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.

Going Down (Day 83)

Day 83: S84° 41' 1.07", E167° 0' 16.2"

Duration: 9 Hr

Daily distance: 23.3 Mi

Distance to go: 515.4 Mi

Temperature: -6 °C

Wind chill: -11 °C

Altitude: 4849 Ft

A tough day on the glacier again, and one that I finished rather closer to exhaustion than I would have preferred, as I felt very slow and wobbly for the last thirty minutes. Thankfully it's been tropical weather compared to the plateau, so it's nowhere near as dangerous to dig so deep down here at half the altitude, and we're on blue ice that's essentially crevasse-free and as safe as it gets on the Beardmore.

Interestingly, the surface isn't the polished blue that we crossed on the way up, but now has a uniform layer of frozen snow on it, as you might be able to see in the photo. This means a bit more friction for our sledges, though having the brakes on a touch isn't necessarily a bad thing on the downhill bits.

We were roasting in the tent last night as the sun blazed through its two layers of fabric, and Tarka slept on top of his sleeping bag for the entire night, while I sweltered in mine, unzipped as far as it would go. The weather was glorious as we set off today, almost wind-free and I suspect warmer and sunnier than most of the United States at the moment, but an ominous bank of low grey mist hovered up the glacier to meet us during our second hour, and we found ourselves travelling through a peculiar freezing fog that coated us and our gear with frost and prevented us seeing more than a few metres in any direction. We had to pick our way pretty deliberately and slowly before the fog lifted after about three hours, and while we only had a couple of hours of blue sky before the cloud came back again this afternoon, it's been warm all day.

A few people have pointed out my erroneous claim in yesterday's update that we were the first to descend the Beardmore in more than a century and of course in my addled state I'd totally forgotten that Fiennes and Stroud came this way in the mid-nineties (with nothing more than jury-rigged rope crampons, if my memory of the book is sound!) and also Messner (and possibly Arved Fuchs?). In my defense, I've been so drained that I'm starting to wonder if, now there's hardly any fat left, my leg muscles are in fact starting to burn brain cells as fuel...

A couple of questions:

Q) Chris asks why there are only two of us and not more or less. A) I don't think ALE (our logistics providers, and the people responsible for extricating us if we get into trouble) would let anyone travel this route solo, though I may be proved wrong someday. Personally, despite spending many weeks alone on the Arctic Ocean, I wouldn't have felt at all safe negotiating the Beardmore solo. As for more than two, I considered a three originally, but it didn't work out, and in a way I'm relieved as historically a few trios have fallen apart, becoming two versus one in some situations. Any more than three and you need two tents, so there's a definite division, and the more team members, the more chances of injury or equipment failure. Lastly, of course, you can only move at the pace of the slowest person. Being a two-man team has worked out brilliantly for us so far.

Q) Intrepid asks how the runner repair (to my sledge) is holding up. A) Thankfully, it's rock solid. We'd tried to glue it together a couple of times on the plateau but it kept coming unstuck, so this time we filed down both surfaces with our big EOD Leatherman, and left the back of the sledge in the relative warmth of the porch of our tent to cure overnight. The acid test was descending past Buckley Island yesterday afternoon, and so far it's still in one piece.


# CaninesCashews, January 16th 2014

Hi guys,

Well you are really pushing on over those cracks and crevasses. Hope your ‘brake man’ muscles aren’t too bad by the end of the day.

‘Roasting in the tent’ – not something you would expect to hear on this expedition! Glad to hear the runner repair is holding out too.

When you started talking about brake men my mind instantly made the (somewhat strange) leap to ‘Cool Runnings’ the brilliant late 90’s film with John Candy about the Jamaican bob sled team in the ‘88 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately you don’t really have the ‘comfort’ of being able to jump inside your sledge and hurtle down the Glacier so a bit of a poor comparison really!
Still, a fun film.

Today is also a bit of a landmark on the blog. When I’m not being the arty guy I’m a bit of a numbers guy, and I know that this post is around the 3,000th post on the blog since day one of the expedition. What an incredible response by the online community that has grown up around this, the most extraordinary of journeys.

I am sure I am not alone when I say I feel very privileged to have been able to join hundreds of people from all over the world, in watching, waiting and willing on Ben and Tarka throughout this adventure.

I am pleased that so many people have engaged with this blog. I think Ben’s (and Tarka’s brilliant one off) quite candid and at times beautifully poetic approach to the writing, has drawn people in. Some, who might not normally have stayed engaged with this kind of adventure, have stayed because of the quality of the posts coming from those two little dots on that vast continent.
Keep them coming guys, stay strong and stay safe.


# Richard Pierce, January 16th 2014

Hear, hear. R

# Diane Griffith, January 16th 2014

Very well said, Gav.  I’m definitely one of the people who were drawn to following Ben and Tarka’s excellent adventure due to the quality of the writing and their lovely personalities, not to mention the grade A video posts (the music by Temujin Doran is superb!).  Although I’m sure Ben will be relieved not to have to report on his daily doings once the expedition has concluded, I’m starting to wonder how we’ll all handle the withdrawal symptoms when we no longer have his snippets of grace and wisdom to brighten our days.

# Richard Pierce, January 16th 2014

A cracking post today. I think 2 is the right number. Any odd number wouldn’t work because of the factions element you mention.

Make sure you keep your rations up despite the warm weather, and don’t let yourselves get exhausted on this last dangerous etappe.

Yes, I think Arved and Messner both did the Beardmore. Torsten Richter probably knows more about that than I do.

Off to London now, a trip less arduous physically than yours, but one which always strains me mentally. Maybe I’ll be eating my own brain cells before the end of the day.

Hopefully, today, you go to under 500 miles to go. I hope so.

Stay safe, and God Speed.


# Lydia, January 16th 2014

Hi B&T
What a great blog again today. 
I can only imagine the two of you melting together in your tent as the temperature sores to dizzy heights, I do have a concern that perhaps with the rise in tempreature comes the rise in hummm of you both - I remember someone saying that as you begin to warm up you begin to melt the locked in body fragrances….....
You are making such swift progress it is incredible, keep going, keep stong and above everything stay safe!
Lydia x

# Pavol Timko, January 16th 2014

I love this blog, waiting every morning to get the news. Well done, guys.

You do your hard work alone but thousands of followers are walking with you every day. I imagine all the readers standing on the glacier and watching as you pass by with crampons and sleds squeaking, big crowd silently staring with awe, you are not alone by any means anymore. Keep going, we follow :)

# Ariane, January 16th 2014

It’s true what others have said here—the quality of the writing and the vulnerability expressed has made this blog addictive. In the first month I was only tuning in sporadically but now you’ve become part of my daily ritual.
That said, did this post live up to its steamy title?... Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Steamy in a totally decent, PG-rated way, indeed.


“What would I do?” I said to Pooh,
“If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True,
It isn’t much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. “That’s how it is,” says Pooh.

# Christy, January 16th 2014

Totally true about the writing, I love it when my heroes are real, with real foibles!  This is a truly addicting blog!!

# Janet Stanley , January 16th 2014

Two is definitely better than one (my twin would agree)...or three…glad everything is going well & temps are up, please stay safe :)

# Damian, January 16th 2014

This is my daily digest, thank you gents. I’m glad conditions are favourable, it makes hard days far easier.

All the best,


# Andy Ward, January 16th 2014

For those of you watching the tracker closely today. Ben and Tarka have stopped to do a quick repair on Tarka’s crampon which broke this morning and will be stationary for a few hours. They will continue on as soon as its fixed.

# CaninesCashews, January 16th 2014

Thanks for letting us know Andy - Araldite and duck tape :-)  ?!?

# Susan from Michigan, January 16th 2014

I also look forward to this blog everyday. It is the first thing I read every morning. I can’t wait to see how your day went and I now refer to you as “my boys”. I have my husband interested as well and he will ask me, “how are your boys doing today?” I hope when you both get back you will write a book and publish it with all the pictures you took along the way.  Stay safe and God speed!

# AlisonP, January 16th 2014

Me too to what everyone says! The first thing I do when I wake up every day is to say to my husband, “let’s see how the boys did today!”  Well, I usually kiss him good mornng first but sometimes I just want to get right to the blog!  I have been an armchair mountain climber and polar explorer for my entire life, have read dozens and dozens of books on polar exploration, so I would be following this blog no matter what.  But for sure the beautiful, evocative writing, and the incredible depth of emotion and vulnerably, draws me in so much more.  What an honor and a privelege to be let in this way.  Stay safe, be careful of old man Beardmore.  You’ll be home with w hot shower and a hot cup of sweet tea before long.

# Leo Houlding, January 16th 2014

Looking forward to sharing much Mumm when you get back. Great stuff guys. We’re all behind you.

# Uncle Pete, January 16th 2014

Andy, thanks for elucidating, hope Tarka is able to fashion a strong repair/fix for his crampon - I assume a heavily stressed component on this bit!
What? No bionic claws?
Take care and wait for the glue to set! Best wishes.

# Karen Tynes, January 16th 2014

Are you eating enough? I remember the days you doubled your dinners and felt so much better the next day. Your bodies are have so little fat now, you need the extra calories!

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