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Travelling to the South Pole & Mount Vinson – By Newall Hunter

Between 2014-2015, Newall Hunter skied solo from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, becoming the first Scot to solo the South Pole and only the third person ever to solo the Messner Route. He then when straight on to climb Mount Vinson, the highest mountain on the continent of Antarctica. Read an in-depth blog about this adventure below.

Getting Ready for the off

There is a lot of work in the last few weeks before the start of the expedition making sure I have everything and its all packed up and ready to go.

BBC Interview

Had a great time this morning filming an interview with the BBC for my Solo South pole and Mount Vinson climb expedition this season and looking forward to our Team Shackleton2015 expedition next year. Thank you to Trevor Mason for the photographs.

 

BBC South Pole Image 2 BBC South Pole Image

Punta Arenas

Updated on my progress and the plan as i know it – I am currently in Punta Arenas sorting out kit and my food for the expedition. Had a little stress when my pulks and skis went missing on the flight from Madrid. But all good now as they arrived last night. The schedule is for me to fly from Punta to Union Glacier on Antarctica on Friday 21st. That flight will be in the large Ilyushin 76 transport plane. I will probably spend a couple of days getting orientated before flying out to the edge of Antarctica in a little Twin Otter and the start of my 920km ski to the pole. I hope to arrive at the South Pole in the first week of January and after couple of days rest and change of kit I will be off to attempt to climb Mount Vinson – Antarctica’s highest mountain.

Punta Image 1 Punta Image 2

Weigh in for South Pole and now Vinson

That’s my South Pole equipment weighed and my comms all completed. The kit has now been taken by the ALE aircraft loaders for loading on to the flight (still scheduled for Friday).

But still no free time for me yet. Now I need to sort my Mount Vinson climbing kit and get that checked and weighed tomorrow. Vinson kit all over my hotel room :-)

weighed

Flight delay to Union Glacier

The flight from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier on Antarctica has been delayed due to poor weather out there. Our next update on potential flight times will come around 19hr today. So I’m having a very relaxed and chilled out day drinking coffee and loading audio books onto my phone.

Latest flight update

The flight is now scheduled for early Saturday morning. I am being picked up at 7am to go to the airport. The Ilyushin Il-76 is loaded and fuelled ready to go. Just need the weather at union glacier to be good.

SMS Dispatch

12 I have arrived and it’s a glorious, windless day here at Union Glacier. What a stunning day to arrive for my first time in Antarctica.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have arrived in Antarctica

I arrived in Antarctica this afternoon at 14hr.  It is a perfect day here with clear blue skies and no wind at all. On arrival we were all taken to Union Glacier where I will stay for the next couple of days before flying to my starting point for the ski to the pole. I will spend the next couple of days testing my kit and getting briefings from comms, medical and travel safety – who will supply me with the latest cravat data for my route.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First night on my own

I am out on a one night camp to test all my kit and make sure it’s working before I finally get flown to my start point.  I have only skied about 2 hours from the Union Glacier camp but already I am getting the feel of how large, empty and white this place is. It’s difficult to judge distance as there is nothing to use as a reference.  And the silence is amazing. Being on my own there is not sound, not even the wind at present. Now to see if I can sleep.

first night

Midnight Sun

I did not fly today as the weather closed in and the pilots were running out of hours. The plan is now to fly tomorrow (25th which is probably today for most of you) which was the original plan anyway. I am writing this at 23.30 after walking back to my tent from ALE’s mess tent where I have been sitting drinking coffee and chatting to some of the great character who work here during the 3 month operating season. This photo was taken on my walk back. The light really doesn’t change at all during the whole 24hr. Ok time for some sleep now.

midnight sun

Day 1 – Camp 1 – 25 Nov, 17:20:

Well I’m finally off. All the weeks and month of planning ended today when I got dropped off at the Messner Start by a Twin Otter ski plane at 3 o’clock local time. I skied about 4 1/2 hours before setting up camp. That’s 11.5km done, only another 904 to go! I really am totally isolated now. This photo is the view from my tent. It’s the same view 360deg and it has been since the drop off. My pulks are at there heaviest at the moment as the have all my food and fuel on board. That will go down by about 2 kg per day as I eat and boil water.  I will eat and get some sleep now and try to be ready for a full days skiing and pulling.

day 1 camp 1

Day 2 – 26 Nov, 20:19:

My first full day out on the ice. Was a hard 9 hours skiing and pulling my pulks and I only managed 22km for all that work. Second half of the day the snow was not good with lots of sastrugi (snow formations carved by the wind) and soft snow which made it hard and slow going. I will get some photos of the sastrugi soon. Was -17deg C today which made skiing more comfortable as yesterday I was overheating and sweating. It’s a bit of an art trying to get the clothing right so you are warm enough all over but not overheating when working hard. I’ll get better at that over the next few hundred km. I’m in my little tent drying my kit and eating dinner. My favourite is the Hot Chocolate Liquid Fuel. Sleep time after food. It’s pretty simple life: Ski – Eat – Sleep – start again.

day 2 2 day two 1

Day 3 – 27 Nov, 18:24:

Was a hard 11 hours out there today. The first 10 hours was all sastrugi with bad light so no contrast on the snow. I couldn’t tell what was sticking up and what was a hole until I was on it – very hard work. But the last hour was good and I managed a total of 23km today.

Navigation is difficult here – a normal everyday compass doesn’t work because of the magnetic fields going in to the earth which cause the needle to stick. I have two special south pole compasses but even these are no use for navigating as you would normal use them. I am sking to the Geographical South Pole which is no where near the Magnetic South Pole, and there are no features on the landscap for me to take bearings off. Its a white featureless desert. GPS works ok but I don’t want to carry the 90 batteries I’d need and it would stop working in a few minutes if I had it swithched on outside for any length of time. So the technique is to use the GPS to set the compass so that it points in the direction I want to go. I ski a short distance with the GPS and the set the compass to my ski marks in the snow. I wear the compass on a chest harness so that I can see it all of the time without having to use my hands. Photo is of my compass in its chest rig.

day3

Day 4 – 28 Nov, 21:34:

No photo today as there was absolutely nothing to see. There was total cloud cover. I never saw the sun once. That cloud, flat light with the  white snow means you might as well be skiing inside a ping pong ball. I could make out shapes about 10 feet in front of my skis, but not much more. It plays strange games with your eyesight.  I skied all day just looking down at my navigation compass and the tips of my skis. 10 hours skiing, dragging my two pulks, and all I managed was 20.5km.

Day 5 – 29 Nov, 17:54:

Day 5 was so different to yesterday – not a cloud in the sky all day. Made a reasonable 26.5km in 10 hours skiing. It would have been a little more but it was so hot (yes hot) from 1 to 4 pm that I had to really slow down to reduce my sweating. Sweating is very dangerous here as the sweat makes your clothes wet and you freeze as soon as you stop moving. And i do mean freeze quit literally.  You have to try to adjust your clothing layers to control the sweating, but i was down to my base layer and while you might feel hot the temperature was still around -15 deg C. The photo is of my little house in the vast white desert.

day 5

Day 6 – 30 Nov, 18:10:

I’m back in my tent after a good 10 hours and 26km of skiing pulling my two pulks (sledges to normal people). I ski for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours and take a quick break. I need the breaks to take on water and food but they are no fun. I am hot when skiing and get really cold at even a 5 min break. I have to take my face mask off to drink and it’s frozen rock solid when I put it back on. And to make it worse when I eat and drink the body naturally diverts blood to the stomach and I get painfully cold fingers and toes. So  every time I take a break I know I have 15 minutes of fighting to get my hands and feet warm again. Fun this polar stuff!

day 6

Day 7 – 1 Dec, 18:15:

Today started really windy and I debated to delay starting for a few hours and see what the weather did. I wasn’t sure I could put the tent back up in that wind if I took it down. I the end i decided to go but was 1hr later starting. Did a full 10 hours and 22.75km today.  I’m in my tent now ready for some sleep. The photo is my solar charging system. It’s a Power Monkey Expedition. It’s working fine in the tent tonight but won’t work outside. I had planned to have the solar panel on one of the pulks each day to charge the battery as i skied, but it just gets too cold and shuts down. I have had it working on the pulk for one day by sticking a chemical hand warmer to the Power Monkey and putting it inside two thick socks to keep it from shutting down !  It’s important I can charge the batteries for my two GPS and my two satellite phones. I have to make a scheduled satellite phone call each evening to Union Glacier operations. If I miss 2 calls they start looking for me – so I need charged batteries.  I also charge the batteries for the PDA I am writing this on and the satellite comms equipment I use to send it. Lucky there is 24 hour sunlight for the solar panel.  (The strange colour of the photo is cause by the material my tent is made of)

day 7

 

Day 8 – 2 Dec, 18:41:

Was a good day for travelling.  Weather was good – no wind, not to hot or cold and lovely clear sky. Was another 10 hours on skis and covered 23km. Getting to know my shadow quite well as he skis with me all day. With 24 hour sunlight the sun just goes round the sky. First thing in the morning my shadow skis on my right, and by lunchtime he in front (wanting to go faster !). In the afternoon he is on my left, but by finishing time he has dropped back behind (tired by then probably)

day 8 day 8.1

Day 9 – 3 Dec, 18:25:

Audio dispatch can be heard by clicking here

 

Day 10 – 4 Dec, 18:17:

Has been a very tough 2 days. Yesterday the visibility dropped to almost zero, so it was back to walking inside that ping pong ball again. It started snowing yesterday afternoon and must have snowed most of the night. Today there was no visibility and new snow covering all of the sastrugi.   So for the fist 5 hours today visibility was so bad I was feeling my way with the skis. There was quite a few falls when the ground disappeared below me or the pulks stuck. Dangerous conditions on your own. Easy to get injured or break equipment. Very little progress was made in those conditions. By lunchtime i was getting nowhere. The pulks kept sticking or rolling over. Goggles steamed up. It was getting very frustrating but then I realised I was overheating. With no wind and thick cloud it was actually quite warm. I stripped off a couple of layers and things improved.  I ended up sking in my base layer and with bare arms – it really was that warm.  Mid afternoon the cloud broke and visibility was restored. Time to make up for lost distance. I called down to the engine room and asked Scotty for maximum power. Managed a decent 23km in the end. The photos are of my camp tonight. They give no hint of how bad it was been the last 2 days.

Day 10 day 10.1

Day 11 – 5 Dec, 17:32

I am back in my tent for the night and it’s quite stormy out there now, but it’s been a beautiful day – not a cloud in the sky and only a little wind but very cold. Had my Brenig mitts on for the first time today. So simple but they work. Was a hard days skiing with lot of very large sastrugi which kept my distance down to 24km. I was hoping for more.

For those watching my progress on the map tracker (yes I forgot to switch it on yesterday DOH ) you might have noticed that I am not heading directly South for the South Pole. There is a mountain range  between my start point and the South Pole. I have to head West around the mountains before I can turn directly South for the pole. So for the first time since i started I had a view of something other than snow and my shadow when today the mountains appeared on my left. Not sure if you will be able to see them in the reduced photo.

day 11

Day 12 – 6 Dec, 18:57

This morning when I woke up was the windiest I have had it so far. I have to be very careful putting up or taking down my tent. It’s tethered to me or the pulks all of the time.

It was a proper Antarctic day when I started skiing – temperature around -20 and with strong icy wind direct in my face the wind chill was much lower, and spindrift racing over the ground. For the first time I had most of my warm kit on, and skiing in these conditions was rather nice. But by mid afternoon the wind had stopped and I was back to skiing in base-layers it was so warm.

I enter the start of the crevasse region tomorrow so I am hoping for good weather so I can see telltale features in the snow.

Its about 3 days until I reach the point where I turn left and head towards the pole. Sounds easy – ski in a straight line – turn left – ski in a straight line to the pole. But just trying to ski in a straight line when you have no features or landmarks to go by is very difficult. If you don’t watch the compass heading all the time you really would go round in circles.

Day 13 – 7 Dec, 17:13:

It’s been another day of zero visibility – not good now that I have reached the first crevasse area. I couldn’t even see enough to pick a place for my tent tonight – I had to walk up and down sideways with my skis on, on possible areas to feel if it was flat enough. I could be parked on a crevasse and I wouldn’t know. The zero visibility does strange things to you. I noticed that I walk looking at the tips of my skis in this vis. If I tried looking ahead in to the white nothingness it made me dizzy and fall over. Looking at my ski tips keeps my balance. Also if you look in to the white you start to see shapes ( that obviously aren’t there)  moving. Or maybe I have just been on my own too long!!

The photo tonight is a selfie (by request) of how rough I am looking after 13 days. (hair by Pete).

day13

Day 14 – 8 Dec, 17:53:

Really good day. Clear sky’s, nice and cold made for good skiing. Have reached the start of the left turn towards the pole. I have now covered approximately 310km so I’m one third of the way there. Had to put my tent up tonight for the first time in a proper strong wind. It went well – just hope it doesn’t blow away in the night with me in it!

Day 15 – 9 Dec, 18:40:

A really good day today. Got my distance up to 28km – though I am tired and aching now. Was perfect weather for maximising the skiing.

All this exertion means i am burning a lot more calories than normal. I am carrying 6500 calories a day – but burning more than that so I expect to be a few kg lighter when I get home.

The 6500 calories is made up of freeze dried meals for breakfast and dinner, and the rest (snack food I carry in my pockets each day) is nuts, chocolate, cheese and sports bars. Nearly 2000 calories are made up of 4 high energy sports shakes. That lot weighs 1.6kg per day so I have a total of 72 kg of food I have to pull in my pulks – and that’s plus fuel and all my other equipment.

I have been finding it difficult to actually eat 6500 each day and have been experimenting to try and spread it out during the day so I have energy when I need it. So I am now eating two dinners in the evening and having the pudding with my breakfast. I ski for at least 10 hours each day and have a food and drink break roughly every 2 hours. These are speed breaks as I get to cold if I stop for more than 5 minutes. I ram down as much of my snack food and a sports energy shake at breaks.

To see how this exertion and food affects me I am recording my blood glucose levels twice a day and my blood oxygen level once a day.

Day 16 – 10 Dec, 19:28:

I have made it to Thiel Corner. This is the point I start skiing directly for the South Pole – still 570km to go. This is also the point that the Messner and Hercules Inlet routes join. I know there is a team doing the Hercules Inlet route but I think they have passed this spot a day or so ago.

Skied 25km today. Some of that was very hard work as there was a lot of soft snow for the last 20km. I hope there are some more favorable snow conditions ahead.

Day 17 – 11 Dec, 17:28:

I have now turned the corner and am on the long haul to the pole. Just 531km to go! I got sight of my first Nunatak today (hope it’s visible in photo). Nunataks are the tops of large mountains under the ice – only the top is visible above the ice. Would love to see it a bit closer but it is probably many 10s of km away, and there will be a lot of crevasse activity around it. The other excitement for the day was being “buzzed” by a Twin Otter plane on its way to the pole with tourists taking the somewhat easier option than skiing there.

day17

Day 18 – 12 Dec, 18:24:

Was a really good day skiing and pulk pulling today. Conditions were perfect. I managed to stay focused for the full 10 hours. Morning and late afternoon are usualy good but I normally have a poor session mid afternoon where I find it hard to get into a proper rhythm. I had been taking my breaks when I felt I needed them which could be skiing sessions of 2 1/2 to 3 hours. But today I tried stoping ever 1 1/2 hours and had shorter breaks. This appears to have helped.

I also managed to get my temperature control much better today. The biggest problem is stopping my goggles steaming up (a bad thing because it then freezes and is very hard to fix on the move). Steaming up is usually caused by face sweating in the goggles, rather than breathing which is what most people think. But what i cannot have is bare skin open to the Antarctic wind (frostbite) to stay cool.  As I am becoming more sensitive to my body’s temperature I am starting to be able to control face sweating by cooling other parts (arms, legs etc) or altering my work rate before I start to sweat.

Day 19 – 13 Dec, 18:29:

Another day of skiing in an all white landscape. The only colours I see all day are white snow and the blue sky.

Have just done my daily “sked” call to Union Glacier comms who monitor my progress. I give them my status, coordinates, and distance travelled each day. If I miss two sked calls in a row it triggers a search and rescue mission. So its important I have working comms. I carry 2 Iridium Extreme satellite phones (Thanks to Iridium for handset and airtime) and an Iridium GO (used for the blog updates). I keep the batteries charged using solar panels. The primary panel on my pulk is a large folding panel and charges a storage lithium battery. My back up is a Power  Monkey Explorer.

day 19 day19.1 day19.2

Day 20 – 14 Dec, 18:05:

Day 20 and not quite halfway yet. Managed a reasonable 25km today in changing conditions.  The first hour was pretty good, then for the next eight hours there was next to no visibility – back to skiing inside that ping pong ball again. But the last hour the sky cleared up and it was bright sun. The photo was taken at the end of the day. Look at the lovely sunny day, but see how cold it is – that is ice hanging from my RAB face mask.

On this expedition i am also testing RAB  clothing and other equipment like the Iridium satellite comms that we want to use on next year’s big expedition! www.shackleton2015.com

day 20

Day 21 – 15 Dec, 16:50:

429km to go – so I passed through the halfway point out there today. Not sure how I feel about that! Halfway so half done, or oh no I have all that distance I have already done to do again! Very hard day sking today and only managed 24km. Was a lot of soft snow (skis and pulks sink into it) and it was a steady up – hill all day. Stove is on melting snow so it dinner soon and straight to sleep.

Day 22 – 16 Dec, 17:10:

Bit of a frustrating day. When I started out skiing this morning in was bright sunshine and no clouds. The snow was quite icy and flat so would be good for making a good distance today. But 1 hour later the cloud came in and I had very poor visibility for the next 8 hours, which means going slow as you really cannot see further than the end of your skis. Now I am in my tent the sun is out and not a cloud in sight!

The photo is of my kitchen. This is me preparing my dinner tonight. All my food is Freeze Dried, high calorie expedition food from Extreme Adventure Foods. I have 72 kg of food which should last 45 days.

A big hi from Antarctica to the pupils and Mrs Avis reading this at Everlands school in Cam

day22

Day 23 – 17 Dec, 17:36:

Another frustrating days skiing – I did 10 hours skiing inside my ping pong ball again. No visibility all day and as soon as I put my ten upt tonight the cloud cleared and the sun came out. The photo is of my camp tonight and clearing sky.  There was some large sastrugi and a decent hill in the last 2 hours which slowed me down quite a bit.

Is good to have the sun out as the solar radiation heats the inside of the tent. It can be -20 C outside but inside the tent it can be too hot to use a sleeping bag . It also let’s me charge my batteries using my solar panels.

day23

Day 24 – 18 Dec, 19:01:

Was a good day, conditions were perfect – good visibility,  not to warm or cold and the snow was pretty smooth. All added up to 28km of progress.  The photo is of some isolated sastrugi I skied past today –  I think they look like Dolphins or Whales jumping out of the sea (or have I just been out here on my own too long!)

day24

Day 25 – 19 Dec, 17:06:

A very difficult day. Have had zero visibility and snow fall all day. The new snow is like wadding through treacle. It sticks to the “skins” on my skis and makes skiing very hard. I also hit quite a lot of large sastrugi which with zero visibility I just have to feel my way through with the skis and poles.  Only managed 20km in 10 hours hard work.  I am in my tent now and can hear it is still snowing. Forecast for tomorrow (today when you probably read this) is for more of the same.

The skins on the skis are like seal skin (but are not real seal skin) and stuck to the bottom of my skis. If you brush your had oneway allong the skin it feels smooth, if you go the other way it is rough. The skins enable me to go up hills and pull the pulks. Without them the skis would just slip back.

Day 26 – 20 Dec, 19:12:

The forecast for another day of poor visibility was wrong and today was bright sunshine all day. It was so warm in the afternoon that I was sking in a lightweight fleece and with the sleeves rolled up.  But the new snow from yesterday was still really sticky and made for a hard day pulk pulling. I managed 24km. Could probably have got 25km but I stopped a few times to take photographs of strange shaped sastrugi.

26 days of 10 hard hours of physical activity, the same clothes and no proper wash (I do have a wipe down with a wet – wipe every night)  parts of me are starting to  deteriorate. Good thing I brought plenty of physio zinc oxide tape and painkillers.

Day 27 – 21 Dec, 17:03

Was resupply day today. I had rearranged for a cache of food and fuel to be flown out to a location about 320km from the pole. The guys who flew it out a few days ago buried it in the snow and marked it with a flag. They use a Twin Otter aircraft fitted with skis instead of wheels so they can land on the snow. I finished skiing early tonight so that I could sort out and pack the pulks with the extra food and fuel. Damn the pulks are heavy now which is going to slow me down for a few days until I eat some of the food and burn off some fuel. The weight of the pulks goes down by about 2 kg per day.

Day 28 – 22 Dec, 8:23:

A bit of excitement today – that I could do without. Was sking  along thinking it was time to stop for some food, when the snow below my right ski felt a bit soft. I looked down – the snow had gone and a crevasse had opened up right under my feet. My ski tips were on one side of it and my ski tails on the other and nothing under my feet. I knew i was in a crevasse area and was being careful and looking out for any. There was absolutely no indication on the surface that it was there. Normally you see holes or the snow sags but there was nothing. The snow covering it was new and only about 4 inches thick.

day 28

Day 29 – 23 Dec, 18:44:

No crevasses today. I don’t want another of those days.

I am now up on the polar plateau so am getting the polar wind right in the face. The actual temperature during the Antarctic summer is not so bad (probably -10 to -20 deg C) but this wind makes it much worse. I was fully kitted up today to fend off the cold. Even stopping for just a few minutes break is painful. It’s import to know where each bit of warm kit (  extra mitts, gloves, down jacket etc) is or you could easily get frostbite. My chin actually froze to the inside of my face mask today.

Day 30 – 24 Dec, 18:49:

My birthday.  I’m not going to forget where I was for this birthday. Not many this unusual.  The photos show that it didn’t pass unmarked :-)  That’s a birthday badge on my jacket. Don’t think many people saw it – maybe some feral  penguins but that’s all !!!

Good weather today for pulk pulling. Had a big sastrugi field in the middle of the day – some of them were the size of busses.  Took quite a lot of finding my way through it. Anyway after a lot of grunting, u-turns and a few falls I made it through and I am tonight camped ar 88 Deg South. Appropriately 220km to go.

My two pulks, in line one after the other,  are very hard to pull in the soft snow I have had in places. So tonight I have turned them in to one pulk by stacking them on top of each other. Will see if that is any easier tomorrow.

Merry Christmas everyone.

day 30day 30.1

Day 31 Rest Day – 25 Dec, 10:59:

Short blog today as I decided to take a rest day. Was bad visibility when I looked outside the tent this morning at 6.55 so I decided it was a good day for a rest. After 30 straight days of 10-11 hours pulling my pulks and about 6 hours sleep a night I needed a day off to rest and let my body recover a little bit.

I have spent the day laying in my sleeping bag eating drinking and watching movies – so much like a normal Christmas back in uk. I do have an “instant” Turkey dinner (just add boiling water) that one of the other teams out here gave me when we were all sorting kit back in punta arenas.  But I need to get kitted up to go outside and get it from my pulk ! Guess I need to go get it..

Day 32 – 26 Dec, 17:44:

It was back to skiing and pulk pulling today after my rest day of eating, sleeping and watching movies (got through 6 movies). The day started very windy and cold but the wind dropped after a couple of hours. There had been quite a lot of fresh snow while I had my rest day. This made the pulks hard work to pull. By early lunchtime I entered the sastrugi from hell. It was difficult finding a skiable route through pulling the pulks, and my new stacked pulks kept rolling over so I had to stop and put them back to being in line. Was an extremely hard day with the sastrugi and it took 11 hours to do 23km. Hopefully I am through the worst of it now.

There were some stunning “sun-dogs” this morning. But by the time I got the camera out they had faded. At one point the sun had to completely circular rainbows around it.

Back in my tent now and it’s a lovely sunny & windless evening. Will eat and sleep soon as i am tired after today’s efforts.

day 32

Day 33 – 27 Dec, 18:35:

I am very definitely up on the Antarctic plateau now. There are even less features in the landscape. Was quite a hard day. The first hour was good – cold and sunny. But after that the visibility got quite bad and it warmed up to the point that I was skiing with my jacket off and sleeves rolled up – bare arms in Antarctica!! And to make sure I didn’t have it easy I had 9 hours of “baby” sastrugi to fight through, and I’m not out of it yet. Looking forward to that tomorrow morning – not.

day33

Day 34 – 28 Dec, 18:53:

A slog of a day, no sastrugi or any big hills, just miles and miles of soft snow which is really hard work to pull the pulks through.

It’s also very easy to loose focus now that the end is in sight. It’s important to stay focused and continue pacing myself.  It would be all to easy to push the pace, thinking the end is near, and pull a muscle or cause some other injury. And after 34 days of exertion that would be easy to do. I still have 150km to go which is still a long ski.

Day 35 – 29 Dec, 18:44:

This is such a strange place for weather. I was skiing along this afternoon, clear blue sky with the sun on my right (West) and an Antarctica wind blowing from my left (East). My right arm I had my sleeve rolled and no glove on my right hand up to stay cool. But on my left hand (that was in my own shadow so didnt get the sun) I had a glove and two mitts to keep it warm. I am constantly adjusting my clothing to manage my temperature and keep warm.

This is the first night its actually been properly cold in my tent. Having to stay in my sleeping bag to stay warm. It’s cold because the sun is hidden by thick clouds tonight. If the sun gets through it would be too hot in here to zip up the sleeping bag!

I hope to pass 89 deg South tomorrow which will put me into the last 110 km.

Day 36 – 30 Dec, 17:09:

I am now at 89 deg South and into the last 110 km. It’s definitely much colder now that it was at the start. Just stopping for my break to eat and drink is a major operation. I don’t want to stop and take off my face mask it’s so cold. Worse is putting the mask back on because it has frozen solid in the time I have it off (even storing it inside my jacket under my arm).

It’s an amazing place though. A white desert.  The only colours I see are the white snow and blue sky. The sky is light blue at the horizon and very dark blue directly up. The only sound is the wind when it blows. When it isn’t blowing it’s hard to comprehend the absolute total silence. And there are no smells (other than myself – not washed or changed clothes). I have not seen another person in 36 days now, and the only evidence of a world outside my own little universe was a little plane that “buzzed” me about 2 weeks ago. Will be strange to return to civilisation soon, but first I have to finish this and then climb Mount Vinson..

Day 37 – 31 Dec, 16:39:

Happy New Year everyone from (nearly) the bottom of the world.

Other than making a couple of phone calls New Year will be exactly the same as all my other days here. First New Year in a long time I haven’t had the Kilt on.

Not sure what happened to the tracker today. It was on when I left the tent but doesn’t appear to have sent any tracking massages.

Day 38 – 1 Jan, 17:13:

Half way through the last degree now. Was a good day – perfect conditions although it is much colder now. Stopping my goggles freezing up is getting quite difficult.  Every time I stop for a break to eat or drink the goggles freeze and it takes couple of hours before they defrost, just in time for the next break.  Staying focused gets harder everyday now I am so close.

Photo is of the inside of my little tent. Lots of kit hanging up trying to get it dry, and my kettle on melting snow for my dinner.

Found out what went wrong with the tracker yesterday. I had it in my jacket pocket (I like it on me as it has an SOS button) and it got too cold and shut down. I put it in an inside pocket today to keep it a little warmer.

day 38

Day 39 – 2 Jan, 19:13:

A pretty good day. Weather was perfect and just cold enough to make skiing comfortable (overheating is a real problem while skiing and pulling the pulks). The terrain is much smoother now and I managed 27km today. 31km left to go.

Assuming i finish.   Just heard that I am probably 1st Brit to Solo this route and  only the 3rd person ever to Solo it. I still need to get confirmation of those.

day 39day 39.1

South Pole 4 Jan, 05:04:

I have made it to the South Pole. I arrived about 3.30 am (Union Glacier local time) so everyone from Union Glacier was asleep. Which meant I had the Pole all to myself. Nice but makes taking photos difficult.  Lucky for me the liason lady from the US Base saw me out of a windows ( the base uses New Zealand time for some reason) and came out to help take some photos.  I have attached 3 tonight to show I actually  made it :-)

The guys from Union Glacier (ALE) who are doing my logistics were asleep but left a sign on the mess tent to make myself at home. A can of coke and some cookies never tasted so good. Maybe it was having a chair to sit on (I have been on the floor of my tent for past 40 days) or the hot stove to sit in front of.

Will be here for a day or so until I can get a plane to pick me up. Will blog more photos and details in next few days. Time for a little sleep now.

Mission 1 accomplished, now a few days rest before tackling Mount Vinson.

south pole made

 

Hereis a recap on how the South Pole was achieved.

Messner Start to South Pole

Distance approx 570 miles or 916km.

Pulling 2 Snowsled pulks.

Pulk weight at start approx 90kg

Total of 45 days of food and fuel.

Day 1    11.4km  4 1/2 hours skiing

Day 2    22km     9 hours skiing

Day 3    23km     10 hours skiing

Day 4    20.5km  10 hours skiing

Day 5    26.5km  10 hours skiing

Day 6    26km     10 hours skiing

Day 7    22.75km 10 hours skiing

Day 8    23km      10 hours skiing

Day 9    20km      10 hours skiing

Day 10  22km     10 hours skiing

Day 11  24.3km  10 hours skiing

Day 12  22.2km  10 hours skiing

Day 13  24km     10 hours skiing

Day 14  23.3km  10 hours skiing

Day 15 28km      10 hours skiing

Day 16 25km      10 hours skiing  resupply

Day 17  21.3km   9 hours skiing

Day 18  26.5km  10 hours skiing

Day 19  25km     10 hours skiing

Day 20  26.1km  10 hours skiing

Day 21  24.2km   10 hours skiing

Day 22  25.18km 10 hours skiing

Day 23  24.2km   10 hours skiing

Day 24  28km      10 hours skiing

Day 25  20km      10 hours skiing

Day 26  24km      10 hours skiing

Day 27  18km      10 hours skiing resupply

Day 28  20km      10 hours skiing

Day 29  22.4km   10 hours skiing

Day 30  23.2km   10 hours skiing birthday

Day 31  Rest Day   Christmas

Day 32  23.14km  10 hours skiing

Day 33  24km       10 hours skiing

Day 34  24km       10 hours skiing

Day 35  23km       10 hours skiing

Day 36  23km       10 hours skiing

Day 37  23km       10 hours skiing

Day 38  25km       10 hours skiing

Day 39 27km        10 hours skiing

Day 40 20.4 km    10 hours skiing

11km         5 hours skiing

Day 40 I stopped late afternoon for a rest and then carried on the the South Pole. I arrived at the pole at approximately 3.30am on the 4th of January.

 

South Pole Day 1 – 4 Jan, 15 – 16:19

Been a nice resting day here at the South Pole. Mostly just been eating and drinking.

The initial plan is for me to fly out tomorrow evening. There is a plane due in tomorrow with “day visitors” who come just for a few hours to walk around and take some photos. So I will fly back to Union Glacier with them.

The sign in the photo is about 4km out of the South Pole and is your first indication you are nearly there. Face looks a little weathered.

The second is my reflection in the ceremonial South Pole marker. The real pole is a couple of hundred meters away.

South Pole 1 South Pole 1.1

South Pole 4 – 5 Jan, 15 – 20:34

Quick entry to say I am still at the South Pole camp. The flight was postponed because of bad visibility. It is now scheduled for later on the 6th.

Please keep checking the blog as I intend to try and send blog updates on photos from Mount Vinson once I start it. There should be more to photograph on the mountain than there has been on my ski to the pole.

The delay in the flight enabled me to have a personal guided tour of the US Station at the pole. It’s an amazing facility with about 150 people working there. The whole building can be jacked up on its legs as the snow level rises. The second photo is of all the old South Pole markers. A new design is put out to mark the Geographical South Pole every year.

South Pole 4 South Pole 4.1

Back at Union Glacier – 7 Jan, 15 – 10:06

I am now back at Union Glacier. Arrived back at 2am this morning after flying from the South Pole on the Basler DC3.

Have just had my first shower and change of clothes since the 25th of November.

Today i will be unpacking my pulks and sorting out my climbing equipment for Vinson today. The plan at present is to fly to Vinson Base Camp on the 9th.

I will post another blog later today with details on how the pole was achieved.

Apparently the Scotsman news paper as an article on my South Pole expedition on page 11.

Back at Union Glacier

Scotsman News Paper – 7 Jan, 15 – 10:16

 

The piece in the Scotsman can be seen by clicking here

Union Glacier Day 2 – 8 Jan, 15 – 18:32

The plan is for me to fly to Mount Vinson tomorrow if the weather is good for flying.

It’s been another day of eating and resting.

Hereis a recap on how the South Pole was achieved.

Messner Start to South Pole

Distance approx 570 miles or 916km.

Pulling 2 Snowsled pulks.

Pulk weight at start approx 90kg

Total of 45 days of food and fuel.

Day 1 11.4km 4 1/2 hours skiing

Day 2 22km 9 hours skiing

Day 3 23km 10 hours skiing

Day 4 20.5km 10 hours skiing

Day 5 26.5km 10 hours skiing

Day 6 26km 10 hours skiing

Day 7 22.75km 10 hours skiing

Day 8 23km 10 hours skiing

Day 9 20km 10 hours skiing

Day 10 22km 10 hours skiing

Day 11 24.3km 10 hours skiing

Day 12 22.2km 10 hours skiing

Day 13 24km 10 hours skiing

Day 14 23.3km 10 hours skiing

Day 15 28km 10 hours skiing

Day 16 25km 10 hours skiing resupply

Day 17 21.3km 9 hours skiing

Day 18 26.5km 10 hours skiing

Day 19 25km 10 hours skiing

Day 20 26.1km 10 hours skiing

Day 21 24.2km 10 hours skiing

Day 22 25.18km 10 hours skiing

Day 23 24.2km 10 hours skiing

Day 24 28km 10 hours skiing

Day 25 20km 10 hours skiing

Day 26 24km 10 hours skiing

Day 27 18km 10 hours skiing resupply

Day 28 20km 10 hours skiing

Day 29 22.4km 10 hours skiing

Day 30 23.2km 10 hours skiing birthday

Day 31 Rest Day Christmas

Day 32 23.14km 10 hours skiing

Day 33 24km 10 hours skiing

Day 34 24km 10 hours skiing

Day 35 23km 10 hours skiing

Day 36 23km 10 hours skiing

Day 37 23km 10 hours skiing

Day 38 25km 10 hours skiing

Day 39 27km 10 hours skiing

Day 40 20.4 km 10 hours skiing

11km 5 hours skiing

Day 40 I stopped late afternoon for a rest and then carried on the the South Pole. I arrived at the pole at approximately 3.30am on the 4th of January.

I will post some higher resolution pictures of the expedition once I get home.

So on to Mount Vinson now. I will try and keep the blog going from there too if I can.

Vinson Base Camp Day 1 – 9 Jan, 15 – 10:27

I flew from Union Glacier to Vinson Base Camp first thing this morning. Settled in to a tent now but nothing much else doing here today as we are waiting on other climbers coming in from Punta Arenas this afternoon. So its eating and resting for rest of the day.

Mount Vinson is 16050ft ab=C3=B2ve the highest point in Antarctica.

The Rough plan is this:-

Day 2-3 Acclimatisation and climb preparation.

Day 4 Climb to low camp at 9000ft. We might stay the night here or decend to base camp to sleep. This will be dependent on weather and how strong we feel.

Day 5 Climb from low to high camp at 11400ft. We might stay the night here or decend to low camp to sleep. This will be dependent on weather and how strong we feel.

Day 6 This will probably be a rest day.

Day 7 – 8 Summit attempt days dependent on weather. It’s a 3670ft climb from high camp to the summit. This will be a long day of maybe 12 hours as we return to high camp the same day.

Day 9 Decend high camp to base camp.

All tose days are a rough schedule as weather and team fitness will affect or progress.

Vinson Base Camp 1

Vinson Base Camp Day 2- 10 Jan, 15 – 18:18

So today we did a little Acclimatisation trek up the hill in the photo. We climbed from base camp at 2445m to approximately 3100m and then returned to base camp. Tomorrow (today when you read this back home) we will move up from base camp to the Low Camp on Vinson ready for our climb to high camp. It will be a late start for the move to Low Camp as the route is in shadow until about 1 pm and the temperature will be down around -35 deg C until the sun is on it. As we have 24hr day light we can do our climbing at any time to make it more manageable from a temperature stand point.

vinson base camp 2

Audio Dispatch – 12 Jan, 15 – 19:47

Listen to audio dispatch by clicking here

 

Vinson Summit – Base Camp – 16 Jan, 15 – 14:17

I completed my climb of Mount Vinson when I arrived safely back at base camp this afternoon. I summited Vinson yesterday in perfect weather – no wind, clear sunny sky. It was very cold on the summit at -40 deg C so only stayed long enough for a few photographs then it was a quick retreat back to high camp to avoid any cold injuries.

This morning I left high camp with my rope team to decend the fixed ropes on the headwall – probably the most dangerous part of the climb. The decent went well except for one climber on the fixed ropes getting scared so we had to bring him down very slowly. But all was well in the end.

I am now safely back at base camp and apparently a celebration drink (for vinson climb) is being done shortly.

But I have my own celebration to think about as I have now officially completed my Solo ski to the South Pole and my climb of Mount Vinson :-)

I hope to fly back to Union Glacier later tomorrow. I’ll post updates on progress home when i have news. And I will post more and higher definition photos when I have good Internet access.

vinson summit 1 vinson summit 2

Still at Union Glacier – 20 Jan, 15 – 09:29

I am still at Union Glacier. The flight this morning could not fly due to the very bad weather. We have had extremely high winds for the past two days. Last night the wind was around 70mph which is a lot when there are no land features to protect you from it. The wind simply blows unhindered across the continent. Operations will look at the weather again this evening so there is still a small chance I will fly out during the night. But while I am still here I am taking the opportunity of free kite-skiing instruction, which is great for next year’s

Punta Arenas – On way home – 22 Jan, 15 – 20:05

So its all over – Sking the Messner and climbing Mount Vinson – I am now back in Punta Arenas sorting out kit and packing bags for the flights home this weekend. Once home I will post some high resolution pictures of the expedition and after a bit of time to reflect on it i will add a little more description on the journey and how it was done.

Time to turn my energy on this year’s big expedition, the Shackleton crossing.www.shackleton2015.com

Carstensz Pyramid

Its nearly time to set off on my next expedition. As you know I pulled out of going back to Antarctica this year so I am off to climb another of my Seven Summits. This time it is Carstensz Pyramid ( or Mt Puncak Jaya) in Papua. This is the lowest of the seven but it is still the least climbed due to the difficulty of getting to it and the fact it is a rock climb at over 16000ft. It also has a sting in its tail – a Tyrolean traverse on the final section to the summit. I hope to try and film the crossing from a small drone if the weather is good enough.

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