Antarctica 2017 Weekly Roundup 11/19

Updates on the progress of Leo Houlding’s Spectre expedition, Ben Saunders’ 1,600km+ solo crossing, and the British Ice Maidens attempt to become the first all-female team to go coast-to-coast across Antarctica.

Over the last couple of weeks we have detailed the start of the 2017 Antarctic season with 3 major expeditions all converging at the Union Glacier camp and making final preparations. Updates are now beginning to trickle in.

The Spectre Expedition

The highly ambitious, multi-phase, Spectre expedition to the Gothic Range of the Transantarctic Mountains are still holed-up in Union Glacier camp at the time of writing.

Leo Houlding has provided two updates over the last few days of preparation. The weather has been highly changeable and Leo explains that his “emotions have been paralleling the conditions” as the team prepare their sleds and finalise their supplies. The team are making good progress towards their ideal loads, targeting 200kgs while acknowledging that the “wind will be both our best and our worst enemy for the next 10 weeks” as they will be reliant on reasonably strong winds to help them move the fully loaded sleds.

The team have checked in with the various departments at Union Glacier; medical, travel safety, communications and operations. The communications department is of particular importance to the team, as each remote field party has just a 10-minute check-in window each day in which to make contact with the camp. Two missed check-ins triggers the launch of a rescue mission, taking precedence over all other operations.

Weather permitting, the Spectre expedition could be winging their way towards their starting point as early as 19th November and Leo explains that “excitement is starting to take hold”.

Ben Saunders’ Solo Crossing

Ben Saunders has already set off on his expedition, starting earlier than expected thanks to a break in the weather. Since then he has made good progress from his starting point at Berkner Island.

Ben’s first couple of days were a bit of a white-out but more recently his luck has turned and he has experienced great weather. In fact, the weather has been so good that Ben even confessed to feeling “guilty for lying in my sleeping bag at 5pm rather than clocking up more miles”.

Even with the early nights Ben has been averaging 8.5 hours of skiing per day, updating the world via satellite phone on his progress as he goes. He is now camped at the base of the Wujek Ridge and is gathering his strength in preparation for the climb tomorrow, which he anticipates will take the best part of a day.

The Ice Maidens

The Ice Maiden team could really use some of Ben’s great weather as they remain stuck at Union Glacier Camp, some two weeks after their arrival.

There continues to be too much cloud cover above one of their 3 landing sites on route to the Ross Ice Shelf, and the team have been forced to resort to “doing some good weather dances” in the hopes of improving their luck. The weather models are starting to look more promising and the team are fully packed and ready to go as soon as a weather window opens up.


Leo Houlding’s Spectre: “The Most Remote Mountain on Earth”

Solo Trans-Antarctic Crossing Kicks Off

All-Female Ice Maiden Team to Cross Antarctica