the oppurtunity to tour the base with them.
It definitely feels like spring has arrived in the Lakes. Today was a gloriously still day out in the Northern Fells. I was working with Karin who is just about to depart on a big Greenland expedition. Her team are attempting to circumnavigate the ice cap with a Windsledge as part of a bigger project. This was her final chance to look at crevasse rescue and develop a system for retrieving 1000kg of sledge from a crevasse if the unthinkable should happen. We began with jumaring and abseiling and developed these skills to include freehanging transitions. The afternoon was spent looking at a variety of hauling techniques up to a monstrous 12:1 ratio.
The Windsledge Project looks very interesting. It's already been tested on a number of expeditions but this will be the biggest challenge yet. Kite skiing is an amazing way to travel but you are limited in the amount of kit you can tow behind you in a pulk. This new concept opens up some intriguing possibilities.....