Into Thinner Air

Day 35: S86° 34' 34", W051° 54' 1" Altitude: 2015m Daily distance: 14MI Distance to go: 620MI

After relatively pleasant conditions yesterday, it was back to the familiar trial by sastrugi today, with a variety of obstacles ranging from sections of short, choppy, closely spaced ridges a few inches high to bright white, rock-hard snow sculptures (that sometimes look a bit like the elongated head of one of Ridley Scott’s aliens) to giant hump-backed walls of snow that looked like some huge creature – about the size of a small car – had been burrowing around under the surface.

My departure this morning was delayed by a strip search. I had all my gear on, I’d fastened my boots and before taking the final step of unzipping that tent door and stepping outside, I reached behind me for the section of my face mask that fastens across my mouth and nose and cheeks. It was gone. This little rectangle of fabric with Velcro at either edge is vital, and on a day with a headwind like today I’m not sure what I could have used instead. I looked inside my sleeping bag first, then rummaged through the bags I was about to pack into my sledge, before reluctantly removing layer after layer in search of the missing mask. It eventually turned up between my shoulder blades, clinging on to my thermal baselayer with its grippy velcro wings…

The two photos today are a selfie (a happy one as the sun came out after a cloudy morning) during one of my six breaks, where I turn the sledge so my back is to the wind, and so that I can take off my goggles and mask to eat and drink, and to feel the sun on my face. The second is my view from the same break: unless it’s a gale-force wind then I hang my goggles on top of one of my ski poles. There are some of the ‘alien’s head’ variety of sastrugi popping up in the background, and as you can see the weather was great, after a grey start.

As I lie here this evening I’m now more than 2,000 metres above sea level, which feels like a milestone of sorts, and I’ll be steadily climbing for a little longer yet.

P.S. A big hello to Marina – I found your lovely note in yesterday’s food bag!

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

Marina

13/12/2017

Hoping i am the ONLY Marina you know??!!!! Reading your blogs first thing each and every day. Wishing you flatter surfaces and easier trekking for a speedy 2nd half. Watching those miles ticking down and can’t wait for Sunday lunch when you are back. Big love and strength to you B xxxx

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Robyn Clarke

13/12/2017

Hullo Ben, we were very lucky to be at your Event at the RGS on 26th September with our God-daughter Victoria Nicholson ! I was also lucky to have a quick word with your Mum, who told me she was SO proud of you, and righly so ! We live in Perth Western Australia and love logging into your website every day to see how you are going. Hard to imagine your conditions from ours 38deg heat of yesterday ! You are amazing, keep keeping on ! Our very best wishes,
Robyn & David Clarke

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Kevin Wright

12/12/2017

Hi Ben, great pictures and good to see you smiling despite everything Antarctica is throwing at you. I travelled North today and saw what looked like skie marks in the snow and immediately thought of you and considered what you maybe looking at compared to me. Part of me thought I would gladly swap the two views but even though I could take the cold I’m not sure I could manage the loneliness! Oh yes my fitness level would also cause me a problem! How are all those extra calories you are burning off effecting the extra weight you put on? Have you lost the extra weight you put on or still have some stored to fuel your way to the finish line.? Keep safe, Kev

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Mike Hammond

12/12/2017

Good to see you smiling and ticking off more miles, the daily average has gone up to 14 too, which is a bonus! Loving your work Ben!!

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Mike Bourland, Oklahoma City

12/12/2017

Those pesky Velcro fasteners. Many hours lost looking for a mate to cycling gloves.

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M Moss

12/12/2017

Nice one Ben, sure Henry will be having a laugh at that. Keep strong.

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Stephen Downes

12/12/2017

So… south pole by Christmas? It will be close…

I live every ripple of sastrugi with you, and as a Canadian can relate to a ‘nice’ -20C day. Keep on, Keep up.

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James Cameron

12/12/2017

Ben – we are following every step back here at MMHQ. Dunno about sastrugi, but dog walking in Oxfordshire is a lot whiter than normal these last couple of days. Great progress, hang in there mate.

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ELISABETH CONSTANTINE

12/12/2017

Hi Ben,
It’s been a joy and privilege following your epic journey and charting your great progress.
Upwards and onwards you go…
It was nice to see your smiling face today.
Stay safe.
Many blessings
Elisabeth

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Jonathon

12/12/2017

You could always fashion a new face mask from a section of your z-rest – might even be more effective and not ice up as much.

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