Hi good evening everyone, this is Alex Brazier bringing you the day 60 update. We’ve now been out here for two months, and we look it! We’re all looking pretty weathered as you can probably tell from our photos, and quite bearded. So today was a pretty bright, sunny day, like the last couple of days. Good visibility. It’s still quite cold, temperatures around about -40, with a moderate wind throughout the day.
It was a fairly epic day. We did around 15.4 nautical miles. We’ve finally come off the Polar plateau. When we set off this morning, we could see the Trans- Antarctic Mountains poking out ahead of us, and one in particular, the Roberts Massif, marks the head of the Zaneveld Glacier, which marks our route down to the Shackleton Glacier. So we headed straight for the Massif. Out here it’s very difficult to get a sense of scale, and what looked like a short walk of a few hours, ended up taking all day, with pretty challenging terrain. In the transition zone, where the Zaneveld Glacier meets the plateau, we covered an area criss-crossed with huge crevasses, between 10 and 20 metres wide. Fortunately, there were decent snow bridges, and we cleared them all safely, however, it’s was still quite nerve-wracking for Jamie, who happened to be leading that leg, stepping out into the breach, and testing the bridges to see if they’d hold.
Next we came to several huge expanses of blue ice, hundreds of metres wide, hard as diamond and slippery as hell. Skiing over sheet ice is hard enough as it is, but when you have a heavy pulk sliding around with a mind of its own behind you, it’s pretty lethal. We all had a tumble or two. At one stage Lou decided that it would be easier to sit in his pulk and sledge down a section, something we then all tried – with mixed results. It became pretty clear that skiing was out of the question, so out with the crampons. We’d been on skis for 60 days now, so it suddenly felt quite foreign to be walking rather than skiing, but the crampons were good, and they make for good grip on the ice. We were able to make good progress and stay upright. As we approached the Massif, the blue ice became interlaced with smaller crevasses, from a few inches to a few feet wide, mostly packed with snow. And on crampons you’re have a much smaller surface area and the snow is more likely to give way. Both Lou and Chris fell through separate crevasses up to their waist. Fortunately, after some cursing, they were able to climb out without too much trouble.
We’re now camped up on the side of the Roberts Massif, and it’s an absolutely stunning view. We can see the Trans-Antarctic mountains out by the side of us, and various glaciers; we can see the Axel-Heiberg Glacier, the Beardmore Glacier, and heading off down towards the Ross Ice Shelf.
Tomorrow we’re hoping to do the memorial service for Henry, on a rocky outcrop up on the Massif, with a view out over the Shackleton Glacier. However, the forecast is not looking good. There’s a large Antarctic storm – the largest one we will have seen so far – coming in sometime tomorrow from the Ross Ice Shelf. It’ll bring with it winds of 40-50 miles an hour, and temperatures below minus 55 degrees. It could last for up to three days. So we’re just going to have to wait and see. When the storm hits, it’ll be very cold, we’ll have to batten down the hatches and make sure the tents are well-secured. And we’ll be lying up in them till it blows over. If the weather’s good, we’ll try and get out before the storm, otherwise we may end up waiting in the tents for a couple of days. Otherwise, it was a good day and we all really enjoyed the change of scenery and it’s absolutely stunning here, and it’s a real privilege to be here. I hope all’s going well back in the UK, and we’ll keep you posted on our progress. Onwards.