The conditions now on my part of the plateau are incredible. An absolutely beautiful day. -29C but you’d hardly be able to tell as skiing away, pulling the sled: soon after starting, I had to open up all the zips on my layers to make sure I didn’t overheat. Even during the breaks, I didn’t need to put on any extra layers as the time sitting down on Sledmund (poor Sledmund!!) helped me cool down!
More uphill climbing today
I still find it tiring; possibly more tiring than it should ideally be. Though yeah, after 56 days… I think I can forgive my body for being a little bit upset with me and tired! I managed 24km today; not much more than yesterday—just less than a kilometre more, with half an hour or so extra skiing: indeed, my pace today was a tiny bit slower than yesterday. At the same time I think there was a bit more uphill climbing today: the last hour or so, Sledmund became heavier and the ice was a little bit more messy, with wannabe sastrugi peeping through! This is generally a sign of a climb as the winds accelerate on the downhills, cutting more into the snow to create features like sastrugi. (Just looked at the degree profile in the route briefing document I was sent! Yes, today was pretty much ALL uphill! Makes me feel a little less bad about my efforts! Haha! Yes it was gradual… but definitely perceptible. At least tomorrow by the looks of it, the climbing should ease.)
Bump into the neighbours?
As I skied I could see another team of three people almost directly to my east. Difficult to judge distances here though I’d say they’re about a mile away. Not sure what route they are doing; most likely just the final degree as those expeditions largely start further east. Difficult to really meet them, though I can see their tent nearby. I wonder if we will eventually bump into each other. It seems a lot of expeditions have passed through this part: you can see the tracks of their sleds and skis in the snow all going towards the Pole like meandering longitudinal lines!
40 miles to go
So yes, I am now at S89 27s, which means that I have 33 more nautical miles (around 40 miles/60km) to go. So so close and truly very exciting! I keep imagining seeing the research base appearing on the horizon… but I still have a lot of skiing to do before that happens!
There also looks to be another challenge…!
I spoke with Antarctic Steve of ALE earlier and apparently there is a flight from the Union Glacier base to Punta Arenas on 14th – weather permitting. Otherwise, the next flight is on the 20th. The problem is that my tickets home are on the 17th! This means I definitely have to get to the Pole by the 13th at the latest to be able to fly back to Union Glacier. I possibly MIGHT have to get there by the 12th… though am awaiting confirmation from the ops team about that, and will have to wait until tomorrow. There are “a lot of moving parts” apparently.
Early start tomorrow
Getting there for the end of the 12th would be a real push. 60km in two days. I’ve managed it before in my normal skiing day, though my body was much happier back then! So just in case, I am going to start out very early for a longer day tomorrow, to hopefully cut that distance in half. Then I’ll be well placed for a final push on the 12th. If they end up telling me I can arrive later, then no problem – I’d be able to take it easier on the 12th and enjoy it more. At least at the Pole I won’t have to worry about cooking or anything, as ALE have a base there where I’ll be able to relax! Wish me luck!
Photo: not sure if you will be able to see considering the low resolution of the photos sent through the satellite connection, but in the distance you should hopefully see the tent of the other expedition.
Visit Ben’s blog site to hear Ben’s audio diary from his overnight camp and donation links to Cancer Research UK at www.polarweber.com