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.
First Night on the Beardmore (Day 39)
Day 39: S83° 39' 9.792", E170° 53' 42.720"
Duration: 9 Hr
Daily distance: 18.9 Mi
Distance to go: 1365.7 Mi
Temperature: -6 °C
Wind chill: -12 °C
Altitude: 889 Ft
I won't lie. I climbed out of the tent today in a glum mood, nervous about what the day would hold. We put our climbing harnesses on as well as our sledge harnesses this morning, which the fearful part of my subconscious never takes as a good sign. Ahead of us lay a few big crevasses that we could see from our tent, what looked like a remarkably steep climb up to the saddle of the Gateway, a short descent the other side and then the behemoth Beardmore lying in wait the other side.
One of Shackleton's men said travelling on parts of it felt like walking over the glass roof of a railway station. I knew it would be the most risky and challenging section of our route, and I wasn't feeling all that brave about squaring up to it. The early crevasses were old, obvious and easy to work around, and the climb up to the Gateway's col, while steep, wasn't quite as hard as I'd feared. It took about an hour of short strides and hard pulling, the sleds seemingly doubling in weight with the incline, but the surface was kind to us and we went straight up the slope rather than zigzagging. Getting to the top, and seeing what lay on the other side, is a moment I'll remember and treasure for the rest of my life. I hadn't expected the view that greeted us, across to Mount Kyffin and to the right, the giant, sparkling motorway of the glacier itself, heading past the Cloudmaker (a mountain named by Shackleton that did indeed seem to have a perpetual puff of cloud at its peak) up to the high plateau itself. We descended after taking a few photographs and worked our way through some rough ice to the glacier's surface. To my surprise, it felt just like navigating over sea ice, scouting for a route and stepping over the cracks.
We crossed many crevasses but they were all manageable, thanks in part to staying on our skis nearly all day. Most of the open crevasses were one or two feet wide at most, so easy to span with a ski, and the big ones were all filled-in and safely bridged with snow. We've made really good progress and to my absolute surprise, I feel like I'm smitten with the one section of this expedition that I thought would cause me the most fear and dread. It's a magical, magical place, and skiing past landmarks like the Gateway, Mount Hope, the Granite Pillars, Mount Kyffin and seeing the Cloudmaker in the distance makes it feel like I've stepped into the pages of a familiar childhood story book. I'll sign off now as we did nine hours today and I'm pooped, but thank you all for following and commenting, and I hope the photos give a tiny flavour of the reason I'm so full of beans this evening. I'm a lucky, lucky boy.