Andrews and Stephenson Antarctica 2023

Day 39

A flat light with a blanket of low clouds made for quite an oppressive atmosphere today but the surface of the snow has gone through a marked transformation. The very soft deep snow of the last nearly two weeks has finally given way to a harder surface. Marked ridges and troughs with many mini sastrugi still made for rough channeling going, hard on the feet and ankles but at least the sleds slide on the surface. So far on this expedition we’ve pulled two sleds each, a decision we made to help spread the load (165kg when we set off) over a greater area to minimise how much the sleds dig into soft snow, something that exponentially increases friction and drag. It’s served us really well so far but we’ve always known a point would come where two sleds started to become a hindrance, especially in the big sastrugi fields we know lie ahead. The question has been when is the right time to nest them together, repack and move with a single sled. Over this hard ridged surface we’ve found the two sleds jerk us around, yank us back or suddenly let us slide forwards unexpectedly as the different sleds are constantly on different ridges or troughs. So today we decided the day of tesselation has finally come!

So after we made camp we unpacked one of our sleds completely and repacked everything into a single sled, then lifted that sled and nestled it into the empty one. They fit together perfectly and we now effectively just have a single sled each. Hopefully this will make for smoother going over rough ridges and fingers crossed we’ve seen the last of the deep soft snow!

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 5mins

Distance 22km

Gareth

Average HR 104

Max HR 139

Calories burned 6110

Richard

Average HR 102

Max HR 149

Calories burned 6227

Day 38

22km, clear skies and a chilly Easterly wind. The terrain has slowly changed to hard wind blown snow ridges separated by trenches of soft snow. It is like a rough, angry frozen ocean. It is tough going but we are enjoying the change of scenery.

38 days in now and we’re still fit, strong and healthy. A few small niggles but we’re not getting too run down or losing too much weight. It’s all down to our diet plan and the healthy, nutritious food we have with us meticulously planned by our Expedition Manager and Dietitian Andrea assisted by Sports Dietitian Ash from Body fusion Dietetics.

Here’s a sample of what we eat in a day, 6800 calories per per son per day and 7250 calories on Sundays when we have a chocolate pudding as a treat.

Breakfast

Firepot Muesli or Porridge with dried fruit

Coffee

60mls Olive oil

Day food

True Protein Meal Replacement Drink

3 Roam Nut butter pouches (one espresso for the afternoon boost)

Various protein / energy bars / chocolate

Meat sticks

Beef jerky

Dehydrated cheese

Dinner

Radix Recovery Drink (packed with goodness, we have this as soon as we get in the tent)

Soup

Firepot Orzo Pasta Bolognese (our all time favourite and fortified with green veggies to boost the nutrient profile)

50g Dehydrated Avocado

30mls olive oil

Hot chocolate (every other day)

Chocolate pudding and some sweets on Sundays! So much food but tasty as well for morale.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 5mins

Distance 22km

Gareth

Average HR 98

Max HR 161

Calories burned 5342

Richard

Average HR 107

Max HR 168

Calories burned 5740

Day 37

Cloud enveloped us before we left the tent but as the morning wore on it started to part around us in drifting fog banks separated by patches of bright sun. The sun glinted off snow flakes and ice crystals blowing past us, little flashes of silver, giving the impression of skiing through shoals of tiny fish. The snow has firmed up a bit but remains quite sticky and dragging our sleds still feels like taking our pet anchors for a walk! We were grateful to get into the tent this evening and I’m enjoying my soup as I write this message. Gareth is chef tonight so he gets into the tent first whilst I stay outside, cutting snow blocks for melting and finishing pitching the tent. Before Gareth even takes his boots off he prepares a recovery drink for us both which we gratefully chug down as soon as we’re both in the tent, getting those vital calories and electrolytes in as soon as possible. Now for some rest, recovery, sending messages to loved ones and most importantly eating loads more food, getting ready for another day tomorrow!

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 20mins

Distance 22km

Gareth

Average HR 94

Max HR 154

Calories burned 5221

Richard

Average HR 91

Max HR 159

Calories burned 5225

Day 36

21kms today, clear skies and a light wind. Another day in soft powdery snow and a couple of long uphill sections. We are slowly chipping away at the distance and waiting for conditions to improve so we can start skiing longer distances each day.

We are safely in our tent for the evening now, the stove roaring away and water boiling for soup. After 36 days out here our tent is our home now, our little survival cell, our shelter from the storm. In the evenings after we’ve peeled away our frozen outer layers and changed in to dry clothes we sit either side of our stove which is positioned in the centre of our tent. Rich is chef tonight, we alternate each day. He quietly tends the stove, occasionally adding a snow block or two to melt down for water. He is sitting cross-legged on his mat in his baselayers. With the stove firing and the sun on the tent it is warm. His shoulders are still broad and he still carries some weight through his arms and chest. It is a good sign, we still have a long way to go. An impressive five week old beard covers his chin, dark circles under his eyes the only suggestion of fatigue after a tough 36 days. On his mat beside him lies his notebook, he is scribbling down the days science measurements. We have a great routine now and we look forward to our recovery time in the tent in the evenings. Spagbol and bbq pulled pork are on the menu tonight, amazing meals from Firepot.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 10min

Distance 21kms

Gareth

Average HR 101

Max HR 154

Calories burned 5521

Richard

Average HR 94

Max HR 151

Calories burned 5340

Day 35

It started snowing overnight and we woke to a flat light with low clouds. Underfoot the soft snow sits on an unpredictable crust, sometimes giving way under our poles or skis, dropping into another soft layer beneath. Very tough going, eyes fixed on our compass making slow progress through the snow. We’re now on the Iroquois plateau soon to head out onto the Antarctic plateau proper, fingers crossed the surface improves soon. On the plus side we’ve gone a whole 24hrs without breaking anything!

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h

Distance 19kms

Gareth

Average HR 105

Max HR 154

Calories burned 5980

Richard

Average HR 103

Max HR 148

Calories burned 5600

Day 34

We’re leaving the Forestal Range behind us now and before us lies a great white expanse. To our West we can just see the top of the Neptune Range, probably the last mountains we will see on this side of Antarctica. We are currently crossing the Median Snowfield which will soon open into the Iroquois Plateau and then the Antarctic Plateau which runs away to the South Pole. We are still being hampered by soft, deep snow but made 21kms today so happy with our efforts. Hopefully snow conditions will improve in a few days as we leave these snowfields behind us.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 15mins

Distance 21.01kms

Gareth

Average HR 115

Max HR 172

Calories burned 6430

Rich

Average HR 110

Max HR 156

Calories burned 6250

Day 33

The soft snow and the hills continue! We’ve left the Sallee Snow Field behind and worked our way up and down some more gentle but still tough rolling escarpments to drop down into the Median Snow Field. The Forestal Mountains are turning away from us on our left and the huge expanse of the snow field still to come stretches ahead. The surface has got even worse with deep soft snow and it’s been a slow day culminating in Rich snapping a ski binding near the end of the day necessitating an early camp. Luckily we have a spare set and we’ve transferred our ski skins over and are all ready to go again, a testament to the battering our equipment is taking in these conditions. We’re still happy and healthy and strong though and we know we just need to keep going through this difficult terrain until conditions improve.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 8h 30mins

Distance 20.02kms

Gareth

Average HR 118

Max HR 161

Calories burned 6540

Richard

Average HR 117

Max HR 165

Calories burned 6300

Day 32

Our hardest day on the expedition yet. 16,500 calories burnt between us, 9.5 hours of skiing and 20kms covered. The day opened crisp and clear. The polar sun high and the Forestal Range beautiful in the morning light. We spent the first hour trudging uphill in sugary snow and watched as the character of the Sallie Snowfield changed around us. At first impression it looked as though great ocean an rollers were rising all around us, huge waves of snow, their white crests formed from broken and jumbled ice formations.

As the day progressed we climbed steeper and steeper waves until we were faced with an ice cliff to our East and a field of crevasses to our West. We threaded the needle between these two formations and climbed higher through the snowfield. We are at 1800m now, on a snowy plateau safe in our tent.

A gruelling day but we’re happy with our resilience, decision making and team work.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 35mins

Distance 20.02kms

Gareth

Average HR 124

Max HR 168

Calories burned 8243

Richard

Average HR 131

Max HR 165

Calories burned 8325

Wow, 16,500 calories burnt between us. We have often been asked about nutrition and today we share one of the high calorie foods that is essential on a polar expedition, olive oil. Not only a brilliant source of calories, but a healthy fats and the important health benefits of olive oil have been attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

We were incredibly lucky to be supported by Rylstone olive press, the finest and freshest extra virgin olive oil that is full of flavour and is palatable. The brilliant team at Arrow Packaging individually packaged over three hundred 60ml olive oil sachets and we have this twice a day providing 483 calories per sachet.

Day 31

With the Forrestal Range on our left and the Cordiner Peaks on our right we’re continuing to slide our way through the Sallee Snowfield. It’s been a beautiful day with bright sunlight filtered through ice crystals in the air creating a parhelion hovering above us all day. The surface firmed up this morning but soon returned to soft snow, blanket smooth and beautiful but difficult to haul through. Unfortunately both our power banks suddenly failed on us last night, refusing to charge from our solar panels. Very bizarre and annoying, we can still charge our electronics direct from the solar panels but it’s more of a faff and requires more planning. Fingers crossed no more electrical gremlins!

Suunto Stats 

Skiing Time 9h

Distance 22.1

Gareth

Average HR 98

Max HR 142

Calories burned 5890

Richard

Average HR 108

Max HR 152

Calories burned 6100

A little polar history – December 14, 2022

Today we commemorate Roald Amundsen’s achievement of being first to the South Pole and also remember the tragic fate that befell Robert Falcon Scott and his men. This brilliant animated video from FRAM museum gives a great stage by stage overview of the two expeditions’ struggle towards the farthest south in the world and back.

https://frammuseum.no/blog/2022/12/14/the-race-to-the-south-pole/

Day 30

22kms today, clear skies and a strong, chilly  Easterly wind. We are progressing well across the Sallee Snowfield although conditions underfoot are still challenging. After skiing through cloud and snowfall yesterday the couple of inches of snow that settled have made a big impact on sled hauling. Tomorrow we should reach the Median Snowfield, then it’s just one more left turn around the Forestal Range and we’re on a straight line to the Pole. Exciting times. We’re doing well and in good spirits.

PS Rich broke his spoon again and has fixed it using our spare section of tent pole, he now has a foot-long spoon! Hopefully we won’t need to fix the tent.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 8h 55mins

Distance 22.1

Gareth

Average HR 104

Max HR 142

Calories burned 6003

Richard

Average HR 109

Max HR 152

Calories burned 6172