Mountains!

Day 4: S81° 11' 49", W052° 04' 44" Daily distance: 11.8MI Distance to go: 996MI

The wind woke me up at about 4am, and it was blowing so hard that I wondered if it would be sensible to travel today. Thankfully a few hours later it had died down to a modest breeze, and the overnight hoolie had done a fantastic job of blasting away a lot of the fresh snow that had dogged my progress yesterday. It had also buried my sledge, which I’d towed around to the windward end of the tent to give me a bit more shelter.

The sun came out an hour after I set off, and despite a bit of cloud, I had my shadow for company nearly all day, which is a first on this expedition. Things got even better in the second hour of the day, when I spotted a couple of faint dark lines on the horizon, just to the right of my bearing. As the sky cleared and the contrast improved, I realised they were definitely mountains (rather than a bit of sastrugi – wind-blown snow, that often appears far larger than it actually is by some quirk of perspective and light). I hadn’t expected to see the Dufek Massif for days, as my GPS tells me they’re still a good 140km away, but they were undeniably visible until a bank of cloud snaffled them away around 5pm.

It was a joy to spot something physical to aim towards (or just to the left of) and after two days of stumbling around in a whiteout, I barely needed my compass today. My joy was mitigated somewhat by the realisation that after several hours of struggling toward them with all the energy I could muster, they still seemed just as far away. A great day, though, and the sun is shining on my tent (and my solar panel!) as I type this.

Answers to a few of your questions:

1) I have a question, number 2’s must be quite a task? And do they freeze?

I dig a hole with my snow shovel and do the deed as quickly as possible! I expect they’ll remain deep-frozen for centuries, until some confused archaeologist finds them…

2) Do you run your stove to heat your tent up or is it only used for cooking and melting water?

Snow-melting only. If I’m lucky – like tonight – the sun makes the tent noticeably warmer.

3) How many litres of water do you use per day, for cooking and drinking?

I drink at least four litres, so get through just under five in total every 24 hours.

4) I would love to hear more about your approach to crevasse safety while traveling solo like this. What is your self rescue plan other than to turn on your EPIRB, cross your fingers and wait?

Mostly avoidance if possible, and trying to stay on skis rather than on foot. I have Skeats this year which should enable me to get up the Wujek Ridge without having to switch to crampons. If I’m travelling through an area with crevasse risk (principally the Wujek Ridge and the Leverett Glacier, although both are far safer than the Beardmore Glacier, where Tarka and I crossed hundreds of crevasses in 2013-14) I’ll wear a lightweight harness and I carry food, hot drinks, a down jacket, an InReach beacon and my satellite phone in a rucksack, together with four ice screws, carabiners and slings on a gear loop. We found in Greenland in 2013 that slowly aid climbing out of a crevasse with screws and slings was more effective than trying to use axes/crampons and muscling out.

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
11/11/17
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Comments

Kevin Wright

12/11/2017

Hi Ben, so pleased you have a visible bearing and I can imagine the joy that brings. It’s great to read your blog every day and all that your supporters have to say. Some great questions asked! I have one for you because I’m not sure who your patron is for this journey. Is it Robert Swan again or do you have another? Enjoy the sun and the bit of warmth it brings. Onwards and upwards! Kev

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dawn nicholls

12/11/2017

Hi Ben, I live in Marshchapel and know your mum who owns the village shop – a food related question for you, what sort of provisions do you get through and howmany calories do you need for a typical (or not so typical) day. Good luck with the rest of your venture.

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Duncan Hossack

12/11/2017

Hi Ben.
I can’t imagine how your posts are so well written and descriptive given the conditions! Thank you.
I’m the Round Square Support Manager for the Americas and I know that many students and teachers here are following you and wishing you well.
Best wishes,
Duncan

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Mike Hammond

11/11/2017

Glad to hear the weather cleared for you today, travelling in whiteout conditions must be pretty hard going to say the least!

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Reinhold

11/11/2017

All the best Ben. With it being so dry do you still have to deal with condensation in the tent? Do you use an overbag to keep your sleeping bag down dry?

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Sharyle Doherty

11/11/2017

Love reading your updates. It’s amazing to be able to find out what you’ve done each day. I hope you’ll tell us about your daily food rations and how you determined what to eat on the journey.

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Whistle Norvell

11/11/2017

So glad for a bit of sun today and sight of the Dufek in the distance!

Even though the sledge is as heavy as a washing machine, are you ever concerned that the strong winds may overturn it or other similar event? Is there ever a need to secure it somehow ?

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Ale

11/11/2017

Hi Ben,
You’re great, keep going!
If you really have nothing better to do: Which tent are you using? Sleeping bag? Mattress? Are they custom made? I got you have a msr stove. Which fuel are you using? Alcohol?
Thanks!
Ale

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Shelski

11/11/2017

Hi Ben,
We’ve never met but your motivation inspire me. I have been complaining and procrastinating on completing an assignment which is due soon.
This seems very petty compared to what you’re trying to achieve. Nevertheless, I’m not feeling very positive that I’ll finish this in time but if you can do what you do then perhaps I can to!
Good luck and stay safe!

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Gerald

11/11/2017

Hi Ben,

We met at the range day with Olly Hicks.

Wishing you fair weather and safe travels on your journey.

Very much enjoying the blog.

Gerald Wellesley

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