kitchen in polar explorer tent snow and ice Antarctica

Day 42 Nothing like a good ol’ whiteout to slow things down…

I hate whiteouts!

After what must have been almost two and a half weeks of gorgeous conditions, I think I was starting to forget how much I hate whiteouts. I guess after so long, one was overdue and I think I have been very lucky with the weather really… but still. I don’t like whiteouts. At all.

Okay, they’re challenging… trying to navigate through them… and that surreal feeling of going through limbo. But no, they’re not fun!

Top three toughest day

I would say that while the first hour of today was good—it was cloudy but good visibility—after the clouds all closed in, the day transformed to become one of the top three toughest days until now. The climbing became more pronounced as the gradient increased. With the increased gradient the sastrugi became more frequent… well it felt like they did as it seemed like I was hitting every sastrugi possible in the whiteness! It was snowing. Lightly at least, but still snowing. There was no wind, so I couldn’t navigate using that; no shadows so that wasn’t a navigation option either. It’s hard to keep looking at the watch to see the heading so… I had to get the compass mount out once more and use that again; much to my neck’s disappointment! Oh and yea, my goggles kept on fogging and for the first time in over 40 days of skiing, I started to get chaffing problems, just to add to the general pain!

Difficult day

I was tempted to call it a day half way through, like I did the last whiteout. But then, the sastrugi wasn’t quite so bad for me to do this. The snow was not too deep. My body still felt okay. And I have my minimum 14 nautical mile goal. Sure I could take a rest day but that would mean another a day until I get to the Pole. And despite opting to take a resupply once I get to S88, I still have only so many rations! Also, travelling through whiteouts is yes, a challenge, who knows how many whiteouts there will be – I can’t just take rest days because I don’t like it! It wasn’t dangerous for me; just… tiring. And soul destroying!

I managed 14nm!

I could have gone a little further but I took too long to give into the inevitable and put my compass mount back on. Before I did that, my ski track must have looked like that of a drunkard, straying off in random directions! Only thankful that I didn’t head north!

So on the whole, despite the utter joylessness of today, am pleased with the progress. I managed my minimum distance in horrible conditions, which bodes well for when the weather improves again. And it has already started to improve with the sun now out as I write this! Typical!

Photo: getting food ready for tonight and for the day’s travel tomorrow

Ear worm if day: nothing much an afraid, too busy trying not to fall over on the invisible sastrugi! If anything it was The Kids Aren’t Alright on repeat again!

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Ben Weber resting in tent on Antarctica expedition

Day 41 Continued good progress

32.35km day – a record distance

Not much to really say about today except that it was great! Good solid progress – I know I have done one other day with around 32km (things really do blur altogether here!!), and I think I just beat that with 32.35km, so a new personal best so far!!

Great conditions

The conditions… really couldn’t get much better. Not too cold, extremely calm, great visibility… while there is the odd sastrugi patch and area of messy ice, on the whole the terrain is pretty flat and the climb is imperceptible. I am just about at 1,900m so less than 900m below the plateau (Though it starts to level out at around 2,700m). I am sure there will be much harder days ahead – the continent is lulling me into a false sense of security! Heheh! But… I have to enjoy it while it lasts and get in the miles while I can, to compensate for the days ahead when it won’t be so straightforward and the going will be much slower.

Food and body weight

I am eating around 6,300kcal a day though I think am a fair bit thinner than when I started; my base layers all seem a bit loose!! Difficult to say how much weight I might have lost – maybe around 10kg over the last 41 days? Maybe a little less; not sure! Sledmund has lost at least 55kg!

Earworm and Housekeeping

Ear worms of day: Thanks to my family… a good Abba medley of various songs; Waterloo especially!

Photo: pretty tired after today and last few days of churning out 29-32km… just chilling in the mess of the tent!

Detailed daily data

For anyone interested, here are the coordinates of where I have camped since starting, and estimated positions (latitude only as longitude not too important after the crevasses of the 87th degree) based on an average daily distance of 14 nautical miles and no days off… This is a conservative estimate as over the last week since leaving Thiel Corner – and even in the days before then – I have been doing between 15-17 nautical miles a day. So hopefully I will be able to arrive at the Pole before the 9th… I am being cautious though as not sure about the sastrugi and climbing ahead and as I might have mentioned in an earlier post, the snow on the plateau is meant to be harder to ski through because of the colder conditions.

Accelerating pace

Obviously progress is much better shown on the map on the website! But, you can see from the list how I took ages in the 80th degree, when the sled was at its heaviest, with the climbing at its steepest and I developed my injury. Though then you can see how have managed to gradually accelerate. Hopefully this will continue!

My ETA at the Pole is now 10th January, this assumes 12 NM progress each day.

Camp locations

1: 16 November (start): S79 57.3605 / W079 45.2434

1: 16 November (camp): S79 58.7272 / W079 55.3000

2: 17 Nov: S80 03.8512 / W080 17.7000

3: 18 Nov: S80 10.8192 / W080 33.5942

4: 19 Nov: S80 19.1669 / W080 37.5180

5: 20 Nov: S80 23.7401 / W080 25.7401

6: 21 Nov: no movement

7: 22 Nov: S80 31.0280 / W080 26.2832

8: 23 November: no movement

9: 24 Nov: S80 36.2744 / W080 12.9014

10 25 Nov: no movement

11 26 Nov: S80 42.8344 / W080 00.9190

12: 27 Nov: S80 51.8977 / W079 59.8794

13: 28 Nov: S81 02.2539 / W079 57.3339

14: 29 Nov: S81 11.3942 / W079 54.9472

15: 30 Nov: S81 21.5968 / W079 57.1149

16: 1 Dec: no movement

17: 2 Dec: S81 32.4792 / W080 02.8163

18: 3 Dec: S81 43.2655 / W080 00.8545

19: 4 Dec: S81 53.2450 / W080 22.8012

20: 5 Dec: S82 01.3987 / W080 12.2678

21: 6 Dec: S82 15.7532 / W080 19.1214

22: 7 Dec: S82 27.7007 / W080 28.2671

23: 8 Dec: S82 41.994 / W080 30.2901

24: 9 Dec: S82 57.780 / W080 25.5373

25: 10 Dec: S83 11.5089 / W080 15.5354

26: 11 Dec: S83 14.5615 / W080 17.4755

27: 12 Dec: S83 24.9548 / W080 27.8904

28: 13 Dec: S83 38.1913 / W080 31.5436

29: 14 Dec: S83 52.4660 / W080 37.0228

30: 15 Dec: S84 06.1782 / W080 27.0035

31: 16 Dec: S84 21.6411 / W080 33.2581

32: 17 Dec: S84 35.8453 / W080 47.2211

33: 18 Dec: S84 50.1908 / W080 35.0597

34: 19 Dec: S85 04.4033 / W080 45.7878

35: 20 Dec: no movement

36: 21 Dec: S85 21.0401 / W080 55.649

37: 22 Dec: S85 36.0484 / W080 46.4073

38: 23 Dec: S85 51.3874 / W081 01.3888

39: 24 Dec: S86 07.6672 / W081 13.1764

40: 25 Dec: S86 23.8690 / W081 38.7422

41: 26 Dec: S86 40.8952 / W081 43.9371

Estimated positions (south) based on 14nm/day:

42: 27 Dec: S86 54

43: 28 Dec: S87 09

44: 29 Dec: S87 23

45: 30 Dec: S87 37

46: 31 Dec: S87 51

47: 1 Jan: S88 05

48: 2 Jan: S88 19

49: 3 Jan: S88 33

50: 4 Jan: S88 47

51: 5 Jan: S89 01

52: 6 Jan: S89 15

53: 7 Jan: S89 29

54: 8 Jan: S89 43

55: 9 Jan: S89 57

56: 10 Jan: S90

Santa Claus heads south

Day 40 A Christmas cracker!

Thanks for your messages

It was lovely receiving all your Christmas messages – thank you again for your support. As I say, I am alone here but I definitely don’t feel alone with all of your help and thoughts.

Climbing continues

The day – my first white Christmas for a long time! – was pretty similar to the last few days in terms of travelling. Another 31km done and am almost half way through the 86th degree! Great conditions until the end of the day when it started to cloud over — I suppose the blue skies and sun had to end some time! The climbing has continued; I am now at 1,800m above sea level, less than 1,000m lower than the plateau. The sastrugi has generally been in patches: many parts have been incredibly smooth and flat but then suddenly you get to a mini sastrugi field near the top of a climb. Again, I have been very thankful for the good visibility, as there have been some more monstrugi in those fields!!


Navigating has become a little trickier with the sastrugi considering how they have disappeared for much of the time. Though with the sun out, I have been able to use my shadow; remembering that the sun moves 15 degrees east-to-west and back again (depending on time of day) each hour.

Wonderful Christmas

But anyway! Am going to get some sleep now. As I say, I good you all had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoyed the food, friends, family and festivities!

Ear worms of day: another suggestion my sister Sigrid- Hall of the mountain king (lived listening to that when younger (and still do!!!)) and more Meatloaf mixes!

Photos: my Christmas cracker and Santa’s South Pole helper!!!

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Ben Weber polar expedition in tent Antarctica

Day 35 A rest day! Time to recharge the batteries

A day to recharge

Yeah, I have been thinking about it for a while now and I think my body has needed it, but I decided to take a day to rest today. Woke up pretty tired this morning and the wind was pretty strong, so figured that now was as good a time as any. Still… I felt a bit guilty this afternoon as the weather improved. Over the last few hours there have been absolutely gorgeous conditions, and I can’t help but think about the miles I could have put in… But yeah, my body is grateful for the rest having been on the go almost nonstop for the last 17 days. The only break I have had was that day when I stopped after 6km in those draining snowy whiteout conditions.

So, some sleep, listening to an audio book, and just relaxing really. Time to reflect over the last 35 days as well!

Half Way reflections

On the whole, am happy the way things have gone. Food-wise it has been good. although I wish I brought more cookies and hot chocolate! So nice to have at end of day but of course, I have to ration myself! As I say, all of my dehydrated foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner were made by Expedition Foods, and have been great. I might have gotten too many fish and potato meals from them though. Their other meals like mushroom risotto, vegetable stir fry and Spag Bol have been amazing! Too late to make changes here though!

Good kit – Kitchen box falling apart

My neck and shoulders definitely slowed me down a lot in the first 15 days or so. I am thankful that the painkillers have been able to make things manageable. The equipment has generally been good. A few bits and pieces… the kitchen box on its last legs just isn’t sturdy enough. Hopefully it’ll last the rest of the journey though I wouldn’t bet on it! My harness… is fine though the compass mount – which I use to keep the compass held out in front of me so I don’t have to hold it with my hands – is way too fiddly. It can be a real hassle to put it on each morning, and it’s difficult to know if and when the compass is flat and accurate! It is also too low and I have to strain my neck to look down at it… which doesn’t help my injury.

Navigating by the elements

At the same time I have been able to use the wind and the sastrugi to help with navigation. Really have been pleased the way this has gone. Over the last few days I have hardly had to look at the compass or even the GPS to know that I was going the right direction, just my angle on the sastrugi which has constantly been aligned from the south south west to north north east. Obviously I do occasionally check in my breaks and made minor adjustments but it has all been good.

Daily distance targets

I have so been pleased that despite the pain I have been able to make good progress, and even speed up. I have been setting myself minimum distance targets, trying to get 16km by the lunch break so I set myself up for an afternoon to reach at least 26km. Without going for longer than ten hours (including breaks). And over the second half, while I know it’s going to be tough climbing up another 1,400m to the plateau… through coming large sastrugi fields… I will keep this same approach. Hopefully being able to increase those distances.

So if all goes well, back on the go tomorrow, and onward to the Pole!

Please support Ben’s chosen charity Cancer Research UK

Visit Ben’s blog site to hear Ben’s audio diary from his overnight camp.

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

Please support Ben’s chosen charity Cancer Research UK

Visit Ben’s blog site to hear Ben’s audio diary from his overnight camp.

Ben Weber in tent in Antarctica

Day 32 Never an easy day, -30c windchill and visualising the journey

Well some days have been less hard than others! But today wasn’t one of them. I just found it tough.

-30c Windchill

It was a little colder today (still not as cold as what it was back in Carrbridge!) at about  -17C, but there was a strong headwind right from the start so the windchill was around -30C. I always get worried about my fingers in conditions like these and I added an extra over-mitten in top of my liner, as well as using the pogies on the ski poles, and that worked okay for the most part. It’s just the breaks when you need to use your hands to eat and you start to cool down, and then taking down and putting up the tent can also be tricky. But no cold injuries, which is always good! The snow wasn’t great either, especially at the start. It did improve for a few hours but there were more soft snow patches and sastrugi towards the end of the day.

A game of numbers

But still, 27km again, so I can’t complain. One of my problems is that I can be very competitive with myself, so in doing 29km yesterday, I want to do it again or better. This can be a bit self-sabotaging, which isn’t great, so I have to force myself to recognise and remember that while not as far as that travelled yesterday, I was still ahead of my daily travel goal. So all’s good! I think I do need a rest day soon though as starting to feel a little drained. Don’t want to waste a good travel day, and a rest day would almost certainly mean that I need to take a resupply… but if so, then so be it!

Looking for Theil Mountains

Half-way through the S84th degree now, so getting near the halfway mark! In the 85th degree we have the Thiel Corner resupply point and the Thiel mountains! Can’t wait to see them; I wander when I will! Will make a change from just this endless expanse of snow and ice in all directions, and I keep looking to the horizon in the hope that I will start making them out! I remember cycling across South America with Natalia and getting towards the Andes at Mendoza in Argentina, with the mountains slowly fading into view – so exciting! I wander what it’ll be like here; whether they will appear above the crest of a climb, or also m gradually fade in.

Visualising the journey

With this, in terms of splitting this journey in my head it’s mainly been by degree. S80 was nice and easy to memorise before starting because of the climb up from Hercules Inlet and passing the various nunataks, the mountains there and the Three Sails mountains. S81-S84 I knew to be pretty desolate, with some more gradual climbing but nothing like mountains by way of eye candy. The extreme sastrugi was unexpected!! S85 and the Thiel mountains… then more desolation but endless climbing together with expected sastrugi fields from the end of S85 until around the start of S88. From then until the Pole, it will be relatively flat though much colder (-30C to -40C) as will be up on the plateau at around 2800m. The snow will be like sawdust up there apparently, because of the cold. Fun!

Ear worms of the day!

Today was a bit strange in terms of the music I was humming and rasping to myself! Had that tune from the climax of For a Few Dollars More, when they have the watches playing that simple tune but then Clint Eastward appears with another watch and it all builds up with the guitar… the trumpet… the full orchestral… brilliant scene!!! Got to love Sergio Leone and Ennio Moriconi! Then, music from the 50s and 60s or around then, with Sam Cooke, Twisting the Night Away and a few other tunes I neither know the names of, nor the names of the artists!

Photo: preparing to go out into the cold!

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tent and sled on Antarctica snow and ice blue skies

Day 31 An unexpectedly decent day after hit the snooze button

Hit the Snooze button

I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag today. I really didn’t. The pain in my neck and left shoulder wasn’t great and I just felt a bit tired. The 5am alarm went and was dismissed pretty quickly. The 6am alarm insisted on returning as I pressed the snooze button, so by 6.30am I finally got out of the bag. Still, with a heavy heart, a couple of hours later, I found myself packing up the tent. The pain being annoyingly persistent and making me feel just miserable, wishing I could have a rest day. While I had that half day off a few days ago, it has been a while since I had a proper rest.

Yet, it turned into my second-best day, distance-wise, with 29km.

Better conditions

Fortunately the painkillers began to take effect within the first hour of skiing. At the same time, the weather was pretty nice. Light high cloud, but nothing affecting visibility. And the wind was nice and calm as well, more like a breeze. More importantly, the snow was much better then yesterday, when it was like skiing on sawdust. And… incredible as it may sound… it was almost flat! With just the occasional sastrugi! Reaching lunch completing 16km was already a surprise, so it was great being able to maintain and even increase the pace in the afternoon sessions. In the last hour or two, the clouds descended and it became semi-whiteout, but fortunately not too many obstacles to avoid! I was still happy to put up the tent though and get some food in me!

Jokes, songs and messages – please keep them coming

I have said in my audio posts to the map how much I really appreciate all the support and comments from everyone, but just wanted to say that here! Thank you all so much for your wishes, jokes, thoughts and songs! Some great songs to get in my head – Our House (thanks Simon!); definitely a great one! Love Big Wheel by Massive Attack as well (thanks Mark!) and the others (though much to my shame, I don’t know how See Emily Play goes… i know, terrible!! (Sorry JoJo!)

As I say, it’s tough here; the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, so your support means so much to me and is helping me go on. Sorry I can’t reply to everything and everyone in my map audio messages and blog posts; and sorry there can be delays before being able to respond, but please keep it all coming!!


Song of the day

Ear worm of the day… credit to Simon for the mention..! Our House! (Inspiring the photo for today’s post… my house in the middle of uhmmm nowhere!) oh and yes little China girl and Echoes still made guest appearances but it was nice to have something different as well!

Please support Ben’s chosen charity Cancer Research UK

Visit Ben’s blog site to hear Ben’s audio diary from his overnight camp.

Polar explorer face visor sitting on ice and snow

Day 24 Breaking barriers! Another record distance 30.2km

Great day!

So so very happy!!! Really incredibly delighted! With the context of the neck pain issues, and how I was starting to lose confidence in being able to do this; starting to consider the options… the last few consecutive days of really good distances have massively improved confidence. The pain is much more manageable now; how much of that is to the meds or to my body’s recovery is moot, but I still feel I need to take the painkillers and they definitely help.

Great Weather conditions

At the same time, the weather the last few days has been pretty spectacular. Great visibility which really helped when going through that massive sastrugi field today, and in navigating around the regular sastrugi on the other days! Today was perfect though. Its been really very still, warm (-7C, no wind chill. I  actually missed a little bit of a breeze as that helps stop you overheating and sweating.  Rust me I am definitely not complaining!! All accompanied by clear blue skies. Just beautiful. There were large sastrugi patches, but easily navigable.

30km on the cards

By lunch time, I had managed 17km – a good feeling. I would have been happy with that distance in a full day at the start!! I thought it might be possible to get to 30km but thought 29km was more realistic as my afternoon sessions are shorter. So, as I felt myself able to maintain the pace over the next four sessions. I cheered out loud as I hit the 30km mark 15 minutes before my hard stop time. I treated myself to camping 10 minutes early!!!

(Photo – it might be warm but you can see from the ice on the mask attached to the goggles that it still is a little chilly!)

Sleeping arrangements

With all the chores out of the way at the end of the day; messages sent and calls made. I forgot to say yesterday that I need to make sure the sat phone and other devices are warm before I use them. Otherwise the batteries quickly die in the cold. Ice is melted, water bottles filled and solar panels setup. Then it’s time to sleep.

It’s generally pretty warm in the tent, especially with the 24 hours of sunlight. But when there are whiteouts, it can get cold. With that it’s best not getting too hot in the sleeping bag as you don’t want to sweat in the bag. The moisture gets into the fabric and when it is colder, doesn’t evaporate.

I always make sure that I have my pee bottle nearby! Saves having to get up completely when you need to go in the night. When you do need to go, you should go rather than try holding it in! If you hold it in, your body burns more calories, and every calorie here is precious!!)

Slow puncture!

I keep my sleeping bag, foam mattress and air mattress in an Arctic bedding bag, which keeps everything nicely together. In the morning I can just zip it all up and put on top of the sled, securing using the sled straps. Then it’s easy to bring it all into the tent in the evening. My only problem now is that the air mattress has an annoying slow puncture that I have tried again and again to find. All to no avail. So have just about given up hope with that. Fortunately with the insulated tent floor under the foam mattress, I don’t get cold. Am just not as comfortable as I should be.

Please support Ben’s chosen charity Cancer Research UK

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Ben Weber on Antarctic ice in full polar gear

Day 23 A full day, 27.5km and home cooking

I was glad I camped where I did last night! As I left off this morning it took another hour of skiing for the sastrugi to start calming down and reducing to more normal proportions. Still plenty of it mind you, just the nightmares of the sastrugi fields from yesterday have traumatised me! In the first hour of skiing, I didn’t see any decent spot for a tent either, and that was with good visibility.

Distance on the clock

Though the sastrugi did eventually calm down, and it was so nice to have some space to ski through without having to work out a way through a labyrinth! Was able to get some distance on the clock again which was nice (though again, yesterday definitely was not bad!!), and managed another 27.5km. It’s so good now, getting distances above my planned average of 24km per day. It’s also good to be consistent with these distances – let’s me know that my body is being able to take it and am not completely fatiguing myself!

Playing Catch-up

Obviously the first days climbing up from Hercules Inlet with a full sled were slow, and I was slowed by the pain in the neck and shoulders. So I have a lot to catch up on. The pain is definitely much more manageable now. I slept tonight without waking up with spasms, and the painkillers kept it all in check while skiing over the last days since the resupply. Fingers crossed it will all keep improving and I will be able to manage even better distances as the sled gets lighter.

Evening routine

With the tent setup, one of the first things I do is light the stove in the vestibule. As I say, I cook inside the tent – no way can do this outside – but make sure it is well ventilated. From the day’s skiing I will have in general two litres of hot water in thermos flasks remaining: I always use one of these to out straight in the kettle for melting snow. It is much more fuel efficient for the stove to heat water with snow added rather than just snow and ice. The other litre I use for making a well deserved hot chocolate! And a protein recovery shake, and just a cup of water with the remaining.

While waiting for the snow to melt, I change into some tent gear; a light down vest and insulted trousers and booties. I get the food i need from the food bag (dinner, breakfast and the snacks/lunch for the next day’s travel), and put the food bag back outside the tent. And I start checking my position and checking comms for messages. I need to see what needs charging and also setup the solar panels inside the tent to recharge my main power bank (I have two x 26,500amp batteries, one 40w panel and one 30w). I never thought but yes they do work well in the tent. I previously always put them on the sled, but it’s good this way as the batteries are warmer as they are recharged rather than ice cold (very slow).

Melting snow

With water boiling, I fill a flask with my evening meal with hot water, to hydrate it. I also fill the two thermoses again. More snow into the kettle which I use to refill my Nalgene bottles, but I don’t wait until it’s hot: once the snow is melted I fill up the Nalgenes and drink the excess. Basically the water in the nalgenes will need to be reheated to boiling in the morning, so they stay hot enough for me to drink during the day (and not freeze by the end!). No point in boiling them in the evening and again in the morning. Melting the snow like this just makes morning that little bit quicker and easier.

That’s pretty much it. Of course I then write messages, check in with ALE, call the map, and write the blog… but that’s about it! But still, even with sleeping there are are more considerations..!

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ski poles and skis on Antarctic snow

Day 20 A day of two halves

At moments like this, it really is important to focus on the positives. Am half sitting, half lying in the tent, still breathing a bit heavily… it was ultimately a good day, but it has taken me some time to be able to describe it like that.

The day started off brilliantly. Not much pain, really great progress. 14km to the coordinates they gave me for the medical resupply location, in just over 4 hours. Really very happy!

But!  Oh yes, there is always the but!

med pick up point location error

When I got to the location, there was nothing there. I circled around a couple of times but nothing. Had to call in – and really I hate doing that as fingers get cold so quickly – to see what had happened. They had realised that they had given me the wrong coordinates. The actual location of the drop was 7km directly east of where I was. Not even a little further south. So that effectively meant 7km of wasted distance as not getting any closer to the Pole over it.

So frustrating! I managed to refrain from uttering words that immediately cropped into my head. For the next couple of hours, it was a good job that there was nobody around me for miles. After going so well, then to find that they sent me to the wrong place going directly east also meant talking the sastrugi from side-on – ie on their vertical sides. They did often reach up to a meter tall meaning I had to go around a lot of them. I did fall over once though, but nothing serious.

And then the pain started to get worse. Maybe it was the increased tension and frustration causing me to tighten up. But my pace started to reduce.

Eventually I managed to get to the actual location. All a bit slow, double checking the GPS again and again as I got closer. Especially as I couldn’t see the flag until I got to within 500metres. But I managed okay. It was nice to have the new meds. I did another few kilometres after the collection. This brought my total distance up to 24.35km… which brings me why I am describing it as a good day…

good distance despite frustrating detour

Last night I spoke with Steve Jones (Antarctic Steve!). Steve is the expeditions manager at ALE. He is super friendly and helpful, and he had been my main contact with ALE. I asked him what might be expected distance-wise of an expedition in my location. His reply was a little disheartening: “if fully fit, would expect 13 nautical miles” – 25km… and I have only been going 20-21km. So, to get to 24.35km total… with all the stress and the decreasing pace after the mistake in location Ultimately it’s a confidence booster in that I can see I am capable of those distances, despite not being fully fit. I am sure that had it but been for this issue I would have managed at least 26km today. So, despite my initial despair and the frustration of lost time and all that exertion, yes, it was a good day. I now have more meds, but I was able to get some good mileage in for a while even without any of them. So, time to put all that behind me, and move onwards. And southwards!

yesterdays thunderous roar explained

Oh, Antarctic Steve said that the strange roar yesterday sounded like must have been a collapse of a layer in the snow pack. Contacted the other teams near to me and they all felt it as well. Terrifying for half a second but apparently does occasionally happen and you get used to them..!

Advent calendar goody for the day: Borghetti! Yum yum yum!

Photo – the resupply point. Second time lucky!

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polar explorer ben weber in Antarctic tent

Day 19 Deafening wind, 20km day and music debate

Strange beginnings, deafening roar 20km and the Killers as music debate of the day and live opening of Advent Calendar on audio diary!

Another day and another 20km done! It was a good but, as always, tiring day though the conditions were good. Clear sky with a stiff head wind. I had to adjust my course to head more SSW as ALE have left my medical resupply at S82 00.11 W080 35.09, so anyone looking at progress on the map will see how I changed direction today.

But that’s not the strange part… as I was getting ready in the morning, it was pretty windy and there’s that normal sound. The tent flapping, the howling of the wind over the snow and ice. All normal. Suddenly though there was this quickly increasing roar, getting louder and coming towards the tent. It passed like a jet fighter, so quickly and it was gone. Rolled away. The ice literally shifted as the wave hit. Very bizarre and a bit disconcerting! Maybe there was some shear of ice somewhere – I know how vibrations can travel hundreds of miles through the ice. Maybe it was a katabatic wind or something. I have no idea! Nothing like that has happened since.

But aside from that the day was pretty much uneventful! The winds have died down now. The sun is out so the tent is like a greenhouse again – can’t complain! Going to open the advent calendar after I have eaten – will open it live on my audio post to the map! Haha! As Eden said in a comment on Facebook, chocolate and alcohol… always good! Difficult to control myself and not eat them all at the same time!

West hills by the killers – debate

Music of the day that was in my head: West Hills by the Killers. Brilliant song on a brilliant album. Very different from their other albums. Especially the more recent ones which had me and several others going off them as they were… I dunno… too pop. Would go to see The Killers in concert just for songs from the album but West Hills is brilliant. Nothing formulaic about it or indeed the entire album. Each has song a connected story with various motifs spanning through these stories. Definitely worth it.

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Steaming feet in tent Antarctica expedition

Day 15 Onwards, southwards and a 20km day!

Putting the pain aside, today was pretty decent. Windy: strong south westerlies so pretty much going into my face. After the first hour of blanket cloud cover it became perfectly clear. The first hour was spent thinking… is it really going to clear? No whiteout today? Really?!?! So it was nice when it cleared up.

I am not a fan of strong winds. Especially headwinds. However it is good when it’s clear (within reason!!) as you can see the spindrift blowing across the surface of the snow. Nice for navigating together with your shadow and compass. So, 20km in these conditions, and it feels like close to half way through the 81st degree already after the labour of 80 degrees south!

steamy feet

I was a bit sweaty by the time I camped though, which isn’t good. I need to be careful with this. If clothes get wet because of sweat then you get colder quicker once you stop moving. In the mantra of my polar instructors: if you sweat, you die! At least when the sun is out here it’s warmer in the tent, which helps dry things out afterwards, but still.

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Antarctic explorer on Antarctic ice

Day 14 Another whiteout and Cottage Pie for diner


It started off okay, with stiff winds and a bit cloudy. However within an hour, the Antarctic clouds descended and it was just skiing through a whiteout from then on. Tough but okay progress, another 18km down.  Unfortunately though… and I am so sorry to come back to this… the pain in my neck and shoulders is becoming… well, a pain in the neck! (Again am sorry if I made that joke before… I probably have but ah well, I’m all by myself so you’ll have to forgive me!!) It’s all a bit demoralising. While I try to tolerate it and put up with it, it’s just hard having to be careful with everything I do lest I cause a spasm of pain to ripple through me. Tiring!

cottage pie for diner

So, a short post today. Have just eaten and taken a painkiller which has helped a little. A nice cottage pie for dinner! Just need to sort out the bedding and will try get some sleep. Sounds like the wind is picking up and it’s snowing again, just to make tomorrow even tougher! I am sure looking down at my compass which is on a harness mount in front of me isn’t helping the neck! Also, in whiteouts really need to pay attention to the tips of the skis, in case coming up to any sastrugi or other obstacles that only become visible when you hit them!

wind tapes on ski poles

In today’s image the wind tapes on ben’s ski poles are blowing horizontal giving an indication of Antarctic wind strength.

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Sled and ski poles in the Antarctic snow

Day 13 81 degrees South and a record 20km day.

A hard but rewarding day. This is really a nice landmark to reach! I started off at S80 degrees, and had been slow and literally tortured progress. Sometimes it has just been so hard and undermining the confidence with the pain and the enforced rest days. The neck pain remains with the number of painkillers left in the kit going down quite a lot! I had to take one tonight; would have liked to have taken two but have to ration myself. But anyway, back to the point… the landmark! Feels really great to make it this far. I have to travel 10 degrees in total, so there is plenty more to do. The first degree is so hard with all the climbing up from sea level and avoiding all the crevasse fields. It was good to do it today with another personal record and a daily distance of 20km travelled! Super happy with that. Hopefully will be able to really start speeding up over the next degrees and get those miles in.

Today started off well. I did more than 3km in the first hour but then it clouded over and it seemed to get steeper. It was hard to see all the fresh snow patches. I called the snow puddles yesterday but that doesn’t do them justice. Today it was more like snow swamp!! These conditions slowed everything down. In some of the patches I would sink down at least a foot into the snow even with the skis on. Then dragging the sled through that. Oh, and the patches were so deep they would often hide the hardened compact sastrugi beneath. I’d end up running into them, losing balance and taking the occasional tumble! Fun!

Sir sledmond hillary

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. Sir Sledmond definitely needs to go on a diet! I guess around 13 days have gone so he’s probably lost around 17kg or so, which helps. 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!

Please support Ben’s chosen charity Cancer Research UK

Visit Ben’s blog site to hear Ben’s audio diary from his overnight camp.