In much the same fashion as climbing Everest, skiing to the South Pole has become of those activities that is routinely found on the bucket lists of many adventurers. Beginning each year in November, a small group of hardy souls heads to Antarctica to make the gruelling journey through one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet. But this year, one of those adventurers elected to take a different approach, giving up his skis for a mountain bike instead. That proved to be a challenge of epic proportions, but one that paid off earlier this week with his arrival at the very bottom of the world.
On Tuesday, American Daniel Burton completed his attempt to ride to the Geographic South Pole, located at 90° south latitude. His arrival there was the culmination of a long expedition, which started at Hercules Inlet along the Antarctic coast and covered some 700+ miles in the process. The entire ride took 51 days to complete, which means Burton first got on his bike back on December 2.
While out on the trail, Burton struggled mightily at times. Much of the early going was uphill, and his specially built mountain bike, which features fat tires for use on snow and ice, isn’t exactly built for climbing. The frozen surface conditions were a constant challenge as well, with the slick ground often making it difficult to gain much speed as well. Add in extremely cold temperatures, high winds and whiteout conditions, and you have all the ingredients necessary for a truly awful bike ride.
In order to make such a long journey, Daniel needed to have supply caches dropped off at various points along his route. There were times on the ride when he was actually extremely low on food, and those depots provided the supplies necessary to keep him moving. Upon his arrival at the Pole, he was almost completely out of food one again, finishing the last stretch with just some candy bars and other treats that were dropped off with him just two days before he finished.
Daniel wasn’t the only person riding his bike to the South Pole this season. Spaniard Juan Menendez Granados also completed the final leg of his journey on a bike back on January 17. The difference between these two men however, is that while the American rode his bike the entire way, Menendez Granados actually skied some of the distance while pulling his bike behind him on a sled. It should be noted however, that the Spaniard also finished the journey without the need for a resupply as well.
Congratulations to Daniel on wrapping up this impressive ride. By all accounts, it is much more difficult to mountain bike to the South Pole rather than ski, so this is an impressive feat indeed. I suspect that we’ll now see someone try to do the same ride in a faster time. As gear and fat tire bikes improve, we will probably see more people traveling in the Antarctic in this fashion.