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Ski South Pole—Hercules

The ultimate polar challenge. Ski from the edge of the Antarctic continent to the South Pole

Ski South Pole—Hercules

Join an elite group who have completed one of the most extreme expeditions imaginable and arrive—on foot—at the Geographic South Pole

Embark on an endeavor that will test your strength, endurance and resolve to their limit. Ski South Pole is the ultimate challenge, a journey that spans an entire Antarctic season and traverses 730 miles (1170 km) from Hercules Inlet, on the edge of the frozen Antarctic continent, to the Geographic South Pole. Travel by ski hauling all your supplies, facing constant winds, fields of sastrugi and white-out conditions.

For the true adventurer for whom training, challenge, teamwork and perseverance sweeten the goal, Ski South Pole All the Way is an incredible expedition—with tremendous rewards!

The route for ‘Ski South Pole all the Way’ starts at Hercules Inlet on the Antarctic coast and climbs gradually to more than 9300 ft (2800 m) as the you make your way south over the ice cap’s mountain passes and wind blown snow ridges.  Days are filled with 24-hour daylight and an intense solitude and tranquility; no plant or animal life is seen this far south, just snow, ice, rock and sky.  The trip takes 50-60 days depending on weather, snow conditions and group strength. During the expedition you will ski for 7-9 hours a day in all types of weather and in challenging terrain, hauling a sled weighing 110-130 lbs (50-60 kg).  As on all expeditions, success is a team effort and everyone helps to set up camp and prepare meals at the end of the day. 

Accommodations

Union Glacier Camp
The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming at our main Antarctic camp at Union Glacier. You’ll find roomy, double occupancy sleeping tents; a spacious dining hall; fresh delicious meals; and a spectacular setting. You’ll be surprised how comfortable Antarctica can be! Our full-service camp is designed for Antarctic conditions and with best environmental practices in mind. It operates during the Antarctic summer (November through January) and is dismantled at the end of each season.

Field Camps
Our Gould Bay (Emperor Penguin), ski expedition, climbing and other field camps are more basic. Equipment must be lightweight and portable, yet still strong enough to withstand Antarctic conditions. We sleep in mountaineering-style tents and eat a combination of fresh-frozen meals, prepared by our chefs at Union Glacier; and de-hydrated meals.

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Activity Level

Extremely Strenuous
Extremely Strenuous

Extremely strenuous trips include skiing and climbing expeditions in the most remote corners of Antarctica, where physiological altitude may exceed 11,000 feet (3350m) for many days in a row, and temperatures may drop below (–40°F / –40°C), with severe wind chill and storms. You will be active for 8-12 hours a day carrying or hauling heavy loads for many days in a row. You must have the physical ability to cover a minimum daily distance and the mental stamina to continue in extreme conditions when you are physically tired. Technical skill, a high level of strength and aerobic fitness, and commitment to a dedicated pre-trip training program are required.

Trip CodeTo AntarcticaFrom AntarcticaDurationPrice (US$) *Availability
Season: 2014/2015
SKSP-HINov 21 2014Jan 24 201565 days$65,500Available

Dates & Rates Notes

* We reserve the right to revise our prices in the event of significant changes in the price of aviation kerosene and aircraft charter rates.

What's Included

ALL ANI Experiences include:

  • Transfers to and from Punta Arenas airport, Chile
  • Briefing with refreshments in Punta Arenas one day prior to departure
  • Round trip flights from Punta Arenas to Antarctica
  • All flights within Antarctica as shown in your itinerary
  • Meals and accommodation while in Antarctica
  • Expedition Guide(s) (and naturalist or lecturer on some Experiences)
  • Use of recreational equipment at Union Glacier Camp
  • Official and personalised ANI Certificate of Achievement
  • A Baggage allowance of up to 55lbs (25kg) on Punta Arenas-Union Glacier flight
  • (Baggage allowance of up to 66lb (30kg) for Ski South Pole Hercules Inlet, Messner and Footsteps of Amundsen Expeditions)

SOME Experiences include:

  • Group camping equipment (when travelling beyond Union Glacier Camp)
  • Group climbing equipment (climbing expeditions)
  • Sled, harness, ski pole pogies (all ski expeditions)
  • Skis, ski skins, ski poles (Ski Last Degree)

Experiences DO NOT include:

  • Commercial flights to and from Punta Arenas
  • Flights within Antarctica, other than those shown in itinerary
  • Meals and accommodation in Punta Arenas
  • Airport transfers other than in Punta Arenas
  • Personal equipment and clothing (polar clothing is available for rent from ANI for some Experiences)
  • Expenses incurred in Punta Arenas due to delays
  • Any excess baggage costs over confirmed baggage allowance
  • Cost for the use of satellite phone whilst in Antarctica
  • Insurance coverage – personal, medical, evacuation or otherwise

Day 1 Fly to Antarctica

Fly from Chile to Antarctica by private transport jet. Land on ice runway. Settle in at Union Glacier Camp.

Days 2-5 Union Glacier

Final preparations and short training trip near Union Glacier Camp to fine tune systems and become accustomed to sled hauling.

Days 6-34 Hercules Inlet to Thiel Mountains

Fly by ski aircraft to Hercules Inlet where we don our skis and begin our trek south. After several days we settle into a daily travel routine of 1hr marches with short rest breaks in between. Each day is a challenge. We face constant winds, haul our sleds through fields of sastrugi and navigate in white-out conditions. Only the occasional rocky summit marks our way as we ski across the vast white plain to the halfway point at Thiel Mountains.

Days 35-58 Thiel Mountains to South Pole

Now on the featureless plateau our senses are heightened and we have hours alone with our thoughts. The challenge is as much mental as physical as we move through the endless whitescape. The anticipation builds as we near our goal, then take our final steps to the South Pole!

We have arrived. Our tired bodies are relieved and our minds elated as we take photos and contemplate the enormity of our achievement. We have challenged ourselves in the last great wilderness and succeeded.

Days 59-60 Return to Union Glacier Camp

Pick up from South Pole by ski aircraft. We get a bird’s eye view of our expedition route - a thin line across the vast continent - and picture ourselves marching toward the Pole. Back at Union Glacier Camp we enjoy a champagne toast and celebration dinner. Then rest, relax and enjoy the comforts of camp.

Day 61* Return flight to Punta Arenas, Chile

The aircraft from Punta Arenas will arrive with a new collection of avid explorers and you depart for the final leg of your Antarctic experience. Our ANI staff will meet you at Punta Arenas airport and transfer you to your hotel.

* Schedule
No two Antarctic experiences are the same. This is part of the excitement and adventure of Antarctic travel. The itinerary above highlights typical activities and experiences. Exact timeline and details will vary from trip to trip. Trip length may vary by departure.

Please anticipate delays and do not plan anything for at least a week after your scheduled return. Allow yourself to enjoy this unique experience without the stress of pending commitments.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this Experience. More FAQ's can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Weather and Environment

Will it be cold?

All of our journeys take place in the Antarctic summer (November through January) when the weather is at its best. We advise on suitable clothing so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.

The interior of Antarctica has a cold, dry, windy climate. Average mid-season temperatures at our base camp range from 10F to 25F (-12C to -4C ). On a sunny windless day it can feel quite warm but, when the wind blows, you will be glad of warm layers and a wind jacket. Temperatures can drop as low as -22F (-30C) in early November.

  • At the South Pole temperatures rarely climb above -13F (-25C) with light winds and wind chill of -40F (-40C).
  • Weather at the Emperor rookery is highly variable and influenced by coastal systems. Temperatures range from
    -22F (-30C) to near 32F (0C) with sunny and overcast skies and the possibility of heavy snowstorms.
  • Mount Vinson climbers and skiers heading to the South Pole should prepare for extreme temperatures -40F (-40C) and severe storms.

Safety, Medical and Insurance

Do I need travel insurance?

All ANI guests are required to provide cover for medical evacuation, due to the high cost of evacuation from Antarctica.

We also strongly recommend that you consider Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance, to protect you in case you need to cancel for any reason. ANI Experiences are non-refundable within 90 days of departure.

Find more information and links to purchase travel insurance on our Travel Insurance pages.

Schedule and Itinerary

Will the itinerary be exactly the same as shown on the website?

Our itineraries are meant as a guide, to give you an idea of the kinds of activities and the flow of each Experience. However no two trips are exactly the same - and that is part of the excitement and adventure of Antarctic travel. Your unique itinerary will be tailored to your interests and abilities, weather conditions and coordination with other groups on the ice. Flight schedules are flexible and you should expect delays due to the unpredictable nature of Antarctic weather, runway conditions and other logistics.

When should I arrive?

For most Experiences we ask that you arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile at least two full days (48 hours) before your scheduled departure. This allows time for clothing and equipment checks and provides a buffer in case you should miss a flight connection or have lost luggage. An environmental and logistics briefing will be held in the morning, on the day prior to departure. We will collect your luggage and load the aircraft that afternoon, ready for an early flight the following day.

Guests on longer ski traverses should arrive at least four full days prior to departure. We will spend the additional two days getting to know the team, reviewing expedition plans, making any last minute adjustments to equipment and finally packing our sleds ready for departure.

Please note that we cannot hold Antarctic flights for guests who are delayed arriving or who have lost luggage. We recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy your trip, without the stress of tight timelines.

Clothing and Equipment

I'm not sure I have the correct equipment?

We provide detailed clothing and equipment lists for all of our Experiences. If you still have questions after reading our equipment lists and overview just drop us a line and we will be more than happy to help.

Booking and Payment Information

I'm ready to book. What do I do?

Please email or call our office to confirm availablity on your chosen Experience and departure. We will ask you to fill out a medical form (and resume of experience for climbing and ski expeditions). Please fill these forms out completely and honestly. If we have any questions or concerns, we will work with you to resolve them. Once these have been approved, we will ask you send a deposit of $US 5000 to confirm your reservation.

More Frequently Asked Questions.

Skills and Experience

This expedition should only be considered by the most committed Antarctic adventurers. You should have skiing and cold weather camping experience, and a very high level of fitness. We ask all participants to submit a resume of their ski expedition experience to ensure that you get the most out of your expedition and so that we can make suggestions for further training.

Training

You must undertake rigorous daily training for 3-6 months prior to the expedition start.

As a baseline you should be able to maintain a minimum of 1 hour of vigorous physical activity (e.g. running, x-country skiing, burning 500-600 kcal/hr). Your training program should be designed to gradually increase your endurance so that you can maintain 8-10 hours of vigorous activity a day, for 50 to 60 days in a row.

Read more about training for Ski South Pole in the attached file below.

Challenges

  • 50-56 days skiing 8-10 hrs per day, hauling 110-130 lb (50-60 kg) sled
  • Team members help set up camp and cook meals
  • Temperatures to –25F (–30C ) with constant winds. Wind chill to –50F (–50C)

Visitor Guidelines

Our guests play a crucial role in helping us care for the Antarctic environment. Please review the guidelines below as part of your pre-trip preparation.

Forms

Map Image Overview: 
Ski South Pole - Hercules Location Map
Map Image Detail: 

More map resources can be found on our Maps page

Our Commitment to Safety

Your safety is very important to us and we work closely with you to make sure you are well prepared for your Antarctic Experience.

All our activities are subject to detailed risk management and contingency planning that allow for the remote and harsh Antarctic environment. Our preparations include detailed emergency planning and equipment to deal with all eventualities.

Our team are known for their experience and expertise and we encourage a culture of safety by providing training and support. Our Union Glacier camp has a basic medical clinic staffed by a doctor and medic who specialize in emergency and remote medicine. We keep a 24-hour watch during our operating season and are ready to respond - day or night - in case of emergency.

We maintain other camp facilities and pre-placed fuel caches in the interior of Antarctica to support our flights. Established procedures and communication protocols and continued investment in equipment and technology all contribute to safe and enjoyable Experiences.

Environmental Ethic

IAATO logoANI’s mission is to set the highest possible environmental standards and to use best practices. We believe in responsible and sustainable tourism where our guests leave Antarctica with a greater appreciation of its remarkable natural values.

We encourage a culture of environmental stewardship through training and our activities are planned to have the minimum effect on the environment.