Our Route

We started at the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf and traveled the Messner route to the South Pole. The Messner route is 890km or 560 miles. We skirted the western flank of the massively large Foundation Ice Stream and the Transantarctic mountains in order to avoid crevasses and then turned south to the pole.

In order for us to be considered an official expedition, we started at the coast, where the land meets the sea (actually a few miles out on the sea ice).

Map of Messner Route in Antarctica, South Pole Map

It’s important to note that although we’ll be on the same general route that the great explorer Reinhold Messner traveled, we’ll get flown out when we reach the South Pole. Reinhold kept going for another 1,200 miles when he first pioneered the route.

Our Path to the South Pole

By the time we arrived in Antarctica in November of 2013, we had been dreaming about our adventure for 3 years.  Here’s an overview of some of the key milestones along the way:

January 2011: We started discussing the idea of skiing to the South Pole, committing to learn all we can about an Antarctic expedition before making our decision.

June 2011: By the start of the summer we had digested numerous polar adventure books and decided that we had the knowledge and experience for a 2012/2013 Antarctica expedition.

December 2011:  While on Mt. Kilimanjaro with our 10-year old son (Keenan), we decided to delay our South Pole expedition to  2013/2014 to allow more time to plan and attend training with Polar Explorers.

February 2012: Chris attended a five-day polar training camp in Ely, Minnesota.

April 2012: Marty attended a five-day polar training camp in Longyearbyen, Norway.

July 2012: Our ultrarunning training continued as Chris ran 76 miles at the Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life. She ran a ½ mile loop nonstop for 16 hours to raise money for cancer.

August 2012: We launched our 3belowzero website!  We also planned to complete a two-day 95-mile run of the Wonderland trail around Mt. Rainer.

September 2012: Marty attends the North Coast 24-hour race in Ohio and raced around a 1-mile loop for 24 hours, completing 112 miles.

October 2012: We started serious strength training so that we can haul 200+ lb sleds. We started cutting back on running and spent more time in our home gym working on core and upper body strength.

December 2012: We had acquired much of our gear and start field-testing everything.

January to April 2013: We spent our winter getting out with full sleds, field testing gear and simulating conditions in Antarctica. Fortunately we live in the great Pacific Northwest with endless training ground options.

June 2013: With only six month to go we finalized gear and food lists.

October 2013: Shipped our gear to Punta Arenas, Chile the launching point for our journey to Antarctica.

November-December 2013:  Antarctica Itinerary

In mid-November of 2013 we arrived in Antarctica. Below is an estimated day-to-day schedule.

  • Fly to Antarctica: Fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica. Land on the ANI ice runway at Union Glacier.
  • Union Glacier: We’ll spend a couple days getting acclimatized and doing final tests of our gear and systems.
  • Days 1-11 Ronne Ice Shelf to Thiels Corner: ANI will fly us by ski aircraft to the edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf (where land meets sea) where our expedition begins. We will reach Thiels corner at 84°30’S and turn south, toward the Pole.
  • Days 11-48 Thiels Corner to South Pole: Pull sleds, camp, eat. Repeat!
  • Days 49 ANI flight from South Pole to return to Union Glacier Camp.
  • Day 52 Return flight to Punta Arenas, Chile.
  • Day 55 Return flight from Chile to Seattle, Washington.  Home!!

Polar Rules and Definitions

Our South Pole expedition was unassisted, unsupported, and unguided. What exactly do all those “un” words mean?

Here’s what the definitive polar source adventurestats.com has to say on these polar rules and definitions.

Assisted vs. Unassisted

Assist refers to the outside help received by an expedition. The most common form of polar assist is air-resupply. Another assist is if one or more members leave an expedition due to an emergency.  Our expedition will be unassisted.

Supported vs. Unsupported

Support refers to external power aids used for significant speed and load advantage. Typical aids are wind power (kites), animal power (dogs), or engine power (motorized vehicles). Only human powered expeditions are considered unsupported.

Usage of human powered equipment such as skis, snowshoes, and sleds are not considered support. Usage of navigation aid such as compass and GPS are not considered support. Usage of safety aids such as radios, satellite phones and location beacons are not considered support.  Our expedition will be unsupported.

Guided vs. Unguided

A team is guided if they hire an outside person to provide leadership and guidance during the expedition.  We will be unguided, meaning we will be making all of our own decisions during the expedition.

Historical Highlights

Being well versed in polar history can provide key insight and learning prior to our expedition. In preparing for our expedition we’ve read a library of polar books and even visited the Scott Polar museum in Cambridge, England.  One of our goals was to, as much as possible, emulate the experiences of successful past polar explorers.

While over 3500 people have summited Mt. Everest, only about 350 people have reached the South Pole (using different methods such as on foot, dogs and motorized power).  Just over 100 people in all of history have traveled to the pole in the same fashion as us.  It’s striking to note that the South Pole history timeline is relatively short with few Americans traveling to Antarctica.

  • The first to reach the South Pole was Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his team on December 14, 1911.
  • The Brit Robert Falcon Scott followed on January 17, 1912. Scott and four team members perished on the return.
  • The next overland journey was not until January 4, 1958 during the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctica Expedition. Snow vehicles were used for this journey.
  • On December 30, 1989 Arved Fuchs and Reinhold Messner were the first to traverse Antarctica via the South Pole without motorized assistance or animals. They used only skis and wind assistance. This was an incredible 1,750 mile trip!
  • On January 9, 1975 the US opened the Amundsen-Scott station at the South Pole.
  • On January 7, 1993 Norwegian Erling Kagge made the first solo and unsupported journey to the South Pole.
  • Not to be outdone, on December 24, 1994 the first woman, Norwegian Liv Arnesen, also made it to the South Pole solo and unsupported.
  • Norwegian Borge Ousland achieved the first solo complete unsupported crossing of Antarctica on December 19, 1996.
  • Swedes Tom and Tina Sjogren were the first married couple to journey to the South Pole unassisted and unsupported in 2002.  We are the second married couple and the first American couple to make a complete expedition to the pole, unassisted and unsupported.
  • In 2006 American married couple Ray and Jennie Jardine ventured to the South Pole on an incredible 59 day unguided and resupplied adventure. They were both 59 years old.