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.

Beardmore Battles (Day 40)

Day 40: S83° 53' 30.48", E170° 34' 31.74"

Duration: 8 Hr 45 Min

Daily distance: 16.7 Mi

Distance to go: 1348.9 Mi

Temperature: -1 °C

Wind chill: -8 °C

Altitude: 1798 Ft

The day started well enough: warm (in fact my brother tells me it's colder where he lives in the Swiss Alps right now, though we'll be back in the minus thirties on the Plateau), a bit of cloud but still enough sunlight to give us the surface contrast we need to navigate easily, and the slightest of headwinds.

We dismantled the tent and set off up the glacier, beneath the sight of a hazy parhelion above the Cloudmaker and a weird-looking bank of cloud hovering below the tops of the mountains to our east. The surface was incredibly good with almost no crevasses, and through my sunglasses the snow looked a bluey-grey cream, with the sky tinted peach-coloured at the far horizon. Perhaps -I wondered to myself- I've made the mistake of using books meant for general public entertainment as reference guides; perhaps this glacier's not all that challenging after all once you've sifted through the hyperbole and drama and derring-do. My sled felt almost weightless behind me, and I wondered if we'd break some sort of Beardmore distance record today.

The rude awakening came around the third hour of the day, when the surface and terrain began to get rougher and more ridged, much like sea ice does under pressure. Our pace slowed, but I was enjoying piecing together the puzzle of finding a route and scouting out a way ahead when it was my turn to lead. By our fifth hour of the day, now going decidedly uphill, we encountered more and more patches of blue ice, upon which our skis had next-to-no grip. Short sections were fine, aside from some occasional Bambi-style flailing, but when there was more ice than snow, we switched to crampons. For the first time, I had to be sure where I placed each footstep, and the increase in nervous energy was remarkable. By all accounts the blue ice flattens out later on, but here it's incredibly fractured and riven with snow-filled cracks that are often pretty rotten and crumbly at the edges.

The big slots and holes are nearly always obvious and avoidable (and mostly bridged so well that you could drive a bus over them) so our biggest fear is not some gaping chasm, but rather putting a foot in a crack and twisting an ankle or wrenching a knee. We crossed many crevasses today, and it's been a good learning curve for me. I'm feeling infinitely less anxious about my ability to negotiate this terrain than I did a few days ago, but I'm also under no illusions about the challenges our ascent to the Plateau will hold. After nine hard hours yesterday and almost the same today, Tarka and I are both pretty spaced-out in the tent this evening. I'll sign off before I start rambling...


# George Chapman, December 4th 2013

The time has arrived for the hardest part of this adventure I assume and it looks like you doing well. Wishing the two of your safe traveling. I’m already wondering how you will feel when you have made it to the pole. I would be excited but then at the same time think it’s over I’ve made it now what is next. The trip back home would be one of mixed emotions. Elated in that I made it but a time of contemplation and not wanting to really ever leave this place of beauty and peace. Can I not stay here, make my home here? Why do I really want to go anywhere else? That’s what I would be pondering.

# CaninesCashews, December 4th 2013

Hi guys,
Seems you are just about half way to the pole now. What an amazing photo - love that parhelion. ‘Bambi style flailing’ reminds me of the kids first time on the ice rink a couple of Christmas’s ago at Hampton Court - hilarious.
Good to know you are a bit less anxious of this stage in your journey - that must be a nice feeling.
Stay safe.


# ale, December 4th 2013

Hey Ben,

you saw a peach cloured sky, light sled, easy going and then all of a sudden everything got “normal” with a difficult snow, blu sky… Maybe the effects of the drug were over?!?!?!?
Impressive job you’re doing down there!!!!

# Kevin Wright, December 5th 2013

Great stuff Guys and a Great Photo. What type of camera are you using?
Judy and I are praying for Your safety and those ankles to stay strong. Keep going and Gods speed Kev

# Barry Smith, December 5th 2013

Well done guys. I’m very impressed with your progress. Hardly knew you were doing this until today when my brother let me know from Oman! Where you are now takes me back a bit to 1959 (4th December 1959) almost exactly 54 years ago when, with the NZAlpine Club, we made the first ascent of Mt Kyffin. We also made ascents of Patrick, Wedge Face, and Siege Dome as well as Scott and Harcourt.  And we discovered the furthest south life on our planet. It was a great expedition for a young 22 year old - we were the first in the area since Scott and his party had been there nearly 50 years before us.  I met Donald Swann (Hi, Donald!) in Auckland about 40 years ago and we enjoyed reminiscing about the mouth of the Beardmore - quite an historical part of our planet. Good luck with the rest of your journey - I’ll be following with interest.  BarryS, NZ

# Barry Smith, December 5th 2013

In all my hurry I should have done some name checking! Donald Swann indeed - sorry Rob Swan!

# H.Ahern, December 8th 2013

Really interested to hear you are on the Beardmore… there is a small tributary glacier named after my father (‘Ahern glacier’) so although I haven’t been that far South it has brought it to the front of my mind.  Explore safe and enjoy the adventures…

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