This Year’s Record-Breaking South Pole Expeditions

 Predrag Vuckovic / Getty Images

Since Roald Amundsen led the first successful expedition to the South Pole in 1911, people have followed his lead, battling the inhuman cold, howling winds, and blinding blizzards to make it to the planet’s southernmost point. This Antarctic summer (which runs roughly from October to February) has been no exception, with dozens journeying from the coast to the pole, many looking to make history in the process. Now that summer is over and impossible cold is creeping back in, it’s time to look back at the year’s biggest records in the Antarctic.

First by bike
Three people sought to become the first to cycle from the Antarctic coast to the south pole, with Maria Leijerstram of Wales smoking the competition and finishing the journey in just 10 days, 14 hours, and 56 minutes. Leijerstram used a custom-built recumbent bike and also took a route 100 miles shorter than American Daniel Burton and Spaniard Juan Menendez Granados, who both rode two-wheeled “fat bikes.” Menendez, who finished in 46 days, distinguished himself from the others by making the trip solo, unassisted, and unsupported.

Fastest (and youngest) on foot
Yale undergrad student Parker Liautaud completed the fastest unsupported trip to the pole on foot (18 days) while also, at 19, becoming the youngest man to ski there. That is, until weeks later, when 16-year-old Lewis Clarke overcame 120-mph winds to take that record on January 18. “It’s not a place to be learning how to put your tent up,” says Steve Jones, who has guided expeditions to the south pole with Adventure Network International for the past decade. “You’re going to be out pulling a sled in subzero temperatures for, say, eight hours a day, day after day.”

Longest unsupported trek
Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere are retracing the path of Admiral Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed 1911 expedition, which reached the pole only to find they’d been bested by Amundsen’s team by some four weeks. A dejected Scott stalked off toward the coast where he started his journey, eventually succumbing to the elements and perishing along with his men. When Saunders and L’Herpiniere make it back to Scott’s hut (they have yet to complete the trip), they will have traveled 1,800 miles – the longest unsupported polar journey ever.