After 16 days out on the Antarctic ice, veteran polar explorer Eric Larsen has decided to end his Cycle South Expedition. Larsen had hoped to become the first person to ride a mountain bike from Hercules Inlet – located along the Antarctic coast – to the South Pole. But high winds and challenging surface conditions proved too difficult to overcome, forcing him to pull the plug prematurely. He had hoped to ride more than 700 miles on his journey across the frozen continent.
We first told you about Larsen’s aspirations two months back when the expedition was still in the planning stages. At that time, the plan was to travel solo and unsupported to the Pole on a bike that had been specifically built to handle the rigors of the Antarctic. That bike featured five-inch wide tires that were built to float over ice and snow, helping to make the entire trip possible. It was also outfitted with custom made paniers that carried all of the supplies and gear necessary for the journey.
After traveling to Punta Arenas, Chile in mid-December, Eric caught a flight to Antarctica and began his cycling journey on the 20th of the month. But pedaling his bike south proved to be more difficult than he had anticipated as the constant headwinds made it a challenge to cover the mileage necessary to reach the South Pole on schedule. After eight days out on the ice, Eric came to the difficult conclusion that he would run out of food long before he made it to the bottom of the world. So, with that in mind, he decided to turn around and head back to his starting point at Hercules Inlet where he was met yesterday by a twin otters aircraft that was standing by to retrieve him. After a short flight, Larsen was back in the permanent camp operated by ALE at Union Glacier where he now awaits a flight back to Chile.
One of the main goals of the Cycle South Expedition was to encourage individuals to use bicycles to reduce their carbon footprints in order to have a lasting impact on the world. Even though he is no longer traveling to the South Pole, Eric has vowed to continue spreading this message. He is also using the expedition to support several charities, including Winter Wildlands Alliance, Protect Our Winters, the Davis Phinney Foundation and Worldbike.
It’s a shame Eric won’t have the opportunity to complete his expedition, but in this case it seems that discretion really is the better part of valor. His vast experience in the cold places of our planet told him that it was dangerous to continue and he made the wise choice to turn back rather than get himself into trouble. There is a good lesson in that for other outdoor adventurers.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo Credit: Eric Larsen]