Two Australian adventurers who once kayaked to New Zealand said Saturday they had reached the South Pole, the halfway point in their bid to be the first to trek unsupported from Antarctica to the pole and back again.
James Castrission, a 29-year-old accountant, and Justin Jones, 28 and a scientist, reached the South Pole after covering some 1,150 kilometres (713 miles) since beginning their journey in mid October, they said in a statement.
"This expedition has been absolutely gruelling," Castrission said.
"The loneliness and continuous exhaustion, the piercing cold, the 24-hour sunlight -- we are being pushed to our very limit.
"There is no life out here, it's just us and the never-ending ice so every bit of support we receive boosts our morale immensely."
The men, friends since high school who made history with a solo kayak trip from Australia to New Zealand four years ago, have made only four rest days, mostly due to injuries.
Over the past 62 days they have endured heavy snowfall -- including close to two weeks of white-out days -- and winds of up to 70 kilometres per hour while the average temperature has been minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 Fahrenheit).
The experience has seen both shed an estimated 15-20 kilograms (33-44 pounds) of weight each and the fact that they took longer than expected to reach the pole means they are now rationing their food to be able to make it back.
The pair, who are hauling up to 160 kilograms each of gear and supplies on sleds, will also ski for longer during the day on their return journey.
"Being on the ice in this way is punishing. Your body aches, injuries just don't heal, you bruise, chafe and never fully recover from the previous day's skiing due to the broken sleep," Jones said.
The men hope to raise funds for a cancer charity for young people during their three-month, 2,220 kilometre unaided expedition from the edge of the Antarctic to the South Pole and back.
They are familiar with the extreme, battling giant seas, sickness, sharks and food shortages during their 62-day world record crossing of the Tasman in a kayak in 2007-2008, a 3,300-kilometre journey.
"What keeps us going is knowing that our challenge is nothing in comparison to that experienced by young Aussies with cancer," Jones said.