Monday, March 25, 2013

Hot or Cold

Spring Time

March, at the South Pole it is the beginning of night. Here in Utah it is Spring time, and Spring in Utah means that it is too cold one day and too hot the next. This makes me ask:

Which do you like better, hot or cold? Feel free to post answers in the comments below.


When I was a kid winter was my favorite time of year. I think this is mostly because my birthday and Christmas are in December and like most kids those were two of my favorite days. I always loved it when it would snow on my birthday, which it did frequently. As a teenager I would go skiing, snowmobiling, and just have a blast playing in the snow. 


However, as I've gotten older I prefer warm or even hot weather. It is common in Utah for people to complain about it being too hot during the summer, and complain about it being too cold in the winter. I don't complain about the hot weather, I love it, but I am no longer a fan of the cold weather. I have biked through the desert in 120F and loved it. I love biking in the mountains in the summer, wild flowers, the smell of the pine trees, and just being outside. 


But the cold winter means people quit biking which is hard for my bike store. Plus since I have put all my money in the store I don't have much for necessities like heating my house. Through the winter we keep our house just barely warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Well, we try to keep it warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing but sometimes they freeze anyway. 

To the Moon

So why would I want to spend a couple months in the extreme cold of the Antarctic? I think JFK summed it it well when he said, "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

I Can't Wait

I haven't looked forward to the next winter with such anticipation, such desire, hardly being able to wait, since I was a kid.
Saturday March 23
Tuesday March 26

Saturday, March 23, 2013


I had a meeting with some of the people that will be working on the documentary for  The South Pole Epic. I have a few videos I have created on some of the rides, some of them I have uploaded to YouTube. It will be nice to work with people that can produce professional quality videos. I like my videos for what they are, but I am a mountain biker not a movie maker.

We got a few inches of new snow this morning, so I went for a "training" ride. Training ride, because it was on the snow bike, in the snow, and kind of cold. However, it was only a couple hours long and it wasn't extremely cold. I didn't get any video from today's ride, but here is a video from the same area I was riding this morning.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Tomorrow is the Spring Equinox, so that means that it is the end of day and beginning of night at the South Pole right?

Sun appearing above the horizon 30 hours before equinox

Well, not really. It is complicated but here are the basics:

One Sunrise - One Sunset

There is only one day and one night per year at the South Pole. The sun sets in March and the rises again in September. After sunset in March the sun stays below the horizon, and after sunrise in September it stays above the horizon traveling around the horizon instead of across the sky.

At the Equinox

If the world was perfectly round (it isn't) and the South Pole was at sea level (again it isn't) and the horizon was completely flat (and once more it isn't) then at the Spring Equinox the sun would be half way above the horizon and half below the horizon. But sunset is when the sun is completely below the horizon. Here in Utah the sun goes from half visible to gone in a matter of minutes, however at the South Pole it takes another 16 hours for the last half of the sun to move bellow the horizon. 

Seeing Something that Isn't There

Now it gets crazy. The earth's atmosphere bends the rays of light coming from the sun. This makes it look like the sun is still up after it has set. At the South Pole this effect lasts for about 36 hours. So the sun will appear above the horizon for a day and a half after it has already set.

And it Doesn't Stop There 

The taller you are the more distant the horizon is. So, the taller you are the longer until sunset. Since the Sun is traveling around the horizon instead of across the sky and with all of the factors above it is next to impossible to figure out where the sunset will occur. This would be no big deal if the ice around the pole was flat, but it isn't. So where the sun is when it sets can change when it sets by as much as 10 hours.

So I was going to say good night as the South Pole "day" is about to end, but I guess there are still a couple more days of day left.

Here is a good article that explains about sunset time at the South Pole.

Oh well, good night anyway!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Going South to Get to North Pole

When I was a young kid we lived so far north we had to go south to get to North Pole. I've told that joke my whole life. You see, we lived in Fairbanks Alaska which is a little north of a town named North Pole.

I don't remember much of  Alaska, we moved to Utah when I was only three. But I do remember my red parka. It was down filled and the hood was lined with fur to keep the face warm in the -40F or colder. I have to admit, one of the things I'm excited about for this expedition is being able to have a good reason to have a good polar parka. I know, silly, but I guess I like a little nastalgia. I've thought a lot about my Alaska heritage lately. I'll have to share more of my Alaska stories in future posts.

Ice Cap/Polar Plateau

Height of Antarctica

Antarctica is the highest continent on Earth: average elevation is 8,200ft (2500m). The elevation at the South Pole is 9,300ft (2835m). The highest point on the icecap is in Australian Antarctic Territory at 13,451ft (4100m), at 82° 20'S, 56° 30'E. Mount Vinson is the highest mountain in Antarctica at 16,050ft (4892m).

The South Pole is located on the Antarctic Polar Plateau. The average elevation of the Polar Plateau is 9,800ft, and the ice is about 9,000 feet thick at the South Pole. The South Pole Epic will start at the edge of the Antarctic continent and travel to the South Pole. That means we will start near sea level and be at 9,300 feet at the pole. So in general we will be biking uphill with a headwind (see post on katabatic winds). 

View of the Polar Plateau

About 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, a sheet of ice averaging at least 1.0 mile (1.6 km) thick. The continent has about 90% of the world's ice (and thereby about 70% of the world's fresh water). If all of this ice were to melt, sea levels would rise about 200 ft (60m).  The weight of the thick ice sheet has pushed the land down so far that if it were removed, the land would rebound nearly 2,000 feet.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Journey

Working on the route for a mountain biking trail this morning, we decided it should drop down and along a ridge before hitting the top of the hill. After all, it is more about the journey than the destination.

The South Pole Epic is that way also. Sure, getting to the South Pole is a critical part of the expedition, but how we get there is the real story. We will face crevasses, sastrugi, extreme cold, and whiteout snow storms, and who knows what other challenges we will have to conquered to reach the pole. But that is why it is called an adventure, and is what will make it worth doing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bonneville Shoreline

People ask what I'm doing to train for the South Pole Epic. Well, I usually go for a bike ride as soon as it is light enough to see. This morning I took a few customers up Corner Canyon in Draper. This is a bit of a difficult time of year for mountain biking. Most of the trails are muddy and it hasn't gotten cold enough at night to freeze them solid. I don't like damaging trails so I don't ride muddy trails.

I have to finish rides in time to open the bike store so with the daylight saving time change I don't have a lot of time to ride in the morning. As the trails get dryer, and the sun comes up earlier I'll be able to go for longer rides.

Today's ride wasn't strenuous enough to call it a training ride, but it was fun.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Blues for a Red Planet

When I was a kid my father had the opportunity to go to Antarctica with a Dr. Wolf Vishniac, but instead chose to take his sabbatical in New Hampshire. Dr. Vishniac was working on a project to develop a method to detect life on Mars as part of the Viking project. There is a section of Carl Sagan's Cosmos that talks of Vishniac's work. I got an email from my father worried that I could fall into a crevasse and die in Antarctica like his friend Dr. Wolf Vishniac.


One of the dangers we face on this expedition is crevasses. 

Crevasses are cracks created by the movement of the ice. A crevasse can be over a hundred feet deep, and can be covered by snow bridges which if steped on, or on our case biked on can collapse, which obviously could be deadly. I found this video about being rescued from a crevasse.


I have to admit, it is scary. This is one of the reasons we will be taking an experienced guide with us a a big reason that I'm not wanting to do this solo. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Win this hydration pack ($110 value).

Rules are simple:
  1.  Like The South Pole Epic Facebook page. 
  2. Share the post on about this contest on your timeline. 
When we get to 500 likes, we will give the pack to one person that has completed the above two steps.

What you win: 
Spinner Pro Race 
  • Ergonomic and aerodynamic for perfect fit and performance 
  • Super light materials 
  • Widepac closure 
  • Zippered pocket for carrying keys, gels or energy bars 
  • Triple layer taste and odor free film 
  • SOURCE Quick Connect Co-Ex tube 
  • Carrying Handle 
  • Helix Valve & Valve cover 
  • 100 fl oz 
  • Total Volume: 366 cubic inches

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Katabatic Winds

One of the hazards we will face on our trip to the South Pole is katabatic winds. Katabatic winds are created by the force of gravity pulling the cold air from the Pole down the slope toward the coast. This means that all routes from the coast to the Pole will have a prevailing headwind.
Katabatic-wind hg
This has changed my attitude about biking in the wind. Usually I complain when I have to bike into the wind, but now a headwind is just a way to look forward to The South Pole Epic.

This morning there was a 30 mile wind out of the north. We were suppose to have a group ride at 8am. Given the cold wind I wasn't surprised when nobody showed up. It would have been easy to not go myself and just get some work done around the shop, but now with my expedition in mind I figured it was a good chance to bike into the wind.

On the way into the wind I was going about 9 mph, but when I turned around to go back to the store, I was going 30-40mph. It was a great group ride of one.

Friday, March 8, 2013


I have had several people in the last few weeks request that, in the event I die on this expedition, that I leave the bike store to them. I know it has been in jest but...

Several problems with that idea. One, I am not going to die. We will make it to the South Pole and back. Two, obviously my family would get the store. And three, if they really understood what it takes to be the owner of the store they probably wouldn't want it. I work 12+ hour days six days a week, and so far have not been able to bring any money home. The store is headed towards profitability but it is still going to take a lot of work.

Well, today is the much anticipated day for filming our sponsor/backer promotional video. We will use video from various snow biking trips and then add in video and audio from today. I am very nervous about making the video. I get so excited about the project when I talk to people about what we are doing, but I am afraid that in front of a camera I will not have that same excitement. I don't want it to sound like fake enthusiasm. One of the radio personalities on the radio station my wife listens to in the morning sounds that way. I hope I don't end up sounding like her.