British adventurer Maria Leijerstam became the first person to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the Antarctic continent today at about 1 a.m. GMT (Dec. 27, 2013).
We reported last week on the 35-year-old’s unique ‘fat trike’ recumbent as she prepared for the expedition, which began on Dec. 18.
Leijerstam’s route started by climbing the Leverett Glacier before heading due south for the Pole some 400 miles ahead.
The route she followed is used by American scientists based at the McMurdo Research Station on the Ross Ice Shelf to transport fuel to the South Pole.
Despite starting days later than her competitors Leijerstam finished ahead of two other riders attempting to go to the South Pole on a different route.
American Daniel Burton and Spaniard Juan Menendez Granados are cycling the most common route from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole on fat bikes, an approach that has been taken before but without success.
The Welsh woman completed her route on the trike in nine days.
Leijerstam made quick progress on the recumbent trike designed by Inspired Cycle Engineering specifically for the challenge.
She called the custom-made trike “stable and aerodynamic,” which allowed her to focus her energy on progressing through the gale-force winds and hazardous terrain.
The trike was fitted with 4.5-inch-wide tires for traction and float over snow and ice and outfitted with very low gears for climbing with relative ease. This meant that Leijerstam could take a shorter but steeper route to the Pole than her rivals.
(For more information and photos, check out our first post about the fat bike trike recumbent.)
“The trike is amazing. It’s completely stable, even in extreme winds and I can take on long steep hills that I’d never be able to climb on a bike,” said Leijerstam.
With the mountains and glacier behind her Leijerstam then faced more than 300 miles of the polar plateau. The snow, wind and sastrugi made progress slow and arduous, but by cycling in 12-hour stints Leijerstam continued to progress 25 to 35 miles each day to the end of the route at the bottom of the Earth.