A Utah man is setting out to do something that no one has ever done before - ride a bicycle to the South Pole. And the Ready Store is along for the ride! During Dan Burton's journey, he'll be fueled by freeze-dried food from the Ready Store.
He'll face some of the world's harshest conditions. In fact, scientists recently discovered the world's lowest temperature of -136° in Antarctica.
"The high temperature is probably going to be in the minus-teens," Burton told the Deseret News. Besides the cold temperatures, Burton will face a 20- to 30-mph headwind. In these conditions, he expects to travel 20-30 miles a day.
"The sun came up a month or so ago, and it doesn't set again until March," Burton said, adding that "it's going to be one very long day."
He will be sleeping in a tent and cooking freeze-dried, calorie-dense meals. An expedition company will place three caches of Ready Store food on his route and pick him up at the end. Burton also has a satellite phone if something goes wrong or he needs to be evacuated.
Burton trained for years before his journey started too. To simulate his conditions, he rode his mountain bike with special tires and road across frozen Utah lakes.
We'll be eagerly watching Burton's journey and invite you to come back to check out this blog post to see how his journey is going! You can also track his journey on his blog.
Beginning the Journey
Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013
Dan arrived in southern Chile and is awaiting his supplies. He is meeting with local experts.
Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013
Dan's bike and supplies arrived! He'll begin parsing out his food for the team to drop off.
Friday, Nov. 22, 2013
Dan reports, "Weather has delayed the fight. They just called and said the earliest the flight could be is Monday. Sound like Monday most likely will get delayed again." He also reports that Prince Harry is in Antarctica for an expedition.
Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013
Planes were able to travel to Antarctica from Chile. They dropped off Dan's food supplies in the cached spots.
Dan reports, "The plane is back in Punta Arenas. The pilots get some rest and if the weather holds out we can fly out tonight."
Friday, Nov. 29, 2013
Dan was finally able to arrive in Antarctica!
"The first day in Antarctica has been great. We got here at about 4 in the morning Chile time which is the time zone I'll use for my expedition. That way the sun will be low in the south while I sleep and at my back while I travel.
"After arriving I found a place for my tent and set up the minimums of camp and then got the bike put together. The bike was a big attraction at the base camp. I let anyone that wanted to take it for a test ride. The everyone was surprised how light the Borealis bike is and how well it traveled on the snow.
"It is kind of hot in the tent, but the outside weather is not that cold, I'm guessing around 20°F.
"I took the bike out for a ride around the skyway (runway), about 6 miles. The bike did real well. However, no matter how hard you think it will be for me to bike to the South Pole... It will be harder. I didn't have any weight on the bike and wasn't pulling a sled. I hear the conditions from Hercules to Patriot hills, about the first 30 miles is very similar to the conditions here.”
Monday, Dec. 2, 2013
Dan is ready to set out on the journey. The last few days he's been acclimating to conditions and testing all of his equipment and food to make sure it will hold up in the journey.
Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013
"I ran into Richard Park today. He was headed back to the start to get a reset on his speed record attempt. Shortly after he passed I stepped into a crevasse that he had just skied over. After pulling myself out I wanted to go back and see how deep it was, but I didn't dare get close enough to look.
"That seriously was the hardest six miles I have ever done. I will be so glad when I get to the polar plateau and things level off a bit. In another 22 miles it is supposed to get better.”
Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013
"While alternating between riding and hike-a-bike the Saratoga Farms Pasta Alfredo I had seen in the morning was calling out to me. Eating it now and it is even better than I had hoped. I'm hoping the winds die down tonight. If they do I'll be all refueled and ready to go.”
Friday, Dec. 6, 2013
The first section of the journey is one of the most grueling trails - a series of uphill battles. Dan has made it past the hills.
"I am probably the most excited 50-year-old to be over the hill but I am so glad to have finished what should be the hardest part.
"After ending early yesterday because of the wind I started early this morning with the goal to hit the waypoint on the route.”
Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013
"Now that it is more level and I am following the Thiels Mountain resupply route, travel is a lot easier, but that does not mean it is easy. There are a lot of snow soft new snow drifts with occasional hard snow. In order to keep moving I go as slow and easy as I can. But frequently as slow and easy as possible means a full out effort. So it is a lot like doing intervals of all out effort followed by short recoveries.”
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013
"Well, it is never evening, morning, or night here, only day. So I guess I am still on the first day.
"Being the Sabbath, I tried to take it easy today. However, nothing about this trip is easy... I got a bit of a late start this morning, biked about 5 hours, set up my tent, fixed lunch, and then continued biking. I figure I was biking to church, but I never found a chapel ;-)”
Monday, Dec. 9, 2013
The antarctic winds are getting stronger - 30 mph. Dan reports that it's getting harder and harder to stand, let alone bike in the winds. He took the picture of the harsh winds from his tent.
"It finally got to the point that no matter how hard I pushed I couldn't move forward. So I have spent almost all day in the tent eating freeze dried mangos and Honey Stingers, and waiting for the wind to slow down to something like 30mph so I can go again.”
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013
Now that the weather has cleared up, Dan has been able to travel 15.3 nautical miles.
"If I can average 15 from here on out I should make it. The snow drifts from the recent wind have started to get hard making travel easier. Sometimes I can even go a whole mile without stopping...
I can't do a 10 hour day without breaking it up. I get too hungry at it is just to hard to eat while biking. So I am now doing two 5 hour shifts a day. Set up the tent in between and get a good meal. Also, this way I only need to drag around 5 hours of water at a time. Chicken Teriyaki with Rice for dinner tonight!”
Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
"Big milestone of the day, I completed my first degree! I stopped for a minute at 81° south and celebrated with a drink of weak chocolate water and a pink honey stinger waffle and then continued on. Only 9 more degrees to go, and that was the tough one because of the climb out of Hercules inlet and having to go around the big crevasse field. There are still a few crevasses I have to go around but mostly from here on it is headed south. So, at 15 nautical miles a day that is 4 days per degree and I should be able to arrive at the pole before the end of the season.”
Friday, Dec. 13, 2013
Dan has come across some inclement weather again. It has made traveling a little harder. He's still been able to travel more than 15 miles the last few days.
Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013
"This morning was cloud covered again but it was still possible to see, so I made good time riding the bike for the first few hours. Then at 11 it started to snow. I could still see but had to slow down to be able to stay on course. I was still able to get about 9 miles in on my first 5 hour shift. It was looking like I would have an awesome number of miles by the end of the day.
With the snow everything was white, but I could still make out the route a few feet in front of me. After lunch however all contrast was gone and everything was just white. I struggled weaving back and forth across the hardened trail, and had to constantly get off the bike and search for the trail. This quickly erased all hope of getting a decent number of miles in today. Then just before six it finally got to where I could occasionally see well enough to follow the route, and then the last hour or so it was good biking again and I was able to pull out a 15.2 nautical mile day.”
Monday, Dec. 16, 2013
"Finally a sunny day. I could see where I was going and it was up a nice incline with soft snow and large sastrugi (sharp irregular grooves or ridges formed on a snow surface by wind erosion). But after that climb, the day had a lot of flatter sections with good snow conditions. I was able to ride up and clear some nice slopes without having to resort to hike-a-bike! It was hard work but I was able to lay down some serious miles. By the end of the day I was exhausted as always, but kept pushing to be able to hit 20 miles.
I listen to scriptures on Sunday but other than that have pretty much ridden in silence, except for the talking to myself. This afternoon I put on some music. When I first started listening to the music I started singing along. When there is nobody around for thousands of miles (OK, there are a couple expeditions closer than that) you can sing as loud and bad as you like and nobody will ask if you know why they sing that song.
A word on the numbers. My Dad was concerned that my mileage was wrong. The thing is I am not traveling straight south. There are crevasses that have to be avoided. Some of these are known from history of other expeditions, others from a combination of ground penetrating radar and ice flow rates. Also sometimes I have to go around sastrugi, and of course sometimes I go a bit extra from errors in navigation. So, my miles traveled are not the same as miles made good which is not the same as miles straight to the pole. The only number that really counts is the south part of my coordinates. Each nautical mile is 1 minute south assuming you are headed straight south. So, if I get 15 miles that gets me about 1/4 of a degree, and of course 90° is the number I have to reach.”
Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013
Dan has passed the second degree! That means he's more than 20% of the way there!
Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013
"Today of course was a lot of climbing, testing my strength against the heavy sleds. A lot of slow cranking on the pedals today. I ended up getting 16 miles but I had to bike past my quitting time to do it. ... I hope to get up early tomorrow and get back on my schedule that gives me a bit of a buffer if needed to be able to hit my goal.
After learning what my new sled weight was going to be like and seeing that it was a never ending up hill day I set my goal for the day to be 82°45' south. As you can see I just made it. This makes me 15 minutes away from the 83° mark which I should be able to get tomorrow. I believe it also sets the world record for most distance traveled by bicycle towards the South Pole which was previously held by Eric Larsen.
They say that a fog is moving in, which means another few days of not being able to see where I am going. Not looking forward to that.”
Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013
"I suffered my first mechanical today. At 5 miles into today's ride the freehub quit working, which means the wheel could not spin without the pedals turning, or no coasting. I never coast on this expedition, so not a big deal there but it can result in the chain getting all messed up, and it helps to be able to position the pedals before starting. So I stopped, put on my parka and took the rear hub apart. The freehub was broken where one of the sets of pawls fits in. I took that set of pawls out. It now works but the other pawls don't spring out as well as they should since once set is missing.”
Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013
Dan came within a quarter mile of Juan - another traveler to the south pole who he is racing. However, Dan decided that he was going to rest on the Sabbath day and recharge his batteries. He put in an extra biking session on Saturday and Monday to compensate for his rest.
Monday, Dec. 23, 2013
I feel like I'm going to make it and I can endure another month of this. If I can keep averaging 1/4 degree per day then I have about 25 more good days and I should be there.”
Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013
"At times today I was turning the pedals so slowly that I was constantly on the edge of being able to balance. The wind was straight on, no need for a compass to navigate, just head straight into the blowing snow. At about half way through the day I decided to try and make my setup more aerodynamic. So, I shortened the ropes to the sleds so the first could draft off of the bike, and the second sled could draft off of the first. Then I took the panniers off the rack and stuck them in the sleds. I think it helped. The panniers create a lot of drag in the high winds. ”
Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013
"I was going to go for 8 miles giving me 16 for the day, but the 6.2 got me to 1/4 of a degree which works for my goal of getting to 85°ree; and half way to the pole on Saturday. I was actually making great time but I'm tired and figured some good rest will help me be ready to get my 16 miles tomorrow. And after all it is Christmas and so I should get a bit of a holiday.”
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013
Daniel's satellite phone was having difficulty connecting but his wife updated us saying that he has officially made it half way! His cache of food and supplies is still 5 miles away but he'll probably get there by the end of the day!
"I saw the first person that I have seen in what seems like forever--or at least an arm. The arctic truck was headed back from its trip to the pole. They waved as they flew past. After the truck went by a [fog] moved in and I lost the ability to see anything. The easiest way to navigate was to follow the new path from the truck, but it had pulverized all the snow, making for bad biking conditions. Also, there was a bit of wind and it got really cold. I started adding layers to my body and hands but I just couldn't keep my fingers warm. I'm not going to let frostbite end my expedition, and I had all the miles I needed to get. So I ended early and failed to get the last five miles that I needed to get thirty. Oh well, twenty-five on the records worked and I had now traveled over 300 miles, which is the record for the most miles traveled by bike in Antarctica. It also means I can reach the halfway point on Saturday.”
Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013
"The weight of the sleds killed me on those first days. Trying to pull all that weight up those slopes was just too much. If the next section goes as bad as the first I will never make it. So here is the plan: I'm going ultra weight weenie. I'm going to get rid of my brakes, my big chain ring, water bottle cages, racks and panniers. I will tape over the bolt holes for the cages and the racks so I don't get snow and extra weight in the bike and I'm getting rid of the bolts. There is a lot of gear I brought that I just don't need. I brought a bunch of charging wires and electronic stuff that I'm not taking the rest of the way. I think there is more weight in the gear I will drop than what I'm picking up in my resupply so I should be the lightest I've been up to this point. By going as light as possible I think I can still get the 16 miles per day and complete the expedition.”
Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013
"I spent the day sleeping and repacking all my gear. The bike has been stripped down as light as possible and I left all my extra food and gear to be taken by ALE back to base camp. I don't know how much my new load weighs, but I think I left behind more weight than what I have moving forward. My goal is to get 1/4 of a degree each day. This would give me 20 days of travel and 3 rest days, getting my to the south pole by around the 20th of January.”
Monday, Dec. 30, 2013
"The day started out sunny with low wind. I was able to crank out a quick 10 miles. The Thiels mountains are visible to the west. It is nice to be able to see something besides just a sea of white. The after noon tuned cloudy and the visibility dropped. I was able to get a very nice 20 miles in for the day. It was a day of going slightly up and down with the altitude flirting with 4,500 ft. I can't tell if what is ahead is a cloud bank or a steep climb. If it is a climb, that is fine, as the pole is still 5,000 feet higher than I am now. Hoping to get at least 16 miles tomorrow.”
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013
"It wasn't a cloud bank.”
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014
"6 down, 4 to go! (Degrees, that is)
A wind came in and blew out the clouds, making a nice sunny day. However, the wind also filled the deep ruts from the trucks with nice soft snow. Outside the truck tracks, the snow was just on the edge of being too soft for biking. So, should I ride inside the ruts, or outside?
The sleds felt heavy and it seemed most of the day was climbing. I spent a lot of time slowly cranking up the hills. I really wanted to get to 86 degrees, but it didn't look like it would happen. Then the sun did it's magic to the snow, making it harder, and the slope leveled off. I had to push really hard to get to 86 degrees. I got it just in time to set up camp. I have to make sure to quit on time. Otherwise, I don't get enough sleep and it makes for a hard day the next day.”
Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014
"As I go up in elevation, the air gets colder and thinner. They say that in Antarctica, the physiological effects of the altitude are like being 2,000 feet higher. So far, however, the altitude has not been a problem for me.
I think I'm gaining ground on the other expeditions. Juan's ski tracks ahead of me are now only half a day old. It seems I've been gaining 3 or 4 miles a day on him. However, on Sunday I will take a rest day which will give him the chance to get another day ahead.”
Friday, Jan. 3, 2014
Dan his a snag today. He started out saying the day was going to be good but then a repair that he made on his bike failed. He had to spend a few hours repairing it. Even with the delay, he still got a respectable amount of miles in. He's planning on pushing even harder on Saturday since he typically rests from biking on Sundays.
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014
"I set up my tent yesterday and ate dinner and in the couple of hours that it took me to eat and call in my blog, it went from being a nice sunny day to being really cloudy with no visibility.
I wanted to get to 87 degrees today, so I started very early. But I couldn't see where I was going. The sastrugi are now getting really big and spectacular. But when you bike over them and can't see, it's very scary and treacherous. You'll be going along and all of a sudden you'll have a four foot drop that you didn't even see coming, which is very painful, even if you don't crash. So I was creeping along very slowly for most of the day.
Finally I got cold and needed to add some layers, so I stopped and ate lunch and added the layers. While I was eating, the visibility improved some, so I was able to travel better. Later on, the sun came out and it got a lot clearer. I could now see the six foot sastrugi that I'd been trying to work my way through before. It was much easier and a lot more fun to be able to pick your way through them instead of blindly hitting them. That lasted about an hour and then visibility dropped to zero again. So overall, I put in a lot of hours but didn't get many miles.”
Monday, Jan. 6, 2014
"I finished my 7th degree--only 3 more to go! The sastrugi are getting really big, which makes for some very technical biking. The sastrugi are sharp, hard, and have 6 foot drops in them. A lot of times there is just enough drop and then rise that it will stop the front wheel, making it very likely to do an endo. Fortunately, I was always able to get my feet down and stop before any serious crashes. I removed the brakes back at the halfway point. Maybe it wasn't a good idea. Dropping off sastrugi without brakes is scary!”
Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014
"My final cache is about 4 miles east of here. Before I started the expedition, we looked at the ground penetrating radar. The planned route veers a bit to the west here to avoid a dangerous crevasse field that's to the east. There are two crevasses one mile south of my cache, so now the trick is to get to the cache but avoid the crevasses. Once I get the cache, I will come back to this location to get ready for the last quarter of the expedition. From here, the south pole is about ten days away. I will get some food and rest and then go get the cache in the morning. So tomorrow will be a short travel day and I will have more weight.”
Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014
"I really love this bike! Before I left, someone posted on Facebook about how inadequate the fat bike he had at the south pole was. The Borealis bike is awesome! I find it ironic that the Borealis will be the first bike to the south pole, as borealis means "northern" and the bike has an Alaskan flag with the north star on it. I have to find the best pressure for the tire again--low enough to be able to move forward in the soft snow, but not too low so that when I hit the sastrugi, it doesn't cause a pinch flat.
I hear that Juan has been worried that I might pass him. I don't understand why he would care. He gets one more day of biking each week, so I doubt I'll pass him, anyway. However, no matter who gets there first, he will not be able to honestly say he was the first to bike to the south pole. He is skiing to the pole and rides his bike for a few miles every day or so. For example, yesterday, he rode three and a half miles. I don't know what his total miles for the day were, but I know it was more than 15. Riding for one-fifth of the distance in a day, and skiing for 80% of the total distance does not qualify for biking to the south pole. Besides, he disqualified himself as biking to the south pole when he rode for fewer than 4 miles out of the first 100. So it really doesn't matter if he gets there first.”
Friday, Jan. 10, 2014
Dan is 121 miles away from the south pole. He's estimating that he'll arrive next Saturday.
Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014
"Last night, when I called in to ALE, I was reminded of my post about enjoying where you are. I had gotten so focused on finishing quickly so I could go home to my family that I was just pushing too hard. I decided to go back to just enjoying the ride. Today, I took a lot of breaks to eat freeze dried foods and drink hot chocolate (provided by TheReadyStore.com--Big Thank You!) Pedaling at a bonked effort, I was still able to keep moving and got in a respectable number of miles. I committed myself to just enjoying the final days of what will be the first bike expedition to the south pole. If it takes a little longer, that is fine.”
Monday, Jan. 13, 2014
"There has been a light snow fall and lots of clouds the last few days. The result is the softest snow I've had to deal with for a long time. Also, as I was sleeping and when I awoke today the wind was blowing. However, when I started riding the wind died down and it seemed there was always just enough of a break in the clouds all day to provide me with enough light to see. I am very grateful for this.
Overall it was a relatively flat ride today. If it hadn't been for the soft snow it would have been perfect conditions. With the soft snow, though, it was very hard pedaling. There are now ski tracks from multiple ski expeditions ahead of me. If I follow in their trails, it helps a lot. I am moving at such a slow speed that it is hard to maintain balance and stay on the ski tracks. When I get off the ski tracks I can still go, it is just harder. I am very tired from a hard day's work that didn't result in as many miles as I would have liked.”
Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014
"It has been snowing today and there has been heavy cloud cover. The snow is very soft. The biking was extremely difficult and I could not see what I was doing. After a couple of hours I gave up and spent the rest of the day in my tent waiting for better weather. I need to at least be able to see where I am going. They say the clouds should break up tomorrow.
I heard a plane fly over today. Hopefully that was a good sign.
I slept a lot and dreamed of big, soft cookies.”
Friday, Jan. 17, 2014
"Only 46.4 miles to the South Pole, and then I'm going to quit. I am so tired and ready to finish this. Still, at this point, 46.4 miles feels like a long way to go, but I can do it. Today was sunny with low winds. The snow is getting harder, so I'm hoping tomorrow will be sunny with low winds again--I'm hoping, but will deal with whatever tomorrow brings. There's still another good climb between here and the pole.”
Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014
"It has gotten extremely cold the last couple of days. I have to be very careful when I get in the tent and unpack my sleds. Everything is so cold that if I touch things with my hands I get instant frostbite. It was nice and sunny today, but the winds were straight out of the south. The snow is still soft, which makes setting up the tent easy, but biking hard.
With the strong winds and blowing snow, navigation was easy--head straight into the blowing wind.”
Monday, Jan. 20, 2014
"I've done a few dumb things. First, early in the expedition I had extra food, so at the halfway resupply, I sent a lot of food back to base camp. Then at the three-quarter resupply, I went through my food and fuel as fast as I could to reduce my weight. I thought I would be done a week ago. I had some extra food in case I didn't make it as soon as I thought. Well, this morning I ate my remaining food. Part of the problem I've had the past couple of days is I didn't have enough food to keep my pace.
The next dumb thing that I did was to follow some truck track until it took me over six miles off course. I then headed toward my next way point which is at the start of the corridor that you have to use to go to the pole. That was a good choice, but this morning I made another bad choice and decided to return to my planned route. This meant going west three miles, but the corridor is east of where I was, so this was a bit of going the wrong direction. I was hoping that it would be worth going the wrong direction if I could get back on the track left by the arctic trucks. But when I reached my planned route there were no tracks. I then continued on the planned route, but by then I was tired and out of strength.
Then the famous Hannah from ALE (who has held the record for the fastest solo unsupported ski trip to the South Pole) showed up with a bunch of food--candy, cookies, sandwiches, and chocolate bars. I needed to go through the new supplies and eat some, so I set up my tent. Once I did that, then I had to dry out all of my gear before I could go again, or else with how cold it is, I would freeze to death. So I got some sleep while things dried out.
I have to call in to the base camp and let them know I am okay at 9:40 p.m. (Chilean time) each day. Failing to call in can trigger a search and rescue operation, and of course I don't want to do that. So after the call in, I will pack up my tent and get going again. With fewer than 20 miles to go, Hannah's tracks to follow, and candy and trail mix to keep my energy up, I should be able to finish biking through the night and into tomorrow. My plan is to keep going until I get to the Pole, so my next blog entry should be at the South Pole.”
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014
Dan made it to the South Pole!
"The South Pole station came into view when I was about 13 nautical miles away. When I saw it, I was so overcome with joy! I called home to my wife and lost all control of my emotions. The black dots on the horizon were the most wonderful thing I have ever seen. It was starting to feel like I would never make it.
I have now set up camp, and need to find where they cached my clean clothes and other items. I made a quick visit to the actual pole marker, but will go back later and bike around the pole to the song Around the World after I get all my batteries charged. I am so happy to have finally finished biking to the pole, going the full distance, 100% by riding my bike.”