Antarctica: Kite-Skiers Make the Pole, But Abe Won’t Finish

Last week, Preet Chandi finished her Hercules Inlet to South Pole route. This week, Justin Packshaw and Jamie Facer-Childs have made it too.

Most of this year’s few Antarctic expeditions have now finished, but Masatatsu Abe is still out on the ice.

Packshaw and Facer-Childs

Justin Packshaw and Jamie Facer-Childs have endured a torrid time in Antarctica. Their original plan was to kite-ski from the Russian Novolazarevskaya station to the Pole of Inaccessibility. From there, they’d have headed to the South Pole before skiing on to Hercules Inlet. Their plan didn’t last long, as the wind refused to cooperate.

The original plan had been for a much longer journey. Photo: Chasing the Light


With food running out, they abandoned the Pole of Inaccessibility and have now elected to stop at the South Pole rather than continue on to Hercules Inlet. It took the pair 57 days to make the Pole, fighting the wind that they hoped would aid them.

“It has been hard graft and grit has been our constant companion,” Packshaw wrote in their latest update. The two men are now enjoying the comforts of the South Pole camp.

Masatatsu Abe

Meanwhile, Abe is still fighting the elements.

His expedition from the Messner Start to the South Pole two years ago was far from smooth. He fought through soft snow but managed to grind out the kilometres and make his goal very late in the season. This year, he won’t be able to repeat the feat.

Abe has struggled to make enough kilometres each day. Photo: Masatatsu Abe


From his starting point on the Ross Ice Shelf, Abe has inched along. Now, at the foot of the Transantarctic Mountains, he has run out of time.

“Unlike before, it is too dangerous here to act in this weather. After consulting with the Base Camp, both sides decided that the Transantarctic Mountains are extremely difficult at present. There is also a pickup time limit, but the weather will be rough and I will be forced to stagnate for several days. As soon as the weather recovers, I will descend about 50km to a flat snowfield where the propeller plane can reach,” he wrote on January 11.

Because of poor visibility, Abe might not reach the pickup point for another couple of days.

Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam. A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon. He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon. His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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Sebastian Copeland
3 months ago

Tough break for Packshaw and Facer-Childs. Eric McNair Landry and I opened this route in the 2011-12 season: Novo-POI-SP-Hercules, over 84 days (4100 adjusted km). The winds are notoriously light from Novo to POI in particular. Much stronger coming down the plateau, so especially tough that they could not finish from SP to HI, as the katabatics really kick in there (we finished that 1290km section in 10 days. The light winds can be crippling at the surface, but there is plenty of it about 20 meters above the ground. We used 100 meter lines on our kites to get… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by copeland
Steve Jones
3 months ago

A minor point, Masatatsu Abe’s previous expedition in 2018-19 was from The Messner Start not Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. At 53 days this was the second slowest expedition on this route.

Are Johansen
Are Johansen
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Walsh

What happened to the guided ALE Expeditions?