Distance to go:
Ben and Tarka will cover 1800 miles starting from Scott's Terra Nova Hut at the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back to the coast again. That's equivalent to 69 back-to-back marathons hauling up to 200kg each (the weight of roughly two adult men) of kit and supplies necessary to survive.
Distances here are shown in statute miles.
Adios Beardmore (Day 87)
Day 87: S83° 42' 59.65", E170° 44' 11.76"
Duration: 9 Hr
Daily distance: 24.5 Mi
Distance to go: 442.1 Mi
Temperature: -4 °C
Wind chill: -12 °C
Altitude: 1168 Ft
Today's tale was rather different to yesterday's. The wind was still blowing this morning though its ferocity had waned, and it calmed even further to give us a gentle tailwind all day as we travelled under the clearest of blue skies. We started the day on crampons but the depth of the surface snow cover increased as we descended and we were able to switch to skis after an hour or so, staying on them for the remainder of the day.
The surface was patchy and crusty until mid-way through the afternoon, hiding a great deal of crevasses, though our skis were "against the grain" and the widest were only a few feet across, and almost all closed-up by snow bridges, so we sped along with our skis safely spanning the gaps. Since about 3pm, we've had much deeper snow and much easier terrain as Mount Hope came into clear view and we neared the vast mouth of this giant glacier.
We covered just shy of 25 miles (40km) today and we're parked just over 4 miles (7km) away from our depot, which we'll pick up tomorrow morning before climbing up and through the Gateway, the small col that Shackleton identified as a safe route from the Ross Ice Shelf on to the Beardmore.
After swearing yesterday that we hated this place and that we were never coming back, I felt surprisingly emotional as we approached the final stretch of the glacier this evening, especially as I looked back along our tracks towards the Cloudmaker. The Beardmore - both the ascent and the descent - was the part of this journey that held the most fear and apprehension for me, and also the only part where I felt my experience lagged substantially behind Tarka's (who lives in the Alps and has spent hundreds of days on glaciers, both there, in Patagonia and in the Himalayas) so it's been an extraordinary learning curve, and an experience that has at times pushed me a long way beyond my comfort zone.
I suspect, like a microcosm of this entire expedition, that it will be an experience that was pretty hellish for most of the time I was going through it, but one that I'll look back on fondly (from a comfortable armchair, by a fire) as one of the most special times of my entire life.