Challenges

The SPEAR17 team will face numerous challenges on their arduous journey to the South Pole and beyond to cross Antarctica.

Cold

The Antarctic is the coldest place on Earth. Temperatures of -93°C have been recorded on the continent. The team is likely to routinely face temperatures of -40°C to -50°C during the 90 day expedition.

Wind

The Antarctic is the windiest place on Earth. Winds speeds of 199mph have been recorded. The team will have to cope with the constant katabatic wind blowing Northwards away from the Polar plateau, meaning that they will be skiing into the wind.

Crevasses

The team will have to negotiate numerous crevasses on their journey to the Pole and across the continent. These cracks in the ice can be hundreds of feet deep and present a real danger to the team.

Altitude

Apart from the cold and distance covered the team must cope with the effects of altitude during the expedition. The average altitude of the Polar Plateau is over 3,000m (9,800ft). Starting from sea level the team face a constant uphill struggle towards the Pole where the percentage of Oxygen in the air is reduced from 21% at sea level to just 14%.

Physical Endurance

SPEAR17 is an unsupported expedition. The team will physically man-haul all their kit and equipment on sleds known as pulks (from Finnish pulkka) weighing 160kg without the use of dogs or mechanised equipment. They must rely on their own strength and endurance to cover the distance and cross the countless obstacles along the way.

Whiteout

The team will regularly face whiteout conditions in high winds and dense cloud. This can make it impossible to distinguish between the land and sky and the direction of travel. This can result in severe disorientation and symptons of vertigo and nausea. This is a form of motion sickness known as ski sickness (or Häusler's disease).

Distance

The Antarctic continent is vast. The team will ski from the edge of the continent to the geographic South Pole - a journey of approximately 1,770km (1,100 miles). The final distance is likely to be even further due to obstacles such as crevasses in their path. Depending on the weather the journey will take them between 85 and 90 days, averaging a distance of about 20km per day (almost half a marathon).

No Support

The team will have to limit their kit and equipment to the bare essentials as they will have to physically haul everything they take. There will be no resupplies or external support during the journey. For this reason they will have to be very selective with what they take. The bulk of the weight will comprise of essential supplies such as food, fuel, tents and warm clothing. Members will only be able to take a few small luxuries!

Isolation

The team will have to cope with extreme isolation as they will be effectively cut off from the rest of the world for the duration of the expedition - up to 90 days. During this time they will have no way of communicating with their family and friends at home.

Mental Endurance

The team will have to cope with mental battle and monotony of hauling their pulks for 10-12 hours a day for up to 90 days. Members will have to cope with the alien environment and relentless daily routine.

The Goal

If the team can overcome all of these challenges they will succeed in achieving their ultimate goal - that is to complete the first ever unsupported trek to the geographical South Pole and complete a full traverse of the continent, while raising money for a worthy cause. About 120 people have skied to the South Pole without support or assistance, but only 6 have ever completed a full traverse by human effort alone.