Norway PM celebrates Amundsen with South Pole ski

Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:34pm EST
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OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's prime minister braved deep freeze temperatures on Monday to ski around the South Pole as he prepared to celebrate the 100th anniversary of countryman Roald Amundsen becoming the first to reach the pole.

Jens Stoltenberg was also on hand to greet a Norwegian polar expedition, led by a three-time Olympic champion, which was seeking to retrace Amudsen's route but needed a Herculean last-ditch effort to make it in time for the Dec 14 event.

Wearing a red "expedition parka" and the Norwegian Polar Institute's red hat, more or less what he would wear back home at this time of the year, Stoltenberg donned skis then quickly tweeted: "Skiing at the South Pole. Beautiful and wild nature."

Vegard Ulvang, a six-time cross country skiing Olympic medalist, including three golds from Albertville in 1992, did not have it quite as easy, as he and his team will need to ski more or less non-stop until Wednesday if they want to keep their date with Stoltenberg.

"Our strategy now is to cut down on sleep and rest and stake everything on skiing 35-40 km each of the next two days," the expedition said in its online diary.

"Then we will ski non-stop from the evening of 13 December until the afternoon of 14 December," it added.

Unlike Amundsen, Ulvang and teammates Jan-Gunnar Winther, Stein P. Aasheim and Harald Dag Joelle will need to rely on skis as sled dogs have been banned in Antarctica since 1994.

"Even if the terrain we cross is known, and our equipment is state-of-the-art, it is still a long, cold, windy journey," the expedition said.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, editing by Paul Casciato)

<p>Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is seen at the South Pole in this picture made available by the office of the prime minister through a social network December 12, 2011. REUTERS/SMN/Handout</p>