Antarctica 2017 Weekly Roundup 11/25

The second update 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.

You can catch up with all the progress made so far in last week’s roundup here.

The Spectre Expedition

Last week Leo Houlding’s team were still making their final preparations at Union Glacier camp, while hoping for favourable weather in order to get under way as quickly as possible. On the 20th November they got their wish and made their way by plane to the expedition starting point, some 1,100km south of the camp.

The team elected to stay at their departure point overnight as they were still “unacclimatised to the cold and the altitude”. However, they awoke on day 2 to find that the clear skies had disappeared, replaced with limited visibility and strong winds. The team needs “at least reasonable visibility” to travel and thus were forced to stay put and wait out the storm.

As of the 23rd, their most recent update, not much has changed, with the expedition remaining tent bound at their drop off point. Despite the raging blizzard the team report that they are in good spirits, “inside, despite the frost, we are as comfortable as possible and seeing, right now, Mark smiling, eating chocolate in his sleeping bag with some music on, I can’t think we are in a bad situation.”

Ben Saunders’ Solo Crossing

Of the 3 expeditions Ben seemed to have had the best luck with the weather, setting off earlier than expected thanks to favourable conditions. By the 18th November he had already reached the Wujek Ridge and had even taken an afternoon off to prepare for his ascent. It proved to be a great decision. Ben described the first day on the Wujek Ridge as “one of the most challenging days I’ve ever experienced”.

Early on it appeared Ben’s luck with the weather might hold, but soon the wind had picked up and he was in for a “full-on bar brawl of a day, tussling with Antarctica in a foul mood” as he struggled through to the slope and over the blue ice. After the 6-hour slog over Wujek Ridge the weather has alternated from “mild to frighteningly cold and windy”, with a couple of calm uneventful days as well as some slower, trickier days with “mist and fog and [a] whirling blizzard”.

Ben’s most recent update details the second toughest day of his expedition so far, with a strong wind that built as the day progressed and a “couple of whopper crevasses” that seriously tested his nerves.

The Ice Maidens

After an agonising 14-day delay, the Ice Maiden team’s good weather dances must have finally paid off, at least temporarily. On the 19th November the team were flown to the Ross Ice Shelf to begin their coast-to-coast.

As with both the Spectre expedition and Ben’s solo crossing, the Ice Maidens have reported encountering brutally strong winds on their first few days, with the forecast warning of “gusts up to 60 knots which equates to around 108km per hour”.

Battened down in their tents they have been advised to sit tight and wait it out.

Our fingers here at ExWeb are crossed that all 3 expeditions find more favourable conditions moving forwards.

Other News

As well as the Spectre expedition it seems that another team of top class climbers are targeting Antarctica’s mountains this season. A prestigious group including Anna Pfaff, Savannah Cummins, Conrad Anker, Cedar Wright, Jimmy Chin and Alex Honnold are, according to Cedar Wright’s Instagram, currently winging their way down to Antarctica.

While we don’t currently have concrete details about their objective we will be sure to keep you updated on any news.


Weekly Update 11/19

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

Solo Trans-Antarctic Crossing Kicks Off

All-Female Ice Maiden Team to Cross Antarctica