Nathan Hambrook-Skinner: The Willis Resilience Expedition, A Humbling Experience

11th December 2013, 11:39am

They say success breeds success.

More than one hundred kilometres into the race phase of the Willis Resilience Expedition and this maxim is bearing out. At least so far.

Since setting off from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf on Friday December 6 – Parker Liautaud and his skiing partner Doug Stoup have eaten up over 140 kilometres of Antarctic wilderness. In the process they have also ascended over 2500 metres, taking on one of Antarctica’s most awe inspiring sites – the Leverett Glacier. All the while Parker has been pulling an 80 kilogram sled for 10-12 hours a day whilst battling nagging back pain and a raw sweat rash.

To say they’ve shown resilience doesn’t quite seem to do it justice.

While it took Parker and Doug just one day to break the back of the Leverett climb, the expedition team is lucky enough to spend three days in the midst of the Trans-Antarctic mountain range – enjoying brilliant blue skies everyday.

For all of this the truck crew (myself, Eyjo and Paddy) have enjoyed front row seats. We have endeavoured to maintain a safe distance from the skiers at all times, respectful of Parker’s ambition for this to be an unsupported expedition to the pole.

In the last day, however, the skiers have peeled off from the main route that the truck has to take to the pole. Being lighter the skiers can safely cross areas of the ice cap that Ice Broker daren’t venture onto in case we tumble down a crevasse.

Striking out in the white wilderness on their own, the skiers brazenly take on the crevasse field while we maintain line of sight for as long as possible from the safety and comparative comfort of Ice Broker. Eventually our route takes us further west and the skiers shrink into black dots on the horizon before disappearing completely.

Splitting up into two separate expeditions introduces fresh challenges for the team – not least in making sure we can send back daily biometric data updates from Parker. But we are committed to finding a way to make things work.

ant1

I can’t imagine or come close to properly expressing the kind of physical pain that Parker must be experiencing after 12 or more hours skiing across rock solid snow and ice tugging an immense pulk. For that you’ll have to wait and hear it from the man himself. But I can attest to the fortitude that he is displaying in abundance everyday.

Despite long days on skis – where he sometimes looks close to collapsing at the end of the day – Parker finds the strength and stamina to push on for an hour or two longer than seems possible. For me it is a humbling experience. I feel immensely privileged to be watching events unfold live from my perch here on-board Ice Broker.