It has been a busy and active expedition season in the Antarctic, where a number of adventurous men and women have skied, walked, cycled and kited to the bottom of the world. Amongst them was a young man by the name of Lewis Clarke, who crossed more than 700 miles of frozen landscapes to become the youngest person to ever ski the South Pole.
16-year old Lewis, along with his guide Carl Alvey, set out from Hercules Inlet, along the Antarctic coast, back on December 2. Traveling on skis they began the long, slow and difficult journey to the Geographic South Pole, located at 90°S latitude. They reached that point last week, after 48 days out on the ice, giving Clarke the record, which was previously held by Sarah McNair-Landry, who made the same journey, solo and unsupported, at the age of 18.
In order to stay self sufficient while out on the ice, Lewis and Carl pulled heavy sleds filled with their food, gear and other supplies behind them at all times. At the start of the expedition, those sleds weighed as much as 450 pounds, but over time that weight went down as their supplies diminished over the course of their travels. By the time they actually reached the South Pole, they had just a few days worth of rations left.
As with any journey through the Antarctic, Lewis and Carl faced a number of challenges along their way to the South Pole, not the least of which was the weather. For most of the journey, they endured subzero temperatures and high winds. Whiteout conditions were not unusual either, sometimes making it impossible to see more than a few meters in any direction. Surface conditions presented a different set of problems altogether. As the pair skied closer to the Pole, they began to encounter a high number of sastrugi, hard ridges of snow that can grow to be four or five feet in height, often forcing them to find a way around those obstacles. Those ridges can slow down progress significantly, while also putting a lot of strain on their already exhausted bodies.
Lewis and Carl arrived at the South Pole on January 18, having officially covered 702 miles on their expedition. They didn’t linger long at 90°S however, as they were soon airlifted back to the coast, and then flown to Punta Arenas, Chile, the gateway to the Antarctic. Lewis was already home in time to attend an adventure travel show in the U.K. this past weekend, where he was one of the guests of honor.
I guess it is safe to say, that life will remain a little hectic for this teenager for awhile.