A Message from Ben Saunders, from his Blog on his Website

Boxing Day

Day 50: S89° 37′ 53″, W050° 57′ 11″ Altitude: 2776m Daily distance: 17.5MI Distance to go: 409MI

Blue skies again today, and the best conditions I’ve had on the entire expedition so far. The surface is still a bit soft, and a bit lumpy – Tarka and I would definitely have had cause for complaint if we’d come across this on the east side of the Plateau in January 2014 – but after the giant sastrugi I was bludgeoning my way through a couple of weeks ago, it’s been heavenly.

I’m not sure what else to report really. I’m sure many of you will have had your calculators out and be wondering about the remaining distance to the Ross Ice Shelf (622km) versus my remaining food (16 days). The equation – and the dialogue with my support team – has been troubling me too, which has had the knock-on effect of lost sleep and added stress in the last fortnight or so. Theoretically finishing the crossing is just about possible, as Tarka and I managed similar daily distances for long stretches on our return to Ross Island from the South Pole in early 2014, yet it came at a huge cost (we had to halve our rations for several days as we’d been over-optimistic about the mileage we thought we could cover with the food we had in our sledges, we both became hypothermic and ultimately had to call for a resupply flight that we hadn’t budgeted for) and as a result I find that my tolerance for risk now – especially solo – is slimmer than ever. It feels like I’ve spent most of the last 20 years convinced my goals are possible, despite the doubts and objections of almost everyone around me, so I find myself in an alien position to have the tables turned like this, and to have so many people urging me on when there is doubt and concern in my mind.

I should reach the Pole on Thursday, so that’ll be decision time…

OK enough grumbling – I’ve just been sent some questions to answer:

1) Have you experienced any mysterious anomalies while exploring the polar regions, as have been reported by past explorers? Have you had to authorise your journey with the military? And have you seen any strange military operations at the poles?

I’m sorry for a disappointing answer, but not really! I have to have a permit for the expedition, but this is more for environmental reasons than anything military. My North Pole expedition from Russia in 2004 had a bit more mystery and excitement – we stopped off at some military installations (Cape Chelyuskin, Sredniy) to refuel the helicopters and there are still lots of Cold War throwbacks in Arctic Russia – very long runways for bombers, posters for identifying Allied aircraft, etc… Definitely no vegetation or animals down here!

2) Just saw you on BBC news and curious to know what ‘solo’ means – are you completely on your own there or is there a support staff with you eg taking the videos ?

I’m completely on my own, and haven’t seen another person for 50 days now. Some of the footage the BBC used was from my 2013-14 expedition in Antarctica, when there were two of us, so it was easier to film!

3) What footwear are you using? And what weight are they approx? Do you take them off every night?

The boots are unusual and I actually bought them several years ago to use on a North Pole expedition that didn’t happen. I bought them from a Belgian explorer called Alain Hubert, who I belive designed them and has them custom-made somewhere in Italy. They’re branded ‘Extreme Planet’ but they’re pretty rare! They’re a double-layered boot with a NNN sole for a Rottefella backcountry touring binding, and I use Intuition ‘mukluk’ bindings (heat-moulded and fitted by Profeet in Fulham!) which have been brilliant so far.

4) Are you enjoying it? love grace xx

Hi Grace. Despite all my complaining, I am loving it here, yes. The wind died down for half an hour or so this afternoon, and when I stopped to rest it was so completely silent that it felt like I was in the quietest place on earth.

Ben Saunders (@polarben)

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