Enjoyable deep-freeze exploits as a bunch of feckless amateurs trudge their way across the Antarctic icecap to McMurdo Base at the bottom of the world. Murphy, a 58-year-old retired banker and avid mountaineer, signs onto the expedition after spotting an ad in a travel brochure, His fellow explorers have little in common, beyond a thirst for adventure and the wherewithal to ante up close to $100,000 each; Murphy focuses much attention on the two women, the first ever to reach the Pole overland--one a ""California blonde [who] had appeared in Playboy,"" the other a Harvard Divinity School student. The team trains on Mt. Rainier, where they practice falling into crevasses, then undertakes the real thing, an endless slog through Antarctic whiteouts, wind, and dreadful cold. Murphy frets about his physical conditioning--is he too old? too fat?--watches his mind race out of control during the seven or eight hours of daily isolation, terrifies himself with visions of tumbling into bottomless pits. After two months on the ice, the expedition arrives at the Pole--where the California blonde celebrates with ""a cold weather strip tease--at 18 degrees below."" More like a long letter to an alumni magazine than a classic of high adventure, and marred by a silly, pseudothriller opening (""they were missing--alone at the end of the world""), but Murphy's genial voice and unadorned prose keep things trim.