Summit Team Building

Antarctica Expedition 2024 | South Pole Summary

Summit President, Scott Kress gives his thoughts on completing the first part of Antarctica Expedition 2024 where he co-lead a team to the South Pole.

I am now back at Union Glacier for 1-2 days before heading out to Mt Vinson and I have a few minutes to reflect upon this most recent journey and summarize our trip.

We headed out to our drop off point at 89-degrees South on January 6. We took off from Union Glacier in the Basler at 11am for a 3.5 hour flight. After landing we quickly unloaded the plane of all our gear, skis and sleds. Shortly there after the plane was gone and we had 60 nautical miles to get to the South Pole.

We quickly strapped on our skis and hooked on our sleds and started south. We have gained a lot of altitude on this day and the weather conditions had become much more severe so we needed to give our bodies a chance to acclimatize so we only traveled for 3 x 30 minute ski blocks that day. The weather was nice with full sun, blue sky and little wind. After 90-minutes we looked for a flat space to set camp for the night.

This was our first camp set up and the group did well. We had practiced this and they did a good job building a secure camp. Once the tents were set up everyone piled into the tents to get out of the weather and it was surprisingly warm inside the tents.

Everyone relaxed as Ryan and I started to melt snow into water for food. The food we ate was mostly dehydrated so we needed to create a lot of boiling water for everyone to make their meals. All in all we needed to melt 30-40 liters of water per day and this took hours of melting snow on the stoves.

Once we were done dinner and tasks for the night we were ready for bed at 10pm, but it is as bright out as high noon and was difficult to sleep.

The next day we woke at 7 and started to prep for the day. We needed to dress and eat and pack and this took us about 2.5 hours. We hit the trail once again in great sunny weather with little wind. It was about -25, but with the sun it didn’t feel so bad.

Our plan for that day was to go five 60-minute ski blocks with a 10 minute break at the end of each hour. The day goes well, but people get tired during the last ski block as we were still acclimatizing to the altitude, the cold and the work. We made 7.2 nautical miles and camp set up once again went well.

From here on in we moved to six 60-minute ski blocks as we had a long way to go and not a long time to get there. Ski expeditions are often harder than climbing expeditions as there are no rest days and you become physically and mentally tired from the repetition of the tasks.

On the third day we started off great, but then the snow started to get sticky with the strong rays of the sun. On this day we also started to gain a lot of altitude as we went up rolling hills filled with sastrugi (ridges on the snow created by the wind). By the end of the day most everyone was pretty exhausted and thankful to set camp and rest.

For the next several days we averaged just over 9 nautical miles a day and were making good progress. The team was working well and besides a few blisters there were no injuries or complaints.

As we started out on our second to last day we started to see small dots on the horizon; the South Pole station! It seemed so far away and we knew we would not make it there this day. We set camp about 4 miles from the Pole which seemed tantalizing close.

LIVE BLOG: Scott Kress’ live updates and photos from his Antarctica 2024 Expedition | Part 1: Journey to the South Pole

The next morning we woke a little early to try and make it to the South Pole for lunch. It took us almost 4 hours to get to the Pole and these 4 hours were quite physically difficult as our bodies were drained and with the Pole being so close we were mentally strained. It was super exciting to make it to the Pole in such great style.

After a quick lunch, we once again got on our skies to cross the final mile to the actual South Pole location. Our first stop was at the ceremonial marker which consists of a barber shop style pole with a silver orb on top and the 12 flags of the Antarctic Treaty member countries. After individual and group photos we moved about 200m to the actual geographic location of the South Pole marked with a staff and South Pole ornament. Once again we took individual and group photos until our hands we too cold to continue.

We then made it back to the ALE South Pole camp where we ate, drank and celebrated with several other South Pole teams that had arrived the same day, as well as other expeditioners, and South Pole flight members. Some people stayed up all night, but Ryan and I were tired and went to the tent early.

The next day the skies were clear and the Basler came in to pick us up at 3pm for the return flight to Union Glacier camp.

All in all, it was a great trip. Some of the best weather either Ryan or I have encountered on a South Pole expedition. A little weather is memorable and exciting, but I was happy with the weather we got. The group worked exceptionally well together and developed a great and high performance culture.

There is always such an eclectic group of people in unique places such as the Antarctic. World famous expeditioners, famous guides, and all kinds of cool people from around the world trying to accomplish various goals. I will expand upon some of these stories in blogs once I get home.

On the last night none of us got much sleep as a huge wind storm tore through camp. We anchored our tents well, but when the wind is gusting to over 110kmh even the best tent struggles. My tent held up well, but my eyes snapped open with every heavy gust. Only once did I need to brace the tent walls with my hands to keep it from collapsing. Others were not quite as lucky with anchors blowing and tents blowing over.

I have now had a shower and need to switch from ski expedition mode to climbing expedition mode. There is a chance we will fly to Vinson base camp later today is the wind dies down. I will continue to send updates as I can and hope to be back here in the relative comfort of Union Glacier in about 7-9 days time.

Scott Kress

Scott Kress is an accomplished climber and adventurer. He’s completed the 7 summits and skied to both the North and South Pole. His storytelling based on his adventures is captivating, but what sets Scott apart is his ability to weave his stories together with his 20+ years of leadership and team development education and experience. Scott is the president of Summit Team Building, and is passionate about helping teams grow and companies flourish.

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