Section 02. Martin Hills to Pagano Nunatak. 82-84 Degrees South
080. Crossing the 82nd Degree and heading south in good conditions
081. Dinner in bed. A mug of potato and fish stew with a litre of hot chocolate. In the periphery are drying clothes and solar chargers.
082. Having my snack and litre of hot chocolate sitting on my pulk in the sun. Despite appearances it was still minus 12.
Section 01. Hercules Inlet to Martin Hills. 80-82 Degrees South
004. Section 01 Map. Hercules Inlet to Martin Hills. 80-82 Degrees South
035. The Twin Otter on the ice runway having disgorged me and all my equipment.
036. Heading south from the plane so it could take off a return to Union Glacier
037. The Patriot Hills were about 20 km to the SW and were a great directional marker to head towards as I crossed the frozen inlet to the start of the climb.
038. The tent set up in the sun at the end of my first day. It was cold, perhaps minus 10 outside but warm in the tent with the tremendous solar gain.
039. My kitchen is basically to melt water to hydrate meals and make hot drinks. I would do it all in the evening to save the faff in the morning as the thermoses were so good.
040. Leaving camp in the morning and looking over to the Patriot Hills which I would soon leave behind as I veered more to the south. ?
041. Hauling the 136 kg pulk up the slope between Fudgie Nunatak and the Pirrit Hills over rougher ground. it was hot work under the constant sun.
042. My camp on at the end of Day 02 with the Pirrit Hills in the background. Once inside the tent I could almost lounge around in underwear such was the solar gain.
043. A high east facing cirque in the Patriot Hills whose glacier drained onto the icesheet
044. My tent at the end of the day with the Three Sails barely visible as 3 dots on the horizon above the vestibule.
045. Looking from my campsite across the icesheet to another range in the Patriot Hills which had dominated all 21 km today.
046. After getting fried yesterday I was taking no chances with the sun today. Notice despite the sun there was still frost on by jacket.
047. Looking over my pulk to the distant Patriot Hills. The poggies on my ski poles were very useful. As was the ribbon which showed wind direction and helped with navigation.
048. A zoomed in shot to one of the biggest massifs in the Patriot Hills.
049. The graceful Three Sails which I camped near. It might be the last bit of land I pass for a while.
050. Putting the goggles on was a revelation as the vision was so clear and the face protection attached to the underside of them was a godsend.
051. A last lingering look at the magnificent Patriot Hills before I dissapear into an ocean of ice. ?
052. The pulk make a great seat. At the far end I have a pizza box of drinking chocolate bottles to sit on and wash down my lunch. Note the wind ribbon on the ski pole for wind direction indication.
053. The two types of skin I use. The full length on the left and the short skins on the right. The latter are faster but often don’t provide the traction I need. ?
054. Having lunch and looking across the vast frozen ocean of ice with very little features on it. ?
055. A last look at the now distant Patriot hills before they disappear behind the curve of the glacier or into the haze. I will be sad to see them go as they have been my only companion in the last week.
056. Lunch on my pulk on Day 07. The mountains of the Patriot Hills and indeed all the Ellsworth Mountains were all beyond the horizon now save for a few distant tops.
057. Melting snow in the tent on the reliable but noisy MSR XGK 11 stove. I still use my trusty 40-year-old Witco spade from Norway. It is heavier than its modern carbon fibre equivalents but it has never let me down.
058. Hanging all the undergarments, gloves, and hat in the tent to dry at the end of each day. Without the solar gain of the tent, enhanced by its yellow colour, the expedition would be a damp, frozen misery.
059. It was quite windy in the morning and cold without much sun. The spindrift was lashing the south end of the tent.
060. The headgear is important. I have a hat on then googles over this. At the bottom of the googles is a flap sewn on to protect the nose and upper lip. Then a wool under jacket zipped up to protect the bottom lip and this also has a hood. Finally, a goretex jacket with a hood and a small ruff covers everything.
061. Disrobing all the head gear in the sanctuary of the tent. Often the tent was so bright I would need sunglasses inside it!
062. My tent, its south end well battened down against the south wind. I may well spend 48 hours here.
063. Pierre came skiing past my tent late afternoon. He continued for a few hours I think into the wind. He seemed a very strong and experienced skier despite his young years.
064. The tent on the windy morning was covered in spindrift and had to be dug out to all what little sun there was to heat the inside.
065. The Office. I usually write the blog from my sleeping bag with the thermarest backrest up after the evening meal.
066. The anonymous skier went past my tent at a distance in the morning hoping to reach the south pole in a noteworthy time.
067. The distant Moreland Nunatak is about 50 km to the west of the trail and stood out proud from the ice sheet. ?
068. The refreshment cabinet with hot water to rehydrate the meal and hot chocolate to drink.
069. A selfie with the racing mask on. It is almost invisible under the goggles with the nose/cheek flap attached.
070 A brief chance encounter with Al and Dave on the ice. Two hard as nails ex marines.
071. Al was pulling two pulks. The small one at the back followed the main one like duckling follows a mother
072. The first task in my tent after pitching is to dig the hole for my feet and then boil water in the Robens Kettle. The plate hanger spring on the kettle lid is to hold it in place so the rim does not get squashed into an oval.
073. Some of the snow surface today was quite lumpy. I am not sure if it was “skarve heavy” or “sastrugi lite”
074. The head gear for a windy day involves a breathing mask, goggles and a ruff on the jacket to create a microclimate round the face.
075. The curious halo and the repeat suns in a ring around the whole sky. The halo is here but the rings of sun round the sky are out of the picture.?
076. The days breath condenses on my googles mask, my Cold Avenger mask, my jacket and even the ruff. It is not cold inside, but one has to be careful not to break anything to remove gear to have a snack.
077. About an hour after the previous photo, I am cosy in my warm tent with damp clothing drying quickly in the 20 degrees in the tent. It is a comfortable home after a day out on the ice.
078. The vast expanse of the frozen icesheet which covers just about everything except for the odd nunatak out here.
079. The daily photo of myself dripping in ice from condensed breath. Sometime many of the garment round my chin are frozen together. The cosy tent warming up in the sun.
The South Pole Preparation
003. From the comfort of my room I spent the summer preparing for the expedition assembling all my equiment and adapting it. It will all have to fit in the pulk (sledge) along with 56 days worth of food and fuel.
009. Pulling a lorry tyre on Portobello Beach. Once the tyre is full of wet sand it clings to the beach like a limpet
010. The daily walk up and over Blackford and Braid Hills in Edinburgh. 9km with 400 metres up and down with a 30kg rucksack is all part of the training
011. Nearly 300,000 calories which I only have 56 days to eat. It all get divided up into daily portion bags and pack into in weekly sack. The 8 sacks will line the bottom of the sledge (pulk)
012. The surfboard bag, the pulk and the protective insert of hard insulation to protect the pulk.
013. The hard insulation insert on the top of the pulk to prevent it getting crushed sideways.
014. The pulk in its surf board bag for the long flight south to the White Continent 4 flights away.
015. 181 kg of Expedition food, equipment, clothing, gadgets and packaging at Santiago Airport between flights.
016. Sacks of food already bagged into ziploc bags waiting to be put into the 1 day ration pack
017. The endless task of weighing different ingredients to make up meals and drinks took 3 painstakingly days.
018. A days withstood of food. From top. Lunch of 1000 calories of Mac and Cheese. Dinner of 1200 calories of Fish and Potato. 1000 calories of snacks of 2 clif bars and 3 litrs of chocolate/milk drink. 1200 calorie breakfast of Whey/milk drink and granola. Finally a packet of vitamins, minerals and cod liver oil. 5000 calories in all and 1.130 kg.
019. After 3 days for measuring and putting food into ziploc bags I finally had all 56 days bagged into day rations and in turn 7 of these into a weeks supply- which is a red bag.
020. On the rustic 30 hour ferry from Punta Arenas South to Puerto Williams I met a few interesting people, not least Hector and Julia who where going to the yacht having berthed it in Puerto Williams as they sailed round the world.
021. The spectacular scenery of the Darwin Cordillera from the relatively sheltered Beagle Channel more than made up for the perfunctory comfort of the ferry.
022. The first day of the Dientes de Navarino circuit. Below is Lago Salto lake where I previously harboured thoughts of having a swim as I camped in the meadows beside it.
023. On the second day of the 4 day circuit I wallowed through deep snow and realized I misjudjed the severity of the hike in November and had to turn round at the first pass.
024. On my last day in Puerto Williams I went up Cerro Carancho with Sonja. it was bad weather at the top. I was now eager to get to Antarctica.
025. At the start of the hike up Monte Tarn the trail passes through rich Nothofagus (Southern Beech) forest. Darwin climbed this hill on the Second Voyage of the Beagle.
026. The summit of Monte Tarn is about 850m. In the mid spring it still had large snowfields on it.
027. A short ride to the west of Punta Arenas was the Magellen National Reserve with its Nothofagus forests and hiking trails which I explored every other day.
028. There are about 8 solo expeditions from either the Inner or Outer Coasts of Antarctica to the South Pole. Here are 4 of them from left James Baxter 1150 km from Hercules Inlet, Sam Cox 2000 Km from Berkner Island, Jacob Myers 1150 km from Hercules Inlet, and Patrick Bernier 1400 km from Berkner Island. We ate together most evenings.
029. At last the boarding pass was issued for the first flight to Antarctica for the ALE crew and the expedition members after a lengthy delay of a week or so caused by inclement weather.
030. Flying over the Heritage Range with the Vinson Massif in the Sentinel Range in the distance. The 2 ranges make up the Ellsworth Mountains.
031. The 757 which ALE charter from Icelandair on the Blue Ice Runway on Union Glacier emptying its load of 60 staff and 4 Expeditioners after the 4-hour flight from Punta Arenas.
032. The grid of staff tents at the Union Glacier Camp. Some 100 staff work here including Doctors, Pilots, Chefs, Polar Guides, Comms operators, Handymen etc. They look after 5-600 guests annually.
033. The heated dining tent at Union Glacier camp. There are 2 such tents one for the staff and one for the guests.
034. Some of the smaller planes are stationed at the camp like the Twin Otters and the Basras (DC3). The ferry guests about to various camps to start their climbs or expeditions.
Section 03. The Thiel Mountains. 84-86 Degrees South.