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South Pole Last Degree 7th January 2012 Expedition News

By January 24, 2012Current Trips

Leaders: Dave Pritt & Robin Beadle

Team: Iain B, Zack B, Barney B, Peter B, Sean W, Nzuzo M


24th Jan: The team arrived back at the Union Glacier yesterday and hope to fly back to Punta Arenas today.


22nd Jan: The team successfully arrived at the South Pole, on 21st January at 5.30pm which was ahead of schedule!  The group are intending to fly out from the Union Glacier today, weather permitting, and on to Chile. Well done to the team – hope the celebrations were great and above all – held somewhere warm!

Carry on reading for the update from Iain Buchan and Nzuzo Mnikathi…

21 January 2012 – transcript of audio updates from Iain Buchan and Nzuzo Mnikathi
Iain Buchan:  We are at the South Pole after walking 19,5km today and everyone on the team is absolutely exhausted. It was a slow uphill climb that we didn’t expect. It was very tough, especially the last 4,5km. Having said that we are all elated to be here. It is the most special place on the planet. We are all so happy that we’ve finally made it. We’ve just had a chance to relax and unwind and we had a good meal at base camp. We were all really thrilled that Nzuzo was able to ski today and he did about 14km. The frostbite on his fingers and nose held up well and there’s no futher damage which is great news. He is very tired but he is very happy.

The overall trip has lasted six-and-a-half days. We were really lucky with the weather except for one day when there was a white-out and we struggled with our navigation. The rest of the time, we’ve had the most incredible weather and we’ve been told that it’s the best they’ve seen in this part of the world for many years.

Nzuzo Mnikathi:  Today has been a great day for me. Even though I really struggled, I’ve had the best day of my life skiing to the South Pole. I started off well but by half way I was really exhausted and I thought that I wasn’t going to make it but the team helped me. I’ve never had this kind of experience and I have to thank Barney, Iain, Zack, Pete and Sean Wisedale for all their help. To all the people in South Africa – you helped me make it and I just want to thank all of you.

17th Jan: Exactly 100 years ago Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team arrived at the most Southern point on Earth, the South Pole, in their wool jerseys, leather boots, cotton under garments and waxed wind suits. Sitting ensconced in my down suit and nylon tent right now and trying to visualise what they went through is impossible. All I can say is that with the gear they had on this nippy continent they must have been men of men – the kind of men that exemplify the unlimited capabilities of the human spirit.

The temperature here is 32 degrees below zero.

The weather deteriorated today with cloud and wind occluding the radiation of our desired Sun. I am now a full Sun worshipper…right now. And if the rays come back tomorrow I will roll around in the snow naked gratefully. Promise.

Nzuzo has now been diagnosed with frostbite in three places. His toes, fingers and his nose. All cases are being managed by the good doctor Berning. The nineteen year old never knew what hit him yesterday. He has the support of our backup team, is in good spirits but is quite dazzled by the complexity of skills required to stay alive here. Just going to the loo is a half hour exercise and is carried out using a ‘Wag Bag’ in a bucket. No waste may be left here because there is very little precipitation to break it down. The upshot is that there is no better view from any other loo on Earth. The wind-textured surface extending to the horizon a whole lot more engaging than a magazine. Finishing off is a little more challenging than standard porcelain as you might imagine.

We covered just under 18 kilometres today in 8 hours. The hefty sleds held us back. The snow is soft in places and clings to the underside making for tardy progress.

Tomorrow we will attempt to cover 20km by an earlier start. Must get to sleep.

Until tomorrow

Sean Wisedale for The Unlimited Child South Pole Expedition

16th Jan: Antarctica has spoken. It’s 26 degrees below freezing. The terrain is spectacular, the team is fantastic but it’s brutally cold.

We are tucked inside the fabric of our two man tent, our lives preserved from the Polar breeze only by this micron thin film of nylon. I’m wrapped in a spacey down suit to bat off the chill while my freeze dried finger tips glide over the keypad with ease.

Nzuzo is sharing with me. He is asleep. After a 7.5 hour sled haul today during which we managed to walk 14km, we discovered that he has frostnipped pinky and ring fingers. Not great news for him this early on in the expedition.

Crossing this endless icescape at less than two kilometres an hour today, I once again got to appreciate how fickle our lives really are and what life really matters.

At the end of today’s sled hauling Barney mentioned how he had spent much of the day thinking about his wife and children. The most meaningful imagery always glows in your mind while the fatigue and frost are kept at bay.

It’s been great having the good doctor Berning along. He is the official time keeper and blows his whistle every hour to bring our eight man convoy to a halt for a warm drink and snack on the move. In our flasks we carry hot chocolate or tea. The good doctor will be keeping a watchful eye on Nzuzo going forward.

Dinner tonight was ham and vegetable sauce on pasta. The mess tent was so steamy we could barely see each other. But we had a good chat about the day and speculated on how long it would take us to get to the Pole.

Tomorrow we head out at 9.30. It seems late but that’s because it takes a full two hours to wrap up the camp.

All the best from the Unlimited Child South Pole Expedition team

15th Jan: We have left Union Glacier and there is great excitement. We had a very slow three-and-a-half hour flight to the middle of nowhere.

We landed on the snow and ice and as far as the eye can see – in a big circle as I am turning around now – it’s flat and empty. There’s nothing, just nothing. It’s absolutely flat and there’s nothing but white snow.

I’m looking at the sun in comparison to the horizon and it’s at 90 degrees – and as astrologers and geographers know, you don’t see that often. Usually (the horizon and the sun) are opposite each other.

But the sun just stays at 90 degrees, it’s just amazing. We got off the plane and I hugged my boys.

The rest of the team are really just chuffed to be here.

It’s a dream come true.

13th Jan: The organisers said they would give us two hours notice (before we were supposed to board the plane for Antarctica) but in fact we had 15 minutes notice to get packed and on the plane, a Russian Illysian cargo jet. We had an amazing flight over here. There are no windows. You sit in this huge cargo jet and cant see a thing. Its a really amazing experience.

We landed on ice so you cant apply brakes but the Russian pilot really did an incredible job.

Then we got out of the plane and onto the snow and the ice. It was the most beautiful landscape. Its just so clean and clear. I have to confess that due to the sheer joy of it, I shed a tear and was very emotional. It is just such a privilege to be on this continent and to experience this pristine area.

We only got to bed at 5 in the morning as we only landed at 3 oclock. We had a couple of hours sleep and started the preparation of kit – checking everything today. Weve just come back from a test walk on the skis. Nzuzo was just great. Hes never even seen snow but he got up and going like a real pro! It was absolutely amazing and we are all thrilled about that. Its going to make our preparations a lot easier going forward.

Tomorrow we go out on our own on a ski test run so were all really looking forward to that. All in all its been an incredible day. The temperature is cold at -17C and back in South Africa, you guys are having a wonderful time enjoying temperatures of 30C.

Anyway enjoy South Africa and we will talk to you tomorrow.

11th Jan: Today we had our briefing about flying into Antarctica and what we should expect at Union Glacier, how we should behave in Antarctica in order to be safe and how to prevent frostbite. This was presented by American Chris Nance who has done six seasons in Antarctica including a winter (poor fellow).

We also learned what to do when we need to go to the loo because everything going into Antarctica must eventually come out. Good news! And how we need to use ‘wag bags’. Obviously everything freezes so that should help as we haul our business across the ice because it won’t pong. Great!

Frostbite is always an issue and we have learned not to expose any bare skin to the elements so it should be interesting trying to wee. This said we do have pee bottles which we have to use so we don’t leave a trail of yellow dots which, we are told, will remain for decades as there is little precipitation in Antarctica to decompose organic matter. When we get to the camp we will make one big yellow dot and that’s fine.

We are so excited but not sure when we will fly. Our bags are being collected this afternoon and we are hoping that of the weather is good so we can fly at midnight tonight. There is 24 hours of daylight in Antarctica so no lights will be needed for our landing at Union Glacier. We will not need to sleep because it never gets dark. This means we won’t miss out on anything! Yay!

So excited we could use our wag bags right now.

We’d love to hear from you, so please send us your comments!


The Unlimited Child Team

10th Jan: All the team have now arrived in Punta Arenas. They have had their briefing today and with any luck could either fly onto Antarctica tonight or tomorrow. Fingers crossed the weather window comes good for them.

7th Jan: The team are departing the UK & South Africa today en-route to Punta Arenas, where they will make their final preparations before making the 6 hour journey onto Antarctica.

Dave Pritt

About Dave Pritt

Dave Pritt is the Director of Adventure Peaks. With over 30 years of mountaineering feats, he is a very experienced high altitude mountaineer who has led expeditions to K2, Broad Peak and five Everest expeditions. Dave has completed the 7 summits, led an expedition to Ski the South Pole Last Degree, Satopanth in India and in 2007 he guided Ian McKeever to break the world record for the seven summits in 156 days. He is lucky enough to have climbed on the majority of our advertised peaks, but the Tien Shan remains his favourite destination.

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