A Snow Bridge Too Far

Day 17: S83° 24' 29", W052° 00' 53" Altitude: 1497m Daily distance: 12.6MI Distance to go: 841MI

I was planning to write about how this had been the second toughest day of the expedition so far, but when I checked my emails (yes I get email via satellite: equal parts blessing and curse) I saw I’d been sent (thank you Ed J!) the story of Jan Baalsrud and now I’m feeling very soft indeed.

As far as this expedition goes, it was still a testing, challenging day, and split roughly into two halves: nice weather but v hilly this morning, and a couple of whopper crevasses, then flatter this afternoon but rubbish sticky soft snow and a wind that revved itself up from boiste rous to downright malevolent as the afternoon went on. The crevasse in the photo was the one that caused me the biggest headache – I needed to get to the uphill side of it, but it divided the slope I was on almost as far as the eye could see in either direction, and while it looked filled-in, the crusty snow bridge across it was mostly worryingly thin. My yardstick for snow bridges (and indeed for testing sea ice to see if it’ll take my weight) is to give it three prods in the same place with a ski pole, as hard as I can. If the pole doesn’t go through, then – as long as you have skis on to spread your weight over the bridge – you’re good to go.

Stage two is then lengthening the trace (the rope connecting me to my sledge) so I can get across first before pulling it over behind me, to minimise the load on the bridge at any one time. Stage three is to summon up a bit of courage, think feather-light thoughts and gingerly step out onto your chosen spot, at right angles to the edge of the crevasse, and to keep skiing across until you’re safely on the far side. Stage three is optional, but involves swear words, and the decision never to do another solo expedition in either polar region.

Some answers for you:

What thermal base laying do you use and do you prefer 100% merino wool or a merino blend?

Actually 100% synthetic (it’s lighter and holds its shape better after multiple weeks of abuse) and various brands and combinations of layers. I also ski in Skins lycra shorts and Compressport calf guards. Socks are Smartwool, but I think that’s my only merino!

How much fuel did you take with you? 200ml per day est. consumption?

I planned 250ml per day for 65 days and am using a bit less.

I´m wondering about your technical setup. What are you writing your excellent posts on, how do you transmit and what about power?

I’ve sent a gadgets photo back – see below – (minus the Samsung Galaxy A5 smartphone that I type this on, and that I took the photo with). To send these updates back just takes the smartphone and an Iridium GO!, the box at the top, between the satellite phone and the GPS. It creates the world’s slowest WiFi hotspot when it’s turned on. All powered by a 30W solar panel outside the tent on my sledge and a lithium-ion battery (underneath the InReach tracker).

Can you post a photo of the Ray Nunatak, as you say we need Google to augment reality and there are no photos On Google so you would be adding to the corpus of worldly knowledge. Also why black tent and black pulk cover and not red – are you a closet Goth?

I’m a couple of km away so will photograph it tomorrow! Tent is actually dark green (gives nicer daylight inside than red, in my opinion, which makes everything a bit pink) and black pulk cover is a new superlight fabric that I could only find in Model T noir.

I just wondered if you are taking many photographs/ film of this expedition if so what with and does it have to be prepared/ adapted to survive the cold?

Far less than I’d planned/hoped, especially on the film front. I’m finding it’s almost impossible to film yourself in situations like the crevasse crossings today, or the Wujek Ridge a few days ago, which is sad, as any film tends to be on misleadingly still, sunny days…

What time zone are you in down there?

UTC (same as UK)

Lastly, comment from Jason Hay:
Set the Ray to Jerry is a song by smashing pumpkins.

Thank you Jason, and happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Honor: found your lovely note in my food bag today. Thank you, and hello to everyone at British Exploring!

Ben Saunders (@polarben)

Kevin wright


Hi Ben, wow sounds a bit scary on those crevasses especially being roped to the wait of the pulk as well. It’s cold here tonight -4 but fresh and a nice feel. The last leaves 🍁 on the oak tree opposite our house fell today so it now feel like winter has truly arrived. The shy is crystal clear with lots of stars. How’s your sky looking, any sign of the southern lights yet? Be careful near those crevasses tomorrow and take no chances! Kev

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