Polar sled being packed on Antarctic ice and snow

Day 33 If only all days could be like this!

Not the furthest distance covered, with just 27.5km travelled today, but it was a good day.

Spindrift Snow

I was late out if my sleeping bag again. The winds over “night” has brought in a lot of spindrift that had submerged Sledmund. They also covered all the tent pegs and snow flaps with snow, which took a lot longer than normal to clear off. It meant I was packed up and ready to go at 9:15am as opposed to my normal 8.30am start.

Seeing Australian Team

But at least the sun was out and there wasn’t that much of a wind anymore. No strong headwind and spindrift like yesterday. The snow was generally pretty good as well; quite compact, some sastrugi but easily navigable. After a couple of hours, I looked east (to my left) and could see the team of six Australians who started the day after me from Hercules inlet. They are attempting a full crossing, but as with me they have been delayed by the conditions and ailments. I tried to angle southwestwards so we could meet, but they were too far east and that would have been too much of a detour and off route. Ah well!

Theil Mountains

I still cannot see the Thiel mountains, though hopefully I will tomorrow. I did see a nunatak to my west; I think it was the Sonntag Nunatak, which was a nice surprise, but it was too far to really take any pictures. Definitely more signs of progression though! So now, just about to head into the sleeping bag. Provisional forecast for next 2-3 days is similar to today though wind might be a bit stronger. We shall see!

Sir Sledmund Hilary

A word about Sir Sledmund Hillary the Sled! A sturdy steed! He’s 210cm long and around 50cm wide in the middle and 40cm deep. As a result he has a lot of carrying capacity. Without anything in, he’s 9kg or so. At the start of this journey, including the weight of my daily water supplies (I melt snow every day for water) and gas, it was around 135kg. The sled is designed to effectively float over the snow patches… which I guess it does, but it’s still tough!! Sledmund has been around the world already! Made by Icetrek in Australia, I picked him up in Svalbard. Of course he came back with me to Scotland before flying over to Chile and now Antarctica. A well-travelled Sled! Hopefully we’ll make it to the Pole together… it’s a love hate relationship really. Sometimes I am cursing him and the way I have to really push myself to pull him over obstacles. However at the end of the day he’s a loyal Sled! Arise, Sir Sledmund!

Daily Packing Routine

At the end of every day I have to take everything I need from Sledmund into the tent and then repack everything again in the morning as I leave. It’s getting a little easier now that Sledmund is lighter and there is more space inside. Must be around 45kg lighter by now, at least (he’s been on quite a diet!!!), and three of the main food ration bags have gone.

The general principle is to keep the sled as light as possible at the front. This, so it does not nose dive into snow or a sastrugi rut. Heavier stuff is generally packed in the middle to rear of my friend Sledmond.

Kitchen Box

I have a kitchen box in which I keep my kettle, stove, and bags of hot chocolate and protein powder; plus other bits and pieces. It’s falling to pieces and held together by duct tape at the moment – not sure if it will last the full journey, but it’s done well to reach over 30 days!

Anyway, that goes towards the back of the sled, with fuel cans behind it. The solar panels and advent calendar go on top. In the middle comes the heavier stuff; the large food ration bags. Now there are really just over one and a half of them. My electronics bag and general tent gear bag is next. And to the front… the lighter items; bags for different types of clothing like underwear, base and mid layers; balaclavas, gloves and hats; and other such things. The drone is there as well but I haven’t used it; it’s just so tricky in the cold with my fingers; batteries (of phone, drone and control unit) and weather. Will see if will use it or not!! Once the tent is down, I put it on top of everything, with my backup skis either side.

Closing everything up

On closing everything up, I have a large long bag that contains my sleeping system (thermarest and sleeping bag), and that as special compartments on top where I can put my two Nalgene bottles and food flask for easy access, and my large down jacket together with the two thermos bottles. I strap this down on top of the main sled cover and that’s it… ready to go!

Ear worm of day… I wish I could say it was something different from yesterday but much as I tried… I still had Twisting the Night Away and Lets Twist Again, together with the music from For a Few Dollars More! Sorry! I guess they are good to hum and to ski to! Still, keep your suggestions coming!

Photo – Packing sledmund

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Visit Ben’s blog site to hear Ben’s audio diary from his overnight camp. https://polarweber.com/