A fine farewell to the Trans-Antarctics!

Before I begin - today I saw a bird! I think it was a juvenile Albatross. It came quite close, checking out our kites. The others didn’t see it. I saw a butterfly above 8000m on Everest, a tiny little bird in the door of my tent in a blizzard on the Greenland icecap, a snow petrel on the summit of Ulvetanna and now a huge bird at 86 degrees south, 500miles from the ocean. I take them all as good omens!

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Bye bye Scott, hello plateau…

We won’t be mentioning km in tonight’s report. What we will focus on is the fact that the heavily crevassed and complex Scott Glacier is finally behind us. Grizzly peak is still visible in the distance but we are back at the toe of the Robison Glacier and far kinder terrain lies ahead, for a while.

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Cosy nest!

Our sleeping arrangement consists of one and a half extra thick closed cell foam pads, the half converts into a seat, with a really comfortable Sea to Summit insulated, inflatable mattress.

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Working for it

..but it is awesome to be here in this incredible mountain range so few have visited. There is a limited window in the year and limited opportunity in life to make things like this happen. We are here, and this is happening.

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The long walk home

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.

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A Chance

Yesterday we woke to sun and no wind; exactly what we hoped for. This time we packed huge amounts of clothes and gloves in preparation for the worst. We walked up to the col leading to North side together, before leaving Mark to explore alone. Jean and I set off up Tower A from the North aspect via the easiest looking line, with an attempt at the Spectre traverse in mind.

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An audience with the Spectre

Today every bone in my body aches, every muscle hurts, but I’m stoked to have climbed the Spectre. Nothing is easy down here! Now the boys are looking at what to climb next.....

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l’edition française

Nous avons eu une chance incroyable avec la météo de pouvoir grimper le Spectre il y a 3 jours, seul jour grimpable, mais l'Antarctique se fout pas mal de nos ambitions de vouloir grimper plus

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Difficult decisions, where to draw the line?

We have travelled so long, and worked so hard, to get here. I have schemed, trained, planned and grafted with so much energy to get us to this magnificent mountain. But we must accept we are at mercy of the weather. Already this far out, and with such large scale objectives we need some stability to make a safe attempt at anything …

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Spectre Summit

With the constant dead-ends and slow progress, we were being drawn into a very committing game of grown-up snakes and ladders.

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Get back to your day Job….

It is a balance between living the story and having time to tell the story. Leo, Jean and Mark are so passionate about their adventure, that they are willing, after a difficult challenging day, to sit down and write at length and sort through photographs to share what they have just experienced.

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Racking up and shovel cheesecake!

It is always good to partner with accomplished chefs! Mark's rest day fresh chicken & asparagus satay followed by shovel cheese cake! Very original and delicious!

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Iridium No-Go

A bit of an odd update today from the team - with the added excitement of a competition..

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Spectre Base Camp

We are in the most spectacular base camp, encompassed in the cirque of the Spectre, surrounded by the Organ Pipe peaks in the Gothic mountains. Indeed it is a Cathedral created by nature to humble those few, whose pilgrimage brings them this far.

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Looking up

We noticed last night that one runner on Jean’s pulk had all but ripped off, likely damaged during the spicy descent to Graves Nunataks as the pulks slid violently sideways, and worsened by the miles of hard iced yesterday.

I think secretly ‘Mr Fix It’ himself, was probably quite excited by the prospect of a real crisis fix, and today took it upon himself to repair it to a better standard than when it began!

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We made it!!! , just…

Relentless! Another full value day and we have completed the first leg of our journey. The spires of the Organ pipe peaks tower above us, the twin face of the Spectre centre stage. One face, inviting, sun -kissed and beautiful. The other, foreboding, hostile and chilling. The same aspect, different weather...

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Scott Glacier

At last a good session! And believe it or not it was 10C in the tent this morning! We started in a familiar strong gusty wind, horribly over-powered on poor surface; not what we’d hoped for, but we had to get moving. Within 5 kms our persistence paid off and for a short while we hit snow-kite perfection!

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Spectre History

Stable high pressure. they said. Cold but sunny, they said. Warm in the tent, they said. Big kites with long lines, they said. 200km a day, they said... Or was it my research that led me to say all that??

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Day Off

Leo, Jean and Mark have been working really hard over the last couple of weeks to provide some great blogs and amazing photos detailing their experiences. Given the cold and windy conditions they have been operating in, together with: a snail-paced satellite modem, frozen laptop and flat batteries

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Graves Nunatuks

“Snow kiting ere is so ‘ard!”, said Jean when we finally found a good spot to make camp. This will have to brief because I’m very tired, but in nutshell.

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Kitemare Times

Patience will be our ally, with the whims of the wind, and hopefully soon the conditions will align for a big day of kiting and we could be at Spectre that same day!

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Frustration and Elation

“Nothing’s easy out here” said our pilot struggling to remove the cap from a fuel drum as we refuelled at Theil ski-way. My word was he right. In fact everything is really hard from going to the toilet to clipping a buckle to turning on your phone! This place is relentlessly demanding.

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On the Road

It took 4 hours for Jean and I to get our stuff reasonably dried out and everything sorted. Mark was ready in half that time but patiently helped out. When we were finally set to go with just the tent to put down, Jean and I both had cold toes. Not good to start without sensation so we worked hard to get the feeling back which means taking off ski boots, massaging toes, putting them under each other arm pits, hot water bottles, and running around

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We’re moving

Yes it worked! 32kms in little over 2 hours on a late night session! It’s 1.30am and we are just bedding down after our fairly epic first session.

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Still here

Still here! The wind was quite alarming through yesterday afternoon and evening. You wouldn’t survive for long outside. But inside this sturdy little tent we are safe and warm. It’s a Hilleberg Keron GT4. A tunnel tent- quick to pitch, roomy for 2, a bit of a squeeze for 3. It didn’t flinch in the 40 knot winds we had last night

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Jean – Tech Punter

Third day at our drop off point, tent bound. Feeling good actually. Conditions aren't good for travelling, so we don't feel guilty to stay in the tent. Inside, despite the frost, we are as comfortable as possible and seeing right now Mark smiling, eating chocolate in his sleeping bag with some music on I can't think we are in a bad situation.

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Antarctic Blizzard

Breakfast update: Leo gave in and got up to make the tea/coffee and breakfast. He reports its cold in the kitchen. Covered in 3cms of spin drift snow and a bit breezy. Jean has just swept the inside walls of the tent with his ‘brosse’ removing a shovel full of snow. Life is good.

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This is not what it said in the brochure

Mark is being heroic, filming outside in the storm. Jean is measuring climatic conditions, though they both keep berating me that “this is not what it said in the brochure”.
I am doing the important task of communicating our predicament with the outside world from the comfort of my sleeping bag...

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Point of no return

It time to leave the past behind and focus on the here and now. Our loved ones will always fill our hearts but must be kept to the back of our minds allowing us to concentrate of the ongoing tasks of cold management, travelling and living as comfortably and healthily as we can out here. My god what have we let ourselves in for!!!!

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Jean – Excited and Terrified..

Our departure is due for tomorrow in the morning, if the weather allows it for sure. I’m excited as I am terrified by the journey to come, we enjoy our last meals in the very comfortable ALE camp. Staff here are amazing. From all nationalities they come for a few months to make possible any kind of tourism down here. Passionate, competent, smiley and available almost any time for a question, a broken buckle or a map briefing they are extremely helpful in finalising our prep. Many thanks to you guys, you rock!

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Captain’s Log

We got up at 7am to another gorgeous day and began semi-frantically trying to deal with all the final preparations to be ready for a potential noon twin otter departure. Midway through Mark filming my master pre-expedition interview which we have been trying to find time to do for a week now Jean came in to the weather Haven tent cabin.

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200kgs of the lightest, strongest kit ever made

Another beautiful day here in this magical Union Glacier community camp. -18C in such sunny weather is much more pleasant than a typical winter’s wet and windy day at home in the lakes.

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Union Glacier Camp

Our first 36 hours on this great white continent have been a roller coaster of conditions and emotions.

Immediately as we stepped out of the big Iluyshin we were struck by fairly brutal 16 knot winds and bad visibility. I’m sure the pilot would not have considered it were it not for his 200+ blue ice landings out here.

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On the Ice !

As I write this we’re in the belly of the big Ilyushin on the 4.5 hour flight south from Punta to ALEs Union Glacier logistics hub and camp in the Ellsworth Mountains, western Antarctica.  A Soviet era heavy cargo plane, it is an awesome machine.

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FAFF-TASTIC

For the best part of the past week Jean, Mark & I have been in Punta Arenas, Chile the most southerly city in the world preparing for our departure even further south to Antarctica. Initially I thought that seemed a long time to add the finishing touches to a trip I have been planning intently all year and in part for at least two before. How wrong I was!

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Fear

“To express oneself honestly not lying to oneself and to express myself honestly, now that my friend is very hard to do ....”

[Bruce Lee]

Last week on the eve of departure for my longest most challenging expedition thus far I hosted an assembly at Freya, my four year old daughter’s school.

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SPECTRE EXPEDITION IS GO!

Spectre (spɛktə), noun – something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurrence.

Although the dictionary definition of this mountain’s name is somewhat ominous, from the first moment I saw a photo of the Spectre in Damien Gildea’s inspirational book “Mountaineering in Antarctica” it quickly jumped to the top of my most wanted list.

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