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On his last leg » On Dec. 28, he began the last of three major legs of the expedition. Ahead of him lay another steep climb up 4,500 feet of elevation. The weight of his supply sleds had "killed" him in the first days of the expedition, when he had to climb other steep slopes.
There and Back Again
Daniel Burton’s 730-mile journey had three main legs: the first was the steep climb inland and upward from Hercules Inlet, the coast. The middle stretch was easier, flattening out from Patriot Hills to the Thiels mountains. The last leg was a long, hard climb to the pole, which lies about 9,300 feet above sea level.
The original plan was to bike back, but he opted instead to fly.
"If [this] next section goes as bad as the first," he wrote, "I will never make it."
So Burton ditched all the extra weight he could: his brakes, the water bottle cages, the racks, the side bags, charging wires and other electronics.
He weaved around and over enormous wavelike ridges of snow called sastrugi, which you find only on the polar plains.
While they look spectacular, "when you bike over them, you can’t see, it’s very scary and treacherous," Burton wrote. "You’ll be going along and all of a sudden you’ll have a [4-foot] drop that you didn’t even see coming, which is very painful, even if you don’t crash."
The morning of Jan. 8, Burton found a cache, a late Christmas card and holiday treats. "I think being alone for so long is messing with my emotions. I was overcome with joy at getting those."
During the last leg, Burton felt "so ready to be done." But he kept his spirits up, making sure to enjoy the ride.
"We only get to live each day once," he wrote, "so enjoy where you are."
In his final days of the expedition, gales blowing out of the south slowed him down to a crawl. "Everything is so cold that if I touch things with my hands, I get instant frostbite," Burton wrote. On the upside, "with the strong winds and blowing snow, navigation was easy — head straight into the blowing wind."
On Jan. 21, about 10 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, he made it.
Home again » There is an actual candy-cane-striped pole marking the spot. He was as far from the North Pole as he could be, but it may have felt a lot like Christmas.
Burton wants to celebrate the much-belated yuletide holiday when he gets home. His wife and teenage son left the tree up for him all these weeks.
Right behind the ceremonial stick in the ground is the research station that Americans have occupied since 1956. At this time of year, about 150 people work at the facility— which is about 150 more than Burton had seen in a long time.
"When I saw it, I was so overcome with joy! I called home to my wife and lost all control of my emotions," Burton wrote in his triumphant blog entry. "The black dots on the horizon were the most wonderful thing I have ever seen."
Burton’s family said they were never all that worried about him. He was in good hands with the expedition’s organizers, the Salt Lake City-based Adventure Network International, who would have triggered a search-and-rescue if he failed to call each day. His daily calls to his family kept them reassured, too.
Media Burton thought her husband was joking when he first mentioned biking to the South Pole, inspired by Larsen’s attempt. She said it’s amazing what he has accomplished while competing against professionals, "being just an average guy off the streets who was a computer programmer a few years ago."
When he returns — he is being flown back to the coast in a ski plane — Burton wants to start a foundation to get teens into cycling. The teens would receive a mountain bike, and if they complete the program by riding a certain number of times, they get to keep the ride. Burton has set up a GoFundMe page to raise $50,000 to back the new endeavour.
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