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ExplorersWeb Week in Review The Pioneers Checkpoint

Gnaro and Abele Blanc together again; Edurne’s fighting spirit; interview with K2 survivor Wilco Van Rooijen; and another unsupported attempt for the North Pole – a solo by Tom Smitheringale. Here go the main headlines last week at ExplorersWeb.

North Pole update: Slow, but steady start progress and more skiers on the ice Canadian Ice Service provided very useful information about weather and ice conditions. All the teams are on the ice since March 3 reporting slow progress over rubble. A big lead at the start, a full moon that lifts the water in a high tide cracking thin ice, and temperatures below minus 40 were the immediate challenges of the North Pole skiers. Tom Smitheringale was dropped off at Ward Hunt Island on February 28 while Dan and Amelia crossed the big lead. Progress is slow with challenging rubble fields and pressure ridges. All teams are dispatching over Contact 5; don’t miss their live reports. Daily distances range from 1-2 nautical miles (1.852 km to 3.704 km). Total distance to the North Pole is app. 780 km. The season ends on 26 Apr with the last Russian helicopter pick-up.

China forces Edurne Pasaban to change plans: team off to Annapurna, then Shisha Edurne Pasaban has just set off from Spain, targeting a lonely Annapurna. Her original plan to climb Shisha Pangma first was thwarted by Chinese authorities who, against previous agreement, stated yesterday that no climbing permit would be issued in Tibet until April.

“Il Cavaliere” Silvio Mondinelli back to Everest north side – with Abele Blanc Recently named “Cavaliere de la República Italiana”, 14x8000er summiteer Silvio Mondinelli is back to Everest for a no-O2 north side ascent. “Gnaro” leads a team including Abele Blanc – who might have plans for Annapurna too. Silvio in turn will continue to Pakistan for a new route on Gasherbrum I north side.

Interview with K2 survivor Wilco Van Rooijen: “Gerard McDonnell is a hero” August 2, 2008, on K2 – twelve mountaineers were presumed dead after a series of catastrophic avalanches and ice falls. Then an orange dot was spotted on the mountain, off route, relentlessly moving down in the direction of Camp 3 on the Cesen route. Dutch Wilco Van Rooijen’s story is now available in English in the book “Surviving K2”, a harrowing eye-witness account of a 3-day ordeal in the Death Zone. ExWeb correspondent Amanda Padoan interviewed the author and ultimate survivor.

Peter Gostelow cycling out of the Sahara into Senegal “We are a desert people, we don’t like the sea,” a Mauritanian told Peter Gostelow, who thought the 5 km rubbish filled land from the sea to Mauritania’s capital would be prime real estate in another country. Peter has pedalled 9000 km since he left London; 2000 of that through the Sahara in Africa.

Mars Ocean Odyssey update: Day 1047 at sea Reid Stowe hasn’t touched land for 1047 days. In his short messages he says he is having fun with Tuna fish following the boat in windy weather. His onshore team reminds everybody who wants to be part of the welcoming Flotilla in NYC harbor to mark June 17 on the calendar.

Lake Baikal update: South Pole speed record holders, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab, set off on their speed attempt across Lake Baikal in Siberia on March 1 and covered 60 km; with sleds attached to their bodies. Vasek Sura and Pavel Blazek had endless problems with their tent and ordered a new one to save their expedition.

ExWeb interview with Ray Zahab: “Organizing student involvement is the most rewarding part” Before they left Ray spoke to ExWeb about their Baikal preparations and the Impossible to Possible (i2P) programs for schools.

Atlantic Rowing Race update: Charlie Pitcher won the Race After eight weeks at sea only one oarsman has made land and successfully completed the Atlantic Rowing Race. Charlie Pitcher made history by becoming the first solo competitor to win a multi class ocean rowing race. There are still 58 competitors at sea; five crews were inside 500 nm to go.

Teen girls sail around-the-world update: No tsunami danger Abby Sunderland assured that she is not in danger because of the tsunami warning. She is sailing 3,000 nm off the coast of Chile. Jessica Watson has passed South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas, and sailed passed her 15,000 nautical mile mark in the Indian Ocean.

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