Antarctica 2017 Weekly Roundup 12/01

The third 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 weeks update here.

The Spectre Expedition

The Spectre team had managed to grab a favourable weather window last week, making it out to their drop off point. However they made it no further, with high winds and low visibility forcing them to remain tent bound.

It was not till day 5 of their expedition, the 24th November, that they finally got moving. Their first session with the kites was a success, allowing them to move 32km in just over 2 hours. The next day proved more difficult, but they still managed to cover 60km of what Leo describes as “brutally bumpy and hard” terrain through an area know as the ‘Sastrugi National Park’.

By the 26th the team could see the mountains flanking the Scott Glacier and were hoping to pick up the pace. Unfortunately day 8 featured several “kitemares”, a term the group have coined for the myriad difficulties you can experience while trying to use kites to pull the 180kg pulks. The wind increased throughout the day, peaking at 30knots. After a particularly scary moment in which Leo was “catapulted into the air with only one ski” they called it a day, having only managed to cover 10km.

Day 9 brought faster progress, covering 42.5km as they left the polar plateau and officially entered the Trans Antarctic Mountains. Since then the team have once again been tent bound by bad weather, stuck just 100km from the Spectre.

It’s clearly been a tough start for the expedition, 5 of the first 11 days have been written off by bad weather, while on the days they have been able to travel they have only averaged half of their targeted 70km per day. Still, they remain upbeat, “just one day and we could be at the Sanctuary Glacier below the Spectre”.

Ben Saunders’ Solo Crossing

Ben has been making steady progress. By day 19 on the 26th November he had put the peaks of the Forrestal Range behind him, but it hasn’t been easy going, “the mileage on the clock at the end of the day doesn’t entirely represent the effort involved” he writes over on his blog.

Ben is now on a straight line bearing for the next 25 days and he doesn’t expect to see much in the way of scenery during that time.

The weather remains highly changeable, with day 20 a complete white-out, immediately followed by two full days of blazing sunshine in which overheating was each days “primary concern”. By day 23 Ben was back to struggling through a white-out, but he has continued to battle away, covering 12 miles on the day of his last update. Only 777 to go!

The Ice Maidens

The Ice Maiden team have also made good progress. After waiting out the weather for 24 hours they have been rewarded with sunshine and great snow conditions in which to tackle the Leverett Glacier.

Over 2 days the team gained over 1,000m in height, working together to get their pulks up the slope. One member of the team has been struggling a little physically, but through some careful weight redistribution the Ice Maiden team were able to push on and leave the glacier behind.

Previous / Links:

Antarctica Weekly Roundup 11/25

Antarctica Weekly Roundup 11/19

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

Solo Trans-Antarctic Kicks Off

All-Female Ice Maiden Team to Cross Antarctica