Saturday, December 12, 2015


I never took the trip lightly, in fact a little too serious that I quit my job for this. Whenever time allowed (week nights and weekends), I trained and prepared for it. I think I was well prepared for it mentally and physically. But in the past few days I came to realize that my body needs to handle much more for the intensity and speed of traveling. In fact if we ski at the pace my body can handle it'll take us beyond the last flight out of Antarctica which is Jan 27. Time is not my friend at this point. The endless series of delay due to weather gave us no wiggle room either. And I don't think it's fair to drag down the team on their expense. With all disappointment and sadness, I made the decision to stop my ski journey to the south pole this time. It is one of the most difficult decisions for me so far. I do enjoy the expedition so far and the challenges it presented. I wish Em and Carl the best of luck.And my dream to do the journey has not terminated with this trip. I know I will come back to this white continent again one day.KhaiPS: I leave the satelite phone with Em and Carl as they continue the journey. That means I will not be able to blog or send photos until I get back to Punta Arenas (not sure when as you all know how much dependant it is on weather)Photo: Looking SouthSent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Friday, December 11, 2015


The last two days were very windy, with gusts up to 30 knots (54 km/h?). It was very hard work. There was a pass we also had to climb. It was a not steep and was about 100 m but pulling sleds and on skis climbing it is not so trivial.I should talk about his we camp. At the end of the day, we pitch our tents, first the big one (two person tent). While Em and I finishing the small tent, Carl would start the stove to melt snow for hot water. We use hit water for "cooking" our freeze dried meals. Carl and I share the two person tent and Em stays in the single. In the morning we also melt snow for hot water for freeze dried breakfast before breaking down the camp and keep moving.Photo: selfie of us in our big tentSent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


We woke up finding our sleds were buried in deep snow. It was windy last night. Butthere is always sunshine after the rain, in this case after whiteouts. We had the sun out the whole day as we passed by old camp site of Patriot Hills. Such a beautiful site. Too bad the weather there is not the best that's why the camp was moved to Union Glacier. As we skied the head wind (the katabatic wind from the pole) was about 20 knots (40 km/h?) which is pretty strong. The snow surface improved a bit. All in all we had a pretty good day.Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

More whiteout

Another day another complete white out. And the wind. And the soft and heavy snow. In the last trip Carl guided Lewis, they got 3 no contrast days and here we are 3 days in the expedition two of them are white out. This year weather has been very bad. First endless of delays in UG and now snow dump. As Carl says welcome to the white room.Photo: the white out we "see" the last two days.Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Monday, December 7, 2015

White out

It was a hard day today. We skied in complete white out. We couldn't see anything. Carl had to use compass to navigate. But we did pretty ok for whiteout condition with 8 nautical miles. Can't wait going to bed.Photo: our parked sleds outside of the tents.Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

From Antarctica - December 06, 2015 at 02:38PM

We started the day slightly earlier at 8:45 cuz we were a little too efficient and breaking the camp. The weather was nice at the first 30 mins then changed to be quite windy. On top of that we had to climb a big steep hill. It was pretty hard work. We gained about 420m in elevation and traveled 5.9 miles or 9.5km. Now we are in our nice and cozy tents.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

First day skiing

We finally got dropped off at hercules inlet this afternoon. The flight was short and sweet. As soon as the plane took off, we didn't waste anytime to start skiing. We did about 2 hours and cover about 2.1 nautical miles (2.5 miles or 4km? I can't do the math now :)).We are camping camped for the night. It was a fantastic first day (maybe because it was short?) although the snow was heavy (after the recent storm) but we are all feel good. We'll go slow and steady for the next few days.Photo: bad selfie of myself. Em and Luke in the background. The plane 's about to leave us behind to start our journeys.Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Scenic flight

After dinner last night, Carl went to the comm box to check on the weather as we were told there might be a chance we could fly. As usual, it was the pointer to 4:00am this morning and Carl would inform us if we fly by 4:30. If we hear nothing from him, that means we are not going.By 3 something I was woken up by the sound of the Iridium turned on by Em. By 4:30 I heard footsteps around Em's tent and some chatting. My heart started to race. Are we flying, I wondered. I couldn't wait to hear the news so I popped my head out of the tent. Em informed me there was no flight. I didn't hear from Carl either.At breakfast, we were told there was another opportunity to fly out after lunch but by 10:30, Carl said we were going at 11:10. Needless to say we were overjoyed. It didn't take us long to get ready. The goodbyes to the Messner team was quick but not without a bit of emotion for me as we have spent quite a lot of time with them over the past 3 weeks. As we took off, as UG camp drifting out of the plane windows, the mountainous scenary appeared before our eyes. They are so beautiful, especially in such a beautiful morning like today. We had not seen blue sky for such a the past several days.10 minutes passed by. I was dozing off as I didn't have much sleep last night. The flight time was supposed to be 15 minutes. There was no sign we were descending. Looking out the window, a thick blanket of clouds covered the entire area of Hercules Inlet. There was no even a small break in the white blanket for the plane to attempt to land. At this point Carl told us we had to go back to camp. Needless to say I was disappointed. But I was glad in a way because safety is the highest priority here.We were back in camp just in time for the great lunch.The next weather update is at 5:50 pm today.Photo: Part if Ellsworth mountain range from the 15 min scenic flight today.Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sous chef

After this morning briefing, we were told the weather continue to be bad and the next window is Friday. But around 9:30 Carl told us we might have tiny chance to fly after he get an update at 10:30. Of course that was a pointer to 12:30. Remember the linked list? So we decided to go out for the 10k ski again, without sleds this time. There was so much fresh snow after the bad weather the past few days. We did in 3 hours this time.By the time I hit back in camp, Ricky, one of the two chefs who specializes in Asian dishes, didn't appeared too happy "You are late, chop chop!". I talked to Ricky yesterday about food and he suggested we should have gỏi cuĂ´́n, Vietnamese spring rolls and asked if I could help. They have most of the ingredients except for the bean sprouts. Of course I gladly accepted it.So I got changed quickly and ran to the dining tent. All the ingredients were laid out on the table ready to be rolled. I tested the bún (vermicelli) it was almost raw. I asked him to cook it. He added hot water and soaked it for a several mins. Surprisingly it was cooked and soft. We were supposed to make 120 rolls, half of which were vegetarian. I only had two helpers so I asked another person chime in. She was happy to help. I showed them how to soak the rice paper and his to make the wrap. The task was easy so everyone got on it very quickly. We finished the wrapping fairly quickly while Ricky making the sauce. OMG the hoisin sauce he created was a killer, it was delicious, just like home cooked, even better than those peanut sauce you would find in Vietnamese fast-food shops in San Jose. He also made another sauce, just coriander, lime and sugar and a little chili. It was also fantastic. The rolls were not perfect but for Antarctica, it was heaven. There was so many praises for the dish and of course the killer sauce.Photo: Sous chef of the daySent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Testing day

The weather improved today in Union Glacier. Not much of wind or snow. But unfortunately we still have to wait for good weather to fly which is now forecasted for Friday!. The flight day keeps being pushed back. Lets hope some miracle happens.This morning Devon came to my tent for a short interview. He's making a video for the trip for his family and friends and especially for his girlfriend who wonders what kind of people would do this type of trip. He's interviewing everyone from the two teams and Luke. I'm sure I'll get a copy when I'm back.We also tried to be a little active and did a 4.8k ski run to the fake Christmas tree next to the "landing strip". I was leading the way there and Em leading us back. Our ski time for the return trip was one hour and 10 minutes. This was actually pretty fast. We probably won't ski with this pace in the field. This was also the time I tested out a few things like my mask, new pair of insoles and knee braces. They seemed to work quite well for me. Em also tested out her insoles and new binding. She's quite happy with them as well.Photo: View from my tent in Union Glacier camp after the weather improved Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sewing workshop

There was a briefing this morning on weather for the next few days. Unfortunately the weather system I mentioned in previous entry gets worse. The storm comes from south Atlantic Ocean and affects regions from the peninsula all the way to the South Pole. We are certainly experiencing it now, snowing with strong wind gusts. The new flying time is on Thursday :( No one flies anywhere until then. All teams stay put for now, even the Vinson climbers who are already on the mountain.So what do we do in the mean time then? Custom make our face masks. And that involves some designing and sewing. It's quite funny to see everyone was so much into it. Stew, Shahrom, me and even Mostafa who never sewn anything in his life, did a good job creating some "interesting" looking masks. I guess we all have some creative side in us. It took us quite a long time and a few trials so come up with something that hopefully would work. Em and Carl were working her ski bindings and fit. Luke is still working on his tent modification. It is a lot of sewing for him.You can check out some of our products in the photo.Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Training day

The storm came in and we could see its effect at union glacier. Snow blowing and the wind picked up around lunch time. At that time we were doing our 10k practice skiing hauling our heavy sleds. We started at 10am and finished at 2:30. Not so great time, if not slow, but this is our first time trying out the equipments. My shoes, skis and everything else seemed to work well. No blisters, no hotspots. By the time we came back to camp there were wind gusts and all but it wasn't super cold. It'll be worst tomorrow. I'm glad we used this time to try things out Em needed a pair of customed insoles and new skis and I know I cannot use soylent. It does not give me that energy needed here.Photo shows the inside of my tent (they are called clamshells or clams because of their shape). They are very comfortable for tents.Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Waiting for the start

You probably know by now that traveling to and in Antarctica is not easy. It's all about weather and the white continent is not known for having good weather. We were very busy the past two days, preparing our sleds for the first leg of the journey and the caches along the way. Everything is in place and we were ready to fly to Hercules inlet to start. In fact there were a window to fly today. However there a bad weather system coming in on Sunday and peaks throughout Monday. We decided that it is best to wait out the weather at union glacier camp rather than in the tent. According to the forecast the next flying window is Tuesday afternoon. Until then I'm trying to put up even more weight. Good thing is food at UG camp is amazingly delicious and plenty.Photo shows dining/socialize tent at UG. Its definitely much bigger than the one in Patriot Hills last time i was there. Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

My new home

My new home in Union glacier for the next few days before the start of the ski journey to the south poleSent from Iridium Mail & Web.

From Antarctica - November 26, 2015 at 02:29PM

The bus came came to the hostal at 9am and everyone was ready. We went around picking up more people, mainly the Vinson climbers. We still had to go through security, just like any airport but our carry-ons stayed on the bus. We bypass ed the xray bag check. After 45 minutes waiting at the gate, we now were ready to board the bus then the aircraft. We could see the illushin. We also saw another aircraft from Iceland Air. I was joking with Shahrom that if we used the icelandic airplane, it would also make sense cuz were going to the land that is covered by ice. The bus went pass the illushin and stopped in front of the Iceland air. What? This plane is not part of the plan! Once we entered, wow every seat is in business class. I couldn't believe it that we are using a Boeing 757 to fly to Antarctica in this kind of luxury. Apparently this is the first time ALE uses this type of plane to transport people. Thanks ALE for this incredible surprise.

It's a go

Finally the null pointer of the linked list is found. We got the message this morning around 8:10 from Devon saying it's a go and we must be ready by 9 o'clock pick up at our hostal. We're pretty much have everything packed. Everyone is so excited and very ready. There will be a few days preparing for the routes and caches among other things (and of course weather!) before we actually start skiing. But for now, we will be one hop closer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wait day 3

I got a geeky name for our waiting game in Punta Arenas: Traversing Singly Linked List. We're traversing the list at the rate of one node a call. We don't know when we hit the end until we see it. Good thing we're dealing with time, so there's no loop back. This morning 8AM call gave a pointer to 1PM call which gave another pointer to 7PM call. According to this weather forecast for Union Glacier, the next best time to fly is Thursday. Not sure how accurate this forecast is but for now, this is the meme:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wait day 2

There's not much to update today as we are still waiting for the flight.  Carl got the 8PM call, and we are not flying tonight. The next call is between 8 and 9 AM tomorrow.  We may be here for some time. Delays are pretty much the norm here.  Apparently the weather condition at Union Glacier is ok for taking off but not enough for landing so the marathon runners are coming back tonight.

In the mean time, this is a video shot by Eric Larsen of Union Glacier in 2011-12 season.  I am told the camp is even bigger now.  Lots of good work has been put into this camp.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wait day 1

As expected, we are not flying today and most of tomorrow (Monday). The next call is at 8 pm tomorrow. In the meantime we just have to relax and keep ourselves active. The two teams (Hercules and Messner) and Luke (solo from Hercules) and two tourists (penguin colony and for the South Pole) had a good hike today, just to kill time and stretch our legs.  

I should mention about other people who I get to hang out with and are going to ski to the South Pole this year.  

Besides Carl, Em and me, there are two people skiing solo from Hercules Inlet. Luke Robertson from Scotland is going unsupported and unassisted.  Another person who I have not met is Doug Tumminello. 

The team I hang out with more often has Messner start. That team includes Devon McDiarmid (guide, Canadian), Stew Edge (British), Mostafa Salameh (Jordanian) and Shahrom Abdullah (Malaysian). After reaching the pole, Devon and Stew are going kite back to Hercules Inlet.  Mostafa has done 7 summits and will be the first Jordanian to ski to the South Pole.  Shahrom will also be the first in his country to reach the pole by skiing.

I believe there are two other skiers already on the ice doing Antarctica traversing.

We exchanged our sat phone numbers because soon enough everyone will get on with their expeditions.  We are definitely going to keep in touch with each other on the ice.  It would be nice to know how everyone is doing in this remote environment, especially to people I started to bond well with.

From left: Luke, Shahrom, Emma, Khai, Mostafa, Carl, Stew and Devon.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Boarding pass

This is the boarding pass for the flight. We are still in Punta waiting for weather to improve at UG. This is sent by sat phone.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Waiting starts

We had small cocktail party at ALE office this evening where we had a debrief about the flight to Union Glacier basecamp. The camp is big, and very organized. Apparently UG has better weather than Patriot Hills (that's why they moved there).  Even bathroom facility is nice.  I am looking forward to it. Mike Sharp was there, and he said he kinda recognized me from the last trip. He commented on my shirt and tie and said I should bring it to the South Pole for the picture.  Looks like I will.  

About that shirt and tie, I didn't bring any thing nice.  Who would bring nice stuffs when they are on expedition?  Apparently, Carl insisted that we should had cocktail attire (maybe it was a practical joke for Em?) but he kept saying it and I thought he was serious.  I didn't plan to buy anything anyway but since the shirt and tie together cost me less than $10, I snatched them just for the event. Turned out, I was the only one in shirt and tie and everyone was in their regular outfit!

My boarding pass
At the event, we also pickup our boarding passes (yes, even it's a chartered flight, we still need them). Unfortunately, as of this evening, the weather at UG is not looking good, so we probably won't be able to fly tomorrow morning.  From tomorrow, we are officially in the waiting game, where every morning the ALE staff will call us to inform whether we can fly or not.  If we get to go, we will have to be ready to be picked up at the hotel in 20 mins. So everything has to be on standby. If we don't get to fly, they'll give us another time for another call.  I was told the wait can be up to one week.  This time around, I am not anxious about it at all.  It is what it is and we cannot do much about the weather except for working with it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Prep day 4: Lazy day

I  got to sleep in for another extra 1 hour and a half today cause we don't have anything planned as a group. Despite having a day "off", I still haven't got through all the things I needed to do.  One thing I did was sew the fur ruff on the hood of my jacket.  It didn't take a long time but it's work.  Another was to shorten the work gloves I bought from a hardware store in Punta Arenas. They are soft suede and quite heavy. I had to trim the excess leather to make it a bit lighter.  The work gloves are the one I forgot to pack with me.
Gloves after: imperfect :(

Gloves before
Carl, Em (Emma prefers Em) and I went for lunch then went to the warehouse for the weighing of our stuffs to Antarctica. We have 20 boxes (all food).  I should have tallied the weight, but my guess is roughly about 250 kg.  We recorded the weight of each box though, so I would have the exact number tomorrow if Carl brings the note book with him.

New haircut
Another thing I did was to go shopping for christmas gifts.  Yes, we're going to have a Christmas "party" with some treats and gift exchange. I think Em and Carl will like my gifts :).  On the way back, I swung by a hair salon for a shorter hair cut.  I don't like my new hair style that much but I will mostly in my hat for a while so it's ok.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Prep day 3: Done packing

Finally we are done with packing.  The boxes are ready to be shipped to Union Glacier base camp when we get to fly there. Each of my day bag of food now weighs about 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) and that does not count the fruits and nuts, salami, cheese and other things. I expect it to go up to 1.7 kg per day.  Let say average about 1.6 kg/day, I would consume 80 kg (176 lbs) of food by the end of the trip. Because we have so much food, we are going to drink at least 5 liters of water per day.  This is a lot of number ones and twos to have :).

We are using this tent on the ice
We practiced pitching the tents we are going to use in Antarctica. Some of us have not used this tunnel tent before so there are a few things to know about them and do's and dont's while on the ice.  I used the same tent last time, and I own one myself, so it's no brainer.  

One thing that was fun was playing around with fire. One would have to be careful with the stove that sits inside the tent in the vestibule. Emma's polar training course on starting the stove procedure seems to be a little different from how we are going to actually use it on the ice, which is kind of interesting to me.  Not sure if people who gave the training have done this type of trip before.

Each of us haul a sled like this full of stuffs for 50 days
The real fun thing today though was a trip to pay tribute to Magellan at his statue downtown Punta Arenas to ask for a safe passage. This is a tradition to some skiers to the South Pole apparently. We had fun rubbing the toe of the Patagonian statue below Magellan.

Since we are finished with the packing, it's nice to have the next couple of days to work on customized stuffs on gears, and clothing.

We are scheduled to fly to Union Glacier base camp on Saturday but historically, the flight to Antarctica are always delayed due to weather.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Prep day 2: Packing

I didn't get back to the hotel until late last night after the dinner/hangout with the guys who are also skiing to the South Pole.  I almost couldn't get out of my bed this morning if it wasn't for Emma waking me up. We were supposed to be at the warehouse by 9:15 to start our day. While I was having breakfast, Emma ran into a group of marathon runners that were going to fly to Antarctica for Antarctic Ice Marathon tomorrow.  Looks like its a marathon has taken new frontier for a while now.

Carl, Emma and I went over our tech gears so that we know how they work.  I'm quite impressed with Carl technical knowledge.  He taught himself web programming.  He built his company website was built by himself. I went over how the tracking program I wrote for this trip works (I will talk a little about it in another entry).  I tested it quite a bit (and I already filed myself a few bugs:)) but I hope it really works the while I'm on the ice.  If you want to have "interactive" tracking instead of just an image on Facebook, you should check out

After technical TOI, we headed to the warehouse where we continue packing.  We didn't finish the until almost 6.  There are few more things we need to do regarding food but it seems we're almost done. In the picture, the two rows in front of me and three at the back are my food for the next 5 days.  Each bag is a day worth of food.  There will be more in each ziplock bag. They would add to total of about 5000+ calorie each.  On top of that we have others like butter, chips, and extra 8 days of food. It's a lot of food.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prep day 1: Food

We had a productive day today. Carl came to our hotel to do a gear check to make sure we had everything we need.  I thought I had everything but turned out I missed a couple of items.  Things in Punta are not cheap, and gears in particular are outrageously expensive. Oh well, I just have to suck it up and pay for it.

After gear check, we spent pretty much the whole afternoon ripping the food packaging, adding up the calorie and re-pack them in our lighter bags.  We had the whole production line going on. I was the package ripper, Emma the bagger and Carl the tier and bag excess remover.  We are pretty much done with the repacking by the end of the day.  There's still a lot more regarding food packing but it was a great progress.

More food
I got to try out some of the power bars we are going to consume at every break while skiing.  Some are good, one pretty gross so it's not going to be on my list in Antarctica.  I will try more tomorrow to make sure the food I bring with me are the one I can enjoy at hourly.

The amount of food we must eat for breakfasts, breaks during skiing, snacks and dinners is A LOT.  Much more than last time I was able to consume.  But I the way I look at it is they are just fuel. And hopefully eating 4-5 meals a day since mid Sept helps my stomach stretched out enough to accommodate all these.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Meet the Team

This morning Carl came to the airport pick me up. It is nice to finally meet him in person.  He then took me to the hotel where we met up with Emma who arrived yesterday.  She had quite an ordeal at Chilean immigration because she could not find her passport. But we're all here in Punta Arenas now. 

Stew, Devon and Carl in the checkout line
It's a gorgeous day today.  The hotel is quite nice too, as we have a sea view room. We met up Stew and Devon from the other team who will also ski to the South Pole, but from a different start (Messner, about 100 miles shorter).  We all went shopping for extra food.  Good thing there a big super market in town where they have pretty much every thing. And we cleaned out of their stocks.  We're talking about over 200 bag of dry soups, same amount for Ritter sport chocolate (we happen to all like this kind) and many other things.  None of us speak Spanish, so it was a bit of a challenge to ask for their stocks. Mas? No mas! were the usual question and answer.  

In the next few days we are going to sort out our food, gears and fuel for the entire trip. They'll be quite hectic but for now, we just kick and for a few hours to catch a nap or enjoy the beautiful city of Punta Arenas.

View from room

Two all the way teams at dinner

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Antarctica Again

I cannot believe that Antarctica is so close again. As in a week. Yes, I am going back to the cold and white continent one more time. And yes, doing that thing my family and friends said was "crazy", skiing to the South Pole. While this sounds familiar with my previous trip (because it is!), this time it is different. I'll be skiing from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole. The distance I have to ski is about 700+ miles, almost the length of California. I'll try to complete this within two months. It is awfully and awesomely a lot of time in the wild Antarctica.

You (and family and friends) probably ask why this trip? Well, it's on a different scale of an expedition. Right after completion of my last trip in new year 2010, I knew I would go back to do the full length. Six years went by, with quite a bit of mountaineering in between, I still dream about Antarctica. And here I am in Chile, days closer to it. The past two weeks have been insanely busy for me. I had to do more training (I started training at the beginning of the summer), source gears and clothing, try out food (and their combinations), handle things at home while I'm gone, pack for the trip, and force myself to eat loads of food as I need to gain weight and get used to the amount of food we are going to consume daily. On top of it, I need to write the application to handle the communication while I am on the ice, not only for myself but for the team I am going with as well.

The team has three people including me, so it's small, which is better. Carl Alvey, from the UK but lives in Norway, is our guide. He has lots of Antarctic experience and been doing this for years. He guided a 16 year old Brit Lewis Clarke two years ago on the same trip as we are going to do, to become the youngest person to ski to the South Pole. Emma is new to the scene but she has done a lot of inspiring trips, including over 2600 miles of hiking alone the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexican border to Washington.

We have been on Skype, chat, email regularly since August. I can tell everyone is super excited, especially Emma. She's afraid she'll explode from excitement! And everyone is very helpful. Carl helped me source major gears and Emma helps me bring those to Punta Arenas. This is already a great team work. I think we have an amazing and determine team to handle the challenges from one of the most difficult expeditions out there.