Ski South Pole Last Degree

Sledging across the Polar Plateau near the South Pole, Antarctica

An account of a 5 man, ‘Last Degree’ sledging trip to the South Pole in January 2010….

89 degrees, 52 minutes South. The Pole has been sighted….

I am navigating a straight course. Skiing a fine line between concentration on the GPS, the Sastrugi it directs me towards and intoxication by the overwhelming empty beauty of the Polar Plateau.

Every unique Sastrugi form I’m sighting on immediately gets a name. Moby Dick, The Wild Surf, Orion Space and the latest one, Cindy Crawford’s mole. A billion pristine snow crystals sparkle under the 24 hour sun. Brighter than any diamond today.

A Catalan climber and veteran of many Paris – Dakar rallies I had been out here with couldn’t believe how similar the feel of this desert was to the Sahara (despite the temperature difference!). To me it was more reminiscent of the sea. Huge skies towering above gently curving horizons and an apparently flat sea / snow scape that was infact, never flat. The light and shadow played with sastrugi forms like white horses cresting in a force 5.

Too soon, this time, 50 minutes is up. Back to the routine, energy bars, drink, kit-faff, get ready for the next 50. As we approach the South Pole base the next sighting point is a distant flag. A black dot making following our course easy and the magic of coasting through the sastrugi is lost. The contemplation between relief and pleasure at safely reaching the South Pole and sadness at leaving the hauntingly wild Polar Plateau has begun….