Hello 87!

Day 37: S87° 00' 4", W051° 57' 57" Altitude: 2184m Daily distance: 15.4MI Distance to go: 590MI

I’ll get the ‘s’ word out of the way first. There was plenty of sastrugi for the first couple of hours today, and there’s a fair bit around the campsite I’ve chosen this evening, a few metres south of the 87th degree of latitude. But for three or four blissful hours this afternoon the terrain was flat enough for me to travel in the manner that I was expecting to travel in Antarctica: with my skis parallel, and striding forward with alternate arm swings, without having to look down to check what’s under my feet. I could focus on the landmark (usually a particularly bright or dark lump of snow that stands out) that I’d chosen on my bearing and zone out. I was so overcome with gratitude that I may even have blown kisses at the horizon.

It’s been quite windy today – my forecast said up to 24 knots – and pretty fresh as a result. I decided to wear two thermal baselayer tops today under a thin fleece and my Canada Goose shell jacket, and I’m glad I did as I suspect the windchill was getting close to the minus forties. It was windy last night, and I fell asleep and woke up to the gentle hiss of spindrift against the fabric of my tent. There was a brand new ridge of freshly deposited snow in the lee of my tent this morning (that I’ve tried to photograph) that led me to believe that it doesn’t take long for the big ridges that have been plaguing my progress to be formed.

This morning’s sastrugi inflicted two casualties, a ski pole basket, and the buckle of the waist belt of my sledge harness. I had spares of both so carried on straight away, and I’ve repaired the basket with some zip ties in my tent this evening so will keep it as a spare.

I had another fantastic note in my food bag this evening, from an old friend Andrew Todd. Andrew and I met as teenage schoolboys, both working Saturday jobs at an outdoor store called Field and Trek in Canterbury. Andrew’s now an officer in the Gurkhas with a number of tours of Afghanistan under his belt, and he recently led the first Gurkha expedition to climb Mount Everest. One of the ironies of the expedition I’m on is that I’m wishing I’d spent more time with friends in recent years, and less time single-mindedly pursuing polar expeditions, and the demanding levels of finance and fitness and focus they require, often to the detriment of other aspects of my life.

A quick answer about mileage:

Hi Ben, I love reading your daily posts. It looks like you are doing slightly more mileage the last few days (14 vs. 12 earlier in the journey). I was wondering why. I don’t think the terrain is getting easier. Is your sledge noticeably lighter now that you’ve consumed more than 1/2 your food rations? Is that helping you travel farther or are you getting more proficient at skiing in the sastrugi?

I think it’s mostly the incremental weight loss of the sledge that’s boosting my daily mileage. Today was a record distance, due partly to the flatter section during the day, and partly to my desire to cross 87 degrees, which meant skiing for an extra 30 minutes into my evening.

Lastly, happy birthday to my good friend Jerry, and please consider yourself very much in the ‘people I wish I’d spent more time with in recent years’ category!

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
14/12/17
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Comments

Colin Barton

16/12/2017

Hi Ben
Gosh, I used to go to Canterbury Field & Trek a lot. I didn’t realise you lived in Kent?

Great progress keep it going.
Colin

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Graeme Backhurst

15/12/2017

I’ve been enjoying your blog from the beginning, marvelling at your determination and progress but I’d also like to congratulate you on the superb standard of writing you’re able to maintain, day after day. Great stuff, and the very best of luck for the rest of the journey,

Graeme

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Matt Sutcliffe

15/12/2017

Congratulations on your progress and supreme effort so far Ben. I/my children and various British mates are following your progress from the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. Good luck with the conditions and weather from now on.

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Kevin Wright

14/12/2017

Hi Ben, congratulations on reaching the 87 degree kmmark and a top mileage to date. How man days before you reach the top of the plateau and once there can you then cover 20 miles plus per day to reach the Pole for Christmas Day? Good night 87 and bring on 88. Take care Ben, Kev

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Zoe

14/12/2017

Hi Ben, Who organizes all the notes you get from old friends in your nightly meals? Is it Pip? It seems like that would take a lot of effort before you leave, but also seems to be something that really matters to you each day. Also, do you keep in touch with Tarka?

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Muzaffer Musal

14/12/2017

Hey Ben, it is great to read your adventures. I never did anything that even came close to what you are doing but in relative terms, during my events I might have similar thoughts like yours where I wished I did some things differently but at the end of the event I always saw what I did as an investment not only for myself but for others since these ultra events change the person and hence the person my friends interact with. I understand it is too early to say anything right now but have you thought about coaching once you are done? You do have an incredible amount of experience.

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ELISABETH CONSTANTINE

14/12/2017

Dear Ben,
The red line seems to be growing speedily….not long now to the finishing line…
I’m glad you could get your repairs done so excellently today, even being able to keep a spare.
The importance of having your gear in ship shape must be paramount ….
Looks like the WeatherGods are on your side, please keep on blowing kisses at the horizon, it works!
Stay safe.
Many blessings
Elisabeth

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Thomas Prendergast

14/12/2017

Hi Ben,
Seriously impressive stuff!! It has become a part of the daily routine to read your update to all in the office (c.5-15 depending on the day). After Sunday’s ‘light sprinkling’ here in the UK, there were a few who soon realised the magnitude of your expedition!

Out of interest regarding your daily mileage and remaining distance to cover – with some basic maths (that doesn’t come naturally to an Old Stoic) it seems you will have to ramp up your daily progress if you are to not run out of food/fuel etc. Are you expecting the terrain to get easier resulting in increased daily distance covered? Or is there a resupply planned somewhere along your route?

Keep up the good work!! Were all routing for you!

All the best,
Tom

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