Richard eases in to solo South Pole expedition

Richard Parks began his solo expedition on Monday to ski from Hercules Inlet on the Geographical coastline of Antarctica to the Geographic South Pole and today marks day 5 of his journey.

He arrived at Union Glacier base camp on Monday and was then dropped off at his start point at the Geographical coastline of Antarctica on Tuesday 18th December where he started his solo expedition.

Hercules Inlet is one of the recognised start points for South Pole expeditions on the Geographical coastline of Antarctica and Richard started his expedition at 4pm GMT, 1pm local time (Chilean time) on Tuesday.

Richard’s route to the South Pole will be approximately 1,200km/745 miles.  This expedition will be solo, unassisted and unsupported which means he will have to perform in some of the most hostile conditions on the globe on his own, man hauling everything he needs with no external support.

Richard hopes to complete the journey to the pole within 35-40 days.

On day 1 Richard eased himself in to the journey skiing 15km in 6 hours, Day 2 he skied for 7 hours covering 25.4km and on Day 3, he skied for 7 and a half hours today and covered 26km.  Richard hopes to build up his miles to reach a 35km a day average as a target.  Tonight he will update on Day 4 and 5.

Richard’s thoughts on the first 3 days from his Antarctic Blog

Day 1 – Was tough going as there was a lot of climbs because the sea ice is naturally concaved so the first section climbing out of the inlet on to terra firma is a tough section, especially with a full pulk weighing about 89kg.  I also had a second climb through the first roll off of the glacier.  I climbed about 400m vertically on the first day and travelled 15km.  Only skied for 6 hours but I was blessed with perfect conditions which was awesome to have on my first day…Read more from Richard’s Day 1 blog.

Day 2 - I skied for 7 hours and covered 25.4km/13.7 nautical miles/15.78 miles.

I woke up this morning to a complete whiteout, couldn’t see 10 metres in front but decided to keep moving and after the first 4 hours the whiteout cleared a little, but then heavy cloud arrived so the light was flat.  It was really hard to navigate and keep my bearing, with no landmarks, nothing to navigate off and no shadows so I could use the sastrugi to navigate but...Read more from Richard’s Day 2 blog.

Day 3 - I woke up this morning and conditions were perfect apart from a moderate head wind, which kept me honest.  This morning I had my first poo and I almost cried when I felt the weight of it and put it in my Pulk.  I skied for 7 and a half hours today and covered 26km/16 miles.  I’m still easing in to the trip, building my hours.  A crazy thing happened today.  When I was pitching my tent at the end of the day I saw this massive bird flying towards me…Read more from Richard’s Day 3 blog.

You can follow Richard’s progress by visiting his Antarctica Blog here. 

The significance of Richard’s solo expedition

Despite this being an R&D expedition, Richard knows exactly the significance an expedition of this type holds.  Before he set off he stated; “Very few people have done what I am about to attempt, very few people have the opportunity to do it, my expedition target not so long ago would have been record breaking and it’s going to take a huge amount of focus and effort to complete it.  Physically hauling my pulk from sea level to just under 3,000 meters over 1,200km/745 miles is going to be tough”.

Richard added; “Thinking about the fact that just 24 people at this time have reached the pole solo in over 100 years has made me feel very privileged to attempt this unique expedition”.

Antarctica in numbers

There have only been 108 expeditions skiing to the South Pole in history.

The first ever solo, unsupported and unassisted journey was completed by Norwegian Erling Kagge in 1992.  He reached the pole on 7th January 1993 (92-93 season) from Berkner Island.

Only 24 people to date have successfully skied solo, unassisted and unsupported to the South Pole.  Up to today (ignoring the 4 solos currently on route to the South Pole, Richard being one of them) there have been 26 solo expeditions to the South Pole by 24 different people.  Two people Borge Ousland and Marek Kaminski have skied to the South Pole solo twice.  6 of the other soloists have also skied to the South Pole two or more times – but as members of teams.

Liv Arnesen became the first women to ski solo, unsupported and unassisted to the South Pole in 1994.

Only 8 British people have reached the South Pole solo.

David Hempleman-Adams became the first British person to ski solo to the South Pole on 5th January 1996.

Hannah McKeand is currently the fastest Brit to ski solo.  In 39 days, 9 hours and 33 mins.  Hannah set the then fastest record time for any expedition, both team and solo, men and women in her record-breaking solo journey in 2006.

Currently the fastest solo, unassisted and unsupported journey to the South Pole was recorded by Norwegian Christian Eide who completed the journey in an incredible 24 days, 1 hour, 13 minutes.  Eide’s expedition to the South Pole began on December 20, 2010 and finished on 13th January 2011.

If successful, Richard will be the FIRST ever Welsh person to reach the South Pole solo.