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.
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...