the Journey

  • Distance to go: 0 Mi

    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.

Another Beardmore Day, Another Day More Beard (Day 41)

Day 41: S84° 08' 57.42", E170° 20' 14.22"

Duration: 8 Hr 30 Min

Daily distance: 17.9 Mi

Distance to go: 1331.1 Mi

Temperature: -1 °C

Wind chill: -8 °C

Altitude: 2431 Ft

Today was off-the-charts tough, and our bodies and gear have taken a bit of a battering. The surface and terrain have varied enormously in character and severity, and while the weather at least has been kind -if a bit too hot actually, we seem to be frying under our own ozone hole- the going has at times been hellishly hard. A short list of things we broke and had to repair today: Tarka's sledge cover (ripped when our sledges collided on a blue ice slope), the screws that hold the skins on the back of our "fat skin" skis and a snow shovel, its blade bent when I managed to flip my sledge upside down on a ridge. I also managed to lose my skis when Tarka was in the lead, and had to turn around and walk backwards for nearly a kilometre to retrieve them from where they'd somehow escaped the straps securing them to the top of my sledge, petrified that they'd fallen down a hole, never to be seen again. This was a process that involved using every swear word I know, and then inventing new ones by hyphenating them. 

Apparently a few climbers are asking about our gear, and we swap between skis (164cm SkiTrab Race Aero World Cup with Rottefella BC Manual bindings and Black Diamond Ascension skins) and crampons (the beefiest steel strap in ones Grivel make, I forget the name but I think they're called Air Tech) depending on whether we're travelling over patchy snow or blue ice. We travel harnessed up with ultralight Cilao race harnesses but haven't actually have yet roped up once, partly because the crevasses are either narrow and easy to spot and negotiate with hardly any snow cover, or ancient and well-bridged and partly as we're keen to move as fast as we can. Tarka and I have both put a foot through a few times, but I'm convinced it's far less dangerous than the expeditions I've done on sea ice, and probably safer than riding my bike in London. We have a lightweight 30m Beal Rando glacier rope for  when we need it, prussiks, slings, pulleys, Petzl ice screws and carabiners and a single ultralight Camp walking ice axe. We use our ski poles all the time and it would be impossible to move without them (Swix Carbon Expedition and quite short, mine are 130cm). 

We're camped tonight near the foot of the Cloudmaker, a mountain I'm growing increasingly fond of, partly because of the name and the fact that it does indeed seem to be puffing out cloud the whole time (does anyone know why this happens?) and secondly because it seems strangely Scottish in character, reminding me of Ben Stack in the north west corner of the Highlands, a place I know well from the year I spent working there for John Ridgway. John rowed across the Atlantic in 1966, in a wooden boat along with Chay Blythe and I've been thinking a lot out here -usually as I skip a track on my iPod or check my email on the Ultrabook or tuck into freeze-dried lamb stew or chicken dhansak- about how hard that 93-day trip must have been. As you can probably guess, he's a person that had a profound influence on the path I've chosen. We should pass the Cloudmaker tomorrow, and then it's pretty much a straight line for Buckley Island. We nearly got 29km today so we're chuffed with our progress, if a bit tired! More tomorrow...


# Keith , December 5th 2013

Ben, I now need as much info regarding your I pod please :) I met you briefly at secret Garden Party a couple of years ago + been fascinated ever since about your activities (and that of Scott’s, which I hadn’t really learnt much about until then). What are you listening to and have you exhausted your mp3’s yet ? Good luck to both of you on your journey and stay safe. xx

# Janet Stanley, December 5th 2013

Sorry you had a rough time of it…I guess you have to have the tough times to appreciate the good! Stay safe always :)

# Richard Pierce, December 5th 2013

Not bad going at all! Keep going.

Yes, it would indeed be interesting to know what’s playing on your iPod.

The irony of your comment regarding cycling in London is not lost on any of us, I should think, and nor is the irony of progress, not just in terms of you being able to communicate with us from what, to all intents and purposes, is another planet, but in terms of you being able to take your mind away from the slog because you’ve got a mini-gramophone with bits you stick in your ears rather than a huge immoveable gramophone or pianola that you had to leave behind at Cape Evans, and the only music you could listen to was the singing of the wind or the madness your own voice made in your head while you were hauling.

Keep safe.


# Deacon Patrick, December 5th 2013

Brilliant! I love the Cloudmaker photo. Peaks here (the Rockies in the US) will do that in various weather patterns, and some peaks seem to do it more often than others. My understanding is it is a wind eddy that tends to trap clouds. Watch them all day and you can usually see the swirling pattern.

I love it when inanimate objects get ideas of their own, and it sounds as if the Beardmore has significant influence over their tantrum behavior. The calmer I remain, the calmer they remain and we all tend to be happier. But that may be different in the Southern Hemisphere? Grin.

We’re at -24˚C so far today (all of 2am Colorado time). Will send cold thoughts and prayers your way!

May God startle you with joy!

With abandon,

# CaninesCashews, December 5th 2013

Hi guys,
“This was a process that involved using every swear word I know, and then inventing new ones by hyphenating them.” I’m going to use that - it is so true.
Very graphic description of your day - love the details.
“...and then it’s pretty much a straight line for Buckley Island.” I get the feeling thats not as easy as it sounds!
Interesting you talk about John Ridgeway, I remember reading his book (A Fighting Chance) at school when I was about 14. Effectively his log book of their 3 month journey, no holds barred - stirring stuff.
I think he said about the trip… “This was a hard trip for two young fellows. But we were young and hopeful – I don’t suppose we would have been there otherwise.”
Interesting parallels with your adventure I think.

Stay safe

# Mal Owen, December 5th 2013

That first paragraph left my heart in my mouth…. All considering, that was good mileage (+1 for the backwards trek!) What relief you must have felt when you found them. Did Tarka retrace steps with you or just wait?
I just read a few interesting articles on the benefits of swearing!
What items do you have in your repair kit? .... Fingers crossed you have no need of any tomorrow.
PS.  10/10 for your daily blog titles.

# Philomena Clayona Ward., December 5th 2013

Orographic cloud formation is the reason. Not as fun as a cloud factory though.

# Christy, December 5th 2013

I caught the Polar virus in 2012 during a visit to the Antarctic Peninsula.  Thought I had somewhat recovered until I began reading your blog.  OMG!  Your journey inspired by Scott also honors Scott and his entire team as you bring more recognition to their work and struggles, keeping their names and spirit alive.  I’m now reading “Scott’s last expedition; the personal journal of Captain R. F. Scott, on his journey to the South pole” which I would not have picked up had I not been reading your blog.  I am simply mesmerized by both your journeys!

# Kristoffer, December 5th 2013

Quite frankly, I can’t say the same.

The expedition itself is good, but make no mistake, it is out to promote itself.  I have kept pace with the media coverage, and to me the coverage (including where Ben speaks) is mostly about the expedition itself, not about Scott.  I wish he would have talked more about Scott’s expedition, after all this expedition is supposed to be about finishing Scott’s southern journey.

# dj, December 5th 2013

@Kristoffer ... It probably would be a bit much to expect Ben and Tarka (well he doesn’t see to be involved much in the blog) to do much more literary historical correlation with Scott than an occasional reference, to acknowledge that he knew and understood the expedition, while they are busy on the ground living day to day.

HOWEVER, just my thought, that doesn’t mean that the BLOG couldn’t have an occasional extra article from someone like Worsley, or a historian or even their science officer to cover the several things that commenters are asking but Ben doesn’t either have the time, energy or interest in spending his little extra time writing about.

# Alastair Humphreys, December 5th 2013

Nothing more satisfying than painting the air blue with invented and heartfelt obscenities.
Do you think Dr Wilson did the same…?

# Kristoffer, December 5th 2013

Meanwhile in Minnesota, our temperature is at 7 F (-13.889 C) and isn’t expected to get much warmer.

# Intrepid, December 5th 2013

What are we besides movement that speaks.
Steps taken
The impact felt by non-hyphenated wallflowers who without having had any prior notice are suddenly, in their glory, glistening.

Resourceful, nimble, handicrafted
the wax and wane
the bubbles of a magnificent wave
Steps taken.

It’s hard for me to see the crevasses, the bridges, not having been in such landscape. Perhaps a close up photo of the hyphenated curses would concretize the image about what you really walk on, and surreptitiously eat up. Seriously… what you are doing, is awesome!

As you rise each day, Godspeed.

# Alison P, December 5th 2013

Ah Ben, today you had me both laughing and crying.  I could just see you stomping down the glacier swearing all over the place.  And yet, despite all those difficulties, it seems to me like you two made great progress today.  And only one storm in the trip to date, so nature hasn’t been too unkind to you. 

A bit of a delicate question perhaps, but can you say a bit more about Tarka.  Or perhaps ask Tarka for a sentence or two that you could put in the blog for him.  We are getting to know you quite well, but Tarka is to me still a bit of a mystery.  Is he shy about saying anything about himself?

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