Finding Singletrack At The Bottom Of The World - Literally

Apr 26, 2014
by Susie Douglas  
Pressure ridges with Sun Halo
Dan Schieffelin rides his Surly Pugsley beside the pressure ridges at Scott Base, the New Zealand base located 2 miles away from the USA base McMurdo.

When the decision to live and work in Antarctica has been made, you’ve already gone through the pros and cons of making such a big life decision. The first con is the pure fact that you are going to be living on the coldest and driest continent on earth. But coming in close behind is the idea of not being able to recreate outdoors. Tossing and turning days before the flight, visions of being indoor 24/7 began to haunt my utter existence and second guess my decision to move here.

Looking down towards the point off of Hut Point Ridge Trail
View downhill on Hut Point Ridge trail

I had become an avid mountain bike enthusiast over the 2013 summer due to a newly acquired, full squish, Cannondale Jekyll. I had been riding the same Gary Fisher hardtail with trashed front forks for the past 7 years due to being stubborn and well, let’s be honest, cheap. I had convinced myself that riding the thrashed bike would make me a stronger rider in the long run, which turned out to be the case once the beautiful Jekyll entered my life. Walking away from a new bike and the beautiful brown powder trails of the Pacific Northwest was going to be quite the challenge.

South Pole
Observation Hill Loop

Observation Hill Loop

McMurdo is the USA base on Ross Island located off the southern tip of Antarctica. The whole town (average population 800) is employed by the National Science Foundation and are all working in support of research and science. I was of the understanding that it would be minus zero temperatures, blustery winds and the chance for frostbite daily. What the season turned into on the other hand was quite the opposite. Above 25 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a month, in combination with very little wind and even a few 40 degree days. Warmer than most of the USA!

Sidehilling on volcanic rock
Observation Hill Loop

South Pole
Observation Hill

Little did I know there were trails surrounding the town of McMurdo and once the snow began to melt, they were more than shreddable. As it turns out, there are also a plethora of bicycles here on station. A majority of them are crappy, been ridden too many times, pieces of junk, but intermixed between them were a few Specialized 29ers that still had a bit of life in them. Really? 29ers in Antarctica? Is this for real?

Brothers Jared and Mark Fortner riding Hut Point ridge trail McMurdo - Antarctica. Go Pro snapshot.
Brothers Jared and Mark Fortner (Jared in the photo) checking out the view after a downhill section on Hut Point Ridge Trail

View looking uphill on Hut Point Ridge singletrack
Jared Fortner - Hut Point Ridge.

A View of Hut Point from McMurdo. Photo courtesy of Kathleen DeWahl.
Hut Point at sunset. Photo courtesy of Kathleen DeWahl.

A majority of the island was formed by volcanic eruptions of nearby Mt. Erebus, the most southerly active volcano in the world. The trails consist of small to medium sized volcanic rock granules resulting in loose turns, but solid downhill runs that meander along scenic but very windy ridge lines. Once the warmer weather arrived it was common to see Adelie penguins and Weddell seals catching rays and Orca & Minke whales swimming within a stone's throw distance away. Looming beyond the horizon of the shelf ice, beautiful snow and crevassed saturated mountains would shine brightly in the 24 hour summer sunlight.

Adele penguin and Iceberg. Photo courtesy of Kathleen DeWahl.
A view from Observation Hill Loop. An adelie penguin hanging out on an Iceberg. Photo courtesy of Kathleen DeWahl.

An adele penguin waiting for a cup of Joe outside the McMurdo coffee shop. People ride bikes around the town. Photo courtesy of Kathleen DeWahl.
An adelie penguin waits for a cup of joe outside the McMurdo coffee shop. Photo courtesy of Kathleen DeWahl.

How to ride here? Come and work here. It’s as simple as that. The question is, is it worth it? The bragging rights are enough themselves, but being able to mountain bike while at the bottom of the world on legit trail was priceless.

The first bicycle in Antarctica on display at Cape Evans hut. Photo courtesy of Dacre Dunn.
Antarctica's first bicycle. It was brought over on Scott's Terra Nova expedition and first used in 1911 by geologist Thomas Griffith Taylor. Thomas rode the bicycle from Cape Evans all the way to Erebus Glacier Tongue doing a survey. He got so tired he walked back carrying the bike and it is now on display at Scott's hut, Cape Evans - Antarctica. Photo courtesy of Dacre Dunn.

Doing wheelies at the South Pole - Antarctica
Everyone that visits the South Pole always takes a hero photo. I decided to do it while on a bike...and in costume.


  • 30 0
 Mind-blowing. Also goes to show just how strong this "addiction" of ours is Smile I'm sure someone would find a way to ride trails even if stationed at Mars.
  • 27 0
 They already have. Smile
  • 3 0
 Riders gonna ride
  • 1 0
 Funny you should say that Unkas, 'cuz the first thing I thought of when reading the 1st paragraph about how difficult the decision was to move to Antarctica, was how insignificant such a decision is compared to something like signing up for Mars One.

It's something I'll be thinking about for the next few years. Shreddin' that 0.38 G dirty. Mmmmmmmm.
  • 8 0
 "McMurdo is the USA base on Ross ISLAND located off the SOUTHERN TIP of Antarctica."

where, exactly, would that be?
  • 3 0
 I know! It was hard describing where it was. It was also interesting being at the south pole and knowing everywhere you look is North. Being able to ride around the world in 3 pushes of pedal.
  • 5 0
 Now that's a hell of a MTB trip!!! You send more time getting there than actual riding.
  • 6 1
 Wonder of the red bull crew will hit this in where the trail ends 2? As it looks like this may be where it ends. ;-)
  • 3 0
 Always had this in Mind...................

Riding trail on the continent of / no country./................

So think PB has to define a new country or flag in the countries section............
  • 2 1
 One day, a wise old man told me:

"Ya know, there's a legend 'bout a country called Antarctica far far away beyond the south ocean where people from all other countries live together peacefully and where the 650B plague is absent"

Sounds cool, if only I could go ride there!
  • 2 1
 650b and enduro, both
  • 1 1
 World top and bottom brings my thoughts to altitude, instead of a map position on a wall. Literally I was expecting a depression, which has its extreme in Qattara I think, but this: could also be relevant. Other than that where is the World bottom if my map is sticked to the seilling of my bedroom? Silly.
  • 3 0
 Thats awesome! Not many people can say they have rode Antarctica. Killer pics btw.
  • 5 1
 Shop list: Fat Bikes
  • 2 0
 Is there anything bikes can't do? Especially with a coffee shop where you don't have to lock up your rig.
  • 1 0
 Not the average ride !
Amazing and good to see some people working in tough conditions (it doesn't look, but I bet it can be) but still managing to enjoy a mtb ride !
  • 2 0
 Wow. I should have studied hard and become a scientist so I could go to far flung places like this. Incredible!
  • 1 0
 It's amazing to look at the 100 year old bike and see how consistent the overall design and layout has stayed. Very cool read.
  • 2 0
 People have posted some far flung travel pieces but i think this takes the cake
  • 2 1
 25 degrees in Antarctica. See global warming is a myth.Smile
Wonderful story and beautiful pics!
  • 2 0
 Somebody has to flair that pressure ridge in the first pic.
  • 2 0
 I bloody love penguins.
  • 1 0
 Well done! That's really cool!
  • 1 0
 Very cool
  • 1 1
 now, when i see russian flag, i think separatist brot it there
  • 1 0
 Awesome Suz!!!!
  • 1 0
 Rad Susie!
  • 1 0
 Mad props Susie...
  • 1 0

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