Brief Description of the South Pole

Situated on a barren and windswept plateau in the heart of Antarctica, the South Pole is the southernmost point on Earth. The pole is one of two points where the Earth’s axis of rotation intersects with the surface.

The South Pole sits on top of a thick ice sheet at an altitude of 2,835 metres (9,301 feet) and a distance of 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) from the nearest open sea. Due to its remote location, arriving at the South Pole is considered to be one of the toughest ski touring treks on Earth.

The South Pole is currently home to the United States Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, a research centre which has been continually occupied since 1956. There is also a short barber pole and ring of flags around the ceremonial South Pole, which is currently located a few metres away from the geographic South Pole.

Quick Facts about the South Pole

  • Since the South Pole sits atop an ice sheet, there is a permanent ceremonial South Pole, which is where Roald Amundsen and Robert F Scott arrived, and a marker for the true South Pole, which has to be repositioned each year due to the gradual movement of the ice sheet.
  • From September to March, the sun never sets over the South Pole, and instead moves continuously counterclockwise just above the horizon.
  • Due to its location at exactly 90 ºS, it is impossible to tell time in the traditional manner at the South Pole (time is usually calculated using lines of longitude and the angle of the sun over those lines, but there is no longitude at the South Pole). Instead, New Zealand standard time is used since the supply flights come from Christchurch. 

History of the South Pole

The exploration of Antarctica began in 1821. Throughout the nineteenth century, various parties explored the Antarctic coastline and several of its peninsulas and ice sheets.

The first attempt to reach the South Pole came between 1839 and 1841, when James Clark Ross, a British naval officer, tried to find a water route to the South Pole, which he could not.

Roughly 60 years later, Robert F Scott became the first person to try and find a land route from the coast to the South Pole. He and his team, however, were only successfully able to reach 82°16′ S before having to turn back.

The first successful trip to the South Pole came on December 14, 1911, when the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his party successfully arrived at the bottom of the Earth.

Experience Required for Skiing to the South Pole

Any type of outdoor trip to Antarctica requires months of training and preparation, especially those planning to spend two weeks heading to and from the South Pole.

Most guides require perspective trip goers to participate in a two-day Antarctic skills course prior to booking the trip. Participants must also be advanced-level off-piste skiers.

On top of the technical skills, participants must also be incredibly physically fit. Most guides recommend plenty of endurance and strength training, as the majority of the tour requires skiing steadily uphill while hauling all the necessary gear on sleds.

Previous alpine ski touring experience is also generally required as there are no emergency services in the middle of the continent and the team will need to be entirely self-reliant.

Main Routes to the South Pole

While there are theoretically any number of different ways to reach the South Pole, one route is most commonly used by guides.

The trip begins with a flight to the camp at the 89th parallel. From here, the South Pole is only 111 kilometres (69 miles) away. Over the course of the next six days, participants will ski for an average of six to eight hours hauling the gear along the way.

Once skiers reach the South Pole, there is generally the option to head to a few nearby high points in order to get some incredible views over the continent. After enjoying the bottom of the world, participants will generally ski back out, though some guides arrange for flights back to the camp at the 89th parallel. 

Useful information about the South Pole

Height: 2,835 m (9,301 ft)

Weather: During the short Antarctic summer, conditions remain harsh at the South Pole. Average daily temperatures hover around -28 ºC (-18.4 ºF), but feel much colder due to windchill. Even though summer is also the wettest time of year at the South Pole and it snows nearly every day, not much falls at any one time.  

Peak Climbing Season: December to January

Summit Window: December to January

Average Expedition Length: 12 to 14 days

Accepted Currencies: Most guides charge for trips to the South Pole in US dollars (USD) or Euros (EUR).

Language: N/A

How To Get To the South Pole

The vast majority of trips to the South Pole will begin with a flight into Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport (PUQ) in Punta Arenas, Chile. From here, guides generally charter two flights: the first onto Antarctica and the second to the base that serves as the start of the expedition to the South Pole.

Your travel route will vary depending on the expedition you choose. Please refer to the individual guides expeditions for more information.

Start a discussion
Start a discussion, not a fire. Post with Kindness.

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

South Pole