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The long walk home – Spectre – Transantarctic Expedition

The long walk home

Date = 13/12/2017
Day 23 (Expedition) Day 29 (Antarctica)
Location = Scott Glacier
Coordinates  – 86 03.376, 150 25.400
Altitude =  1263m
Temperature =  -20 to -7C
Wind speed / direction = 0
Distance travelled = 12km
Distance remaining = 1424km

Today is nicest weather we have experienced during the whole trip. The wind howled all night and we were worried we were in for an awful first day of man hauling. It took a couple of hours to dig out camp and to say thank you and goodbye to The Spectre by which time the weather had become delicious.

Homeward bound – with the Spectre in the background

A real treat to ease us into this next difficult task. We descended from base camp to our ski stash on the Scott Glacier. We discussed kiting to start, but decided we should get our march on. Jean led the way through complex terrain, heavily crevassed, lots of snow bridges some very wide, interspersed with blue ice and pressure ridges. It’s tough going with more than 100kgs each, but we are pleased that, with effort, it seems the next stage of our trip is possible.

Man-hauling. Walk for 50mins, break for 10mins and repeat for 8 – 10 hours aiming for 15-20km per day. The worst case scenario is that we must do this for 300kms all the way back to depot A. The 1100km kite leg to finish is currently firmly out of mind.

We a hoping to be able to upwind kite at least some of the way to depot A, when the terrain improves. For now the top of the Robison Glacier is our next target 60km up this remote labyrinth . In these conditions it will be a pleasant hike. No doubt as we return up to the plateau and gain 1500m of altitude, we will be back into the deep freeze. Once again it is our old friend the wind, which will be walking into, all the way, that will decide how much we freeze, how hard we have to try, and how long it will take.

It should be noted  that we have decided, due to the extended tribulation of our approach, and difficult terrain, that our intention to travel from one ice shelf to the other is no longer a priority. We have no wish to continue another 75km down the hazardous Scott Glacier to the Ross ice-shelf only to immediately return extending the beginning of our very long journey home.

As we then forsake a “trans-continental” traverse there is no need to go via the Ronne ice shelf to our ultimate destination Union Glacier, thus saving us in total around 300km and reducing our total target distance from 2000km to 1700km and saving about week.

We had considered this before we set off and have an alternative exit route planned that takes us directly to Union Glacier through The Ellsworth Mountains. It actually looks like a much more interesting route. But that is over 1400kms and a month away. Let us focus for now on our more immediate challenges and ensure we don’t revisit the same crevasse my pulk found on the way down here!

Starting the climb of the Scott Glacier towards the Robison

We are happy with today’s progress and pray for this joyous weather to continue. Spirits are high and we are all happy to have turned in the direction of home. Far as it is now, in a month and a half we will be there one way or another and no doubt the days ahead will have stories to tell!

[Leo]

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