Day 27

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Started off the day right with breakfast in bed (cup of coffee, porridge and 2 scoops of @juiceplus vanilla for the nutritionists amongst you). Despite covering an unremarkable but respectable 35.7km, today was a pretty good day, the 12th hour wasn’t quite as heinous as usual - don’t get me wrong it was still a horrific affair but acceptably so.

After I fired off the blog last night I got about my final bag of rations. I divided the 50 days into 3 bags before I left and it was time to sort out the final 20 days, I’m splitting 3 extra days worth of rations over my next week to help up my calorie intake. This turned out to be a very dangerous decision, I had bags full of unwrapped chocolate, biltong, sweets and nuts everywhere. It was like watching a vampire try and perform open heart surgery. I was doing my best just to breath only through my mouth because one whiff of @milka and I was going to wake up in a sugar induced coma surrounded by nothing but wrappers. An hour later and there were only 3 casualties thankfully, a piece of biltong, one chocolate chip @juiceplusuk bar and a @Haribo.....ok, 5 Haribo but they were tiny and had it coming to them.

 

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I woke up randomly early this morning at 0530, I had a bit of extra time so thought I’d use a couple of my satphone minutes to check in with my Nan (second picture, she’s the one on the right) and make sure she was staying out of trouble. Now, my grandmother isn’t the most technologically gifted in the world and I knew the delay of the satphone was going to throw her but hoped I could get at least a hello across. In short - it was chaos, “oh this blasted thing, I do wish you could hear me.....crrrrrrr.....blast it....crrrrr....Scotty?....crrrrr” The last thing I could faintly make out before we said goodbye was something about making sure “I wear a hat” which just goes to show, you can survive a month alone in Antarctica but your Nan will still tell you to make sure you wrap up warm.

Day 26

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38 days - 5 weeks. Weeks 1 and 2 don’t really count as you’re just excited to be there, week 3 you are coming up to the half way point which is a big morale boost so that doesn’t really count either, week 5 you are on the home stretch which makes that fine as well, that means week 4 is actually the only one you really need to worry about, and I am currently slap bang in the middle of week 4 which is proving to be very hard work. We managed to get 35km done today but it is getting harder and harder every day to keep inside the 38 day goal mileage, we’re on target for now though so we’ll take it!

I’m officially getting bullied by this IPod poltergeist. I thought I was going to get a full 20 minutes uninterrupted today, but it was just waiting for my favourite song to come up before it set off again “top rated, 25 most played, genres, pop, rock, country” I’ve listened to every playlist title being read at least 100 times today.

You’ll see on my hat it says A1 Pharmaceuticals, huge shout out to Gary Lewis and hope he is on the mend. Gary is an impressive military historian (as well as owning A1) and was kind enough to sponsor the expedition, he unfortunately suffered some health issues on Remembrance Sunday this year but is bouncing back already I’m sure.

Day 25

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Just a pic of me hanging out with all my friends. I promise you my existence isn’t as sad as this picture looks, I’m actually midway through a @snickers at this point so thoroughly enjoying myself. The food front did take a bit of a dip today as I finally ran out of @juiceplus uk chocolate shakes, I’d only planned for two a day but started smashing one as dessert as well.

The iPod poltergeist has continued to taunt me, I managed to get a few hours of music out before it through a wobbly again and it was back to silence for the rest of the day. We got 36.5km in the bag after 12 hours, hours 9-11 are starting to become very very dark times and hour 12 is nothing short of emotional.

We crossed over the 86th degree as well which is always a bit of a morale boost. We are getting ever closer to the truly testing 87th which is known as “the Sastrugi national park”, where apparently the Sastrugi is the size of cars and buses. The sheer scale of things here constantly plays havoc with your perspective. I’m steadily climbing at the moment but due to the air quality here you can see for miles and miles, I kept squinting into the distance as it looked like I was approaching “the wall” from game of thrones.  It’s actually just the continued elevation gain of dozens of miles that is visible combined with the glare, a bit gutting really - always fancied myself as a member of the nights watch.

Questions:

Did you take anything Christmassy with you?
I’m afraid I actually didn’t, apart from the three Christmas songs on my iPod - “don’t cry it’s Christmas by David Brent” “All I want for Xmas by Mariah Carey” and “Santa Claus is coming to town by the Jackson 5”

What one thing do you wish you had taken with you now you are down there?
I would happily have carried another 10kg worth of food I think. Nothing could have prepared me for how hungry I’ve been getting. The problem is the food I do have is so delicious as well that it is pure torture knowing I’ve got bags of it sitting right outside!

Day 24

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I’ve got some kind of poltergeist stuck in my ipod, it’s very inconvenient. After sticking in the headphones this morning it proceeded to not play single track but read the title of every track on my iPod to me in the mark 1 Siri voice. It would then randomly start playing midway through an audiobook, before stopping and continuing reading the titles. This resulted in 12 hours and 35.5km of absolute silence, which was quite nice at times, but also makes time pass very slowly.

The ground out of Thiels corner begins to rise again quite steeply, I was having to work quite hard to keep my pace going up the incline, so much so that my buff became quite damp with the vapour coming out the top of my jacket. I then stopped for a 10 minute snack break, in the minute or so it took to get out my snack bag my buff froze solid around my neck like some sort of brace. I then tried to bend my head down to my mitt to get a handful of nuts and couldn’t quite get the angle over the lip of my new neck brace, leaving my squirming in desperation to reach my treat. I ended up just thirsting the bag into my face and fishing anything out I could get my teeth around.

Questions:

Do you have to tie Bessie down each night so she doesn’t blow away?

Bessie still needs to go on a bit of diet before she’ll blown away, I leave all my food and fuel in there to weigh her down at night (still over 35kg worth!)

Do you have to build an ice wall around your tent each night?

I have snow flaps sewn around the edges which I cover in snow to weigh it down, then if the wind is blowing a bit I’ll put Bessie as a mini wall, then only if it is seriously pumping will I build a wall.

How do you brush your teeth?

I have a little fold out brush and a travel size tooth paste bottle.

Hope everyone is having a great festive period. Be sure to check out @theshackletoncompany website for some great gents presents, SCOTT15 for 15% discount and a 5% donation to the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Day 23

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37km covered today in what felt like a truly bizarre contortion of time and space. I set out and before I could even get my day dream head on I was 9 hours in! What a result! Usually time passes in slow motion, every second feeling like an hour. This then imploded completely and the next 3 hours may have well been a decade long, I would set off determined not to look at my watch for at least what I thought an hour was, after I thought I’d completely over done it and be happily surprised to be well over my goal, I’d check the watch and be 12 minutes into the session. So all in when you combine the two it worked out as a pretty normal long day!

Liv clearly thinks I am starting to lose the plot a bit as she sent me a riddle over the sat phone to mull over during the 12 hour stint. I should give you some context here - Liv is a very smart individual, incredibly so, she’s made a documentary about surveillance that Edward Snowden recommends for goodness sake, yet somehow riddles go so far over her head it isn’t even funny. I’ve genuinely seen her flabbergasted for hours trying to figure them out to no avail. Every time she hears one it’s like you’ve just turned her world upside down. “Two fathers and two sons went fishing one day, they were there the whole day and only caught 3 fish. At 7 o clock, one of the fathers says ‘let’s call it a day there, we’ve got enough to have one each.’ How is this possible? Answers and any good riddles below please!

I’ve been playing around with my rations, due to the fact I am on track to be 12 days ahead of schedule, that is potentially 12kg of weight (and calories) I could be eating, as you can see in the picture Bessie is still a big ol lump at the moment. This is always a dangerous game though, Antarctic weather can change in an instant and you can be tent bound and all of a sudden I’ve but the entire expedition at risk. I’ve been conservative and side lined a minimum 5 days emergency rations no matter what, I’ve given myself 17 days to get to the pole, then split the extra couple of packs over the next 5 days(an extra meal a day). If I then get to within 125km of the Pole, I’ll consider breaking into a day or two of the remainder a meal at a time depending on the forecast.

Day 22

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Forget the mileage, forget the weight loss, forget the weather, the update people have all been waiting for is finally here - beard watch. As you can see, the beard is scoring a very very average 4.5 out of 10 (please do add your own score below). Incredibly patchy, bald patches everywhere but still plucky, and everyone loves a trier. You may have also notice I’m slightly puffy around the eyes with a couple of red spots on my eye lids, the wind was absolutely ploughing into me this morning and managed to get through the de-misting vents in my goggles and irritate the skin around my eyes slightly.

I covered just over 34km today in 12 hours, which brought me to within a couple of kilometres of Theils Corner. Theils corner is an ice runway where the small planes going to and from the pole or across the continent can refuel. It is also where a lot of expeditions have their resupply caches on their way to the pole, I decided to stop a couple of kilometres away to help resist the temptation of digging up someone’s delicious stash of chocolate for myself. My own food bags have had to be left in Bessie and no longer brought into the tent due to my inner chubster constantly trying to convince me that eating just one of the remaining 52 snickers wouldn’t hurt.

As I was approaching Thiels, just 3 kilometres short, a plane came overhead and descended to the ice. It was already 20:27 and I was due to stop and set up the tent as soon as Mr Mystophalies (from cats the musical and courtesy of my brother in laws playlist) stopped playing, so I was never going to be able to get to the runway in time to say hello before they took off again. I’d missed out on some human contact by the tiniest of fractions. It did however get me thinking about my “plane day”. Each persons plane day is the point in the expedition where if a plane were to land on the ice next to you and offer you a lift home, would you take it. I can safely say I’m not at that point just yet, but I did think if that plane had touched down 3km earlier, swung open his door and said “I’ve got a XL meat feast from dominoes and a lamb shish kebab, do you want them?” I would have very nearly thrown away the hope of an unsupported record for a feed like that!

Questions

What was your first adventure?

Well I used to be in @beavers and @cubs so have fond memories of running around the Knowlands woods in Sussex with them. My first camping trip was down by the river Ouse about 500m from my house after I got given a tent for my birthday, got absolutely destroyed by mosquitos!

How do you keep going in a straight line?

I use a combination of the my watch and shadow (for example at 14:15 Chilean time my shadow will be directly in front of me). I also have my @suunto compass mounted on a harness on my chest. As well as that I have two bits of ribbon tied to my ski poles, so when the wind is blowing consistently it is an easy way to quickly check if I’m going roughly the right way. If all else fails I can check my position on a GPS.

Day 21

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Was always going to be the difficult second album after 40km yesterday, but actually turned out pretty good! 37.8km covered in 12 hours. If all goes well tomorrow I’ll finally hit Thiels Corner by the evening. The dream of 38 days lives on!
The day started off with Mariah Carey’s “all I want for Christmas” courtesy of my sisters playlist. This left me dreaming of the Bavarian tent at winter wonderland and inevitably the bratwurst hotdogs that are sold outside. Despite being surrounded by snow, I’m not really getting into  the festive spirit down here just yet, fingers crossed a Christmas Day finish will bring me into the swing of things right at the last minute.

I’m bracing myself for some 25 knot gusts tonight, Bessie has not yet earned a place in the tent so she can take that on the chin this time. The wind has been by far the most challenging part of Antarctica so far. Even -20 doesn’t feel too cold until you get hit by the wind and any exposed flesh will start stinging instantly. I’m pretty sure it also has tentacles as anything not tied down is quickly snatched up and gone across the plateau (including pepperamis). Whenever the wind is pumping and my breaks come around, it is a mad dash to get my @Shackleton down jacket on and hood up. Once I’ve sealed the hood, got my head down (full emperor penguin mode) and the headphones are blaring, I can shut my eyes and pretty much imagine I’m in my bed in London despite the chaos blowing around me, it really is bomb proof. Martin and Ian from Shackleton have been incredibly generous to me as a co-lead sponsor for the expedition, the goal with the jacket was always to plan for the worst and hope for the best in regards to weather and what they built could withstand anything. If anyone (like me) has forgotten to do any Xmas shopping, Shackleton are offering 15% off everything with the code SCOTT15, 5% of everything sold with that code will also be donated to the @gurkhawelfaretrust. Signature jumper in blue is my personal favourite - side effects of wearing may be to end up alone in Antarctica trying to channel your inner Shackleton though so wear with caution.

Question: how long does it take you to put up your tent?

I’m lucky that due to Bessie’s length I can roll up the tent with the poles still inside and pack it away like that, this saves me having to faff around threading poles in when it’s windy. At the moment from the point I stop moving to have the stove on and water boiling inside the tent is about 20 minutes, so to just get the tent up and fully pegged In etc takes maybe 10 minutes or so.

Day 20

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Big ol day out on the ice today. 40.1km In 12hrs 15 minutes. Team celebration pictured, can’t help thinking I look more enthused than Bessie. I crossed the 84th degree yesterday which signaled the only portion of this journey which is flat, when I woke up and the conditions were perfect I had to try and make the most of it and get some miles under my belt. I’m now within 75km of Thiels corner which is mentally (and physically) a big mile stone.

Worrying times on the iPod front though as I’m coming to the end of all downloaded podcasts. Will be very sad to see the end of @Desert Island disks, am kicking myself for not downloading copious amounts more. Who knew that it would be Ed Miliband’s that kept me going in the 12th hour of skiing today! Season finale of “tracks” tomorrow, I dropped the episode into a playlist today and set it to shuffle but it never came up, it’s like a very tame version of Russian roulette.....but with podcasts.....

On a very controversial note, Chilli Con Carne could be relegated as top meal thus far, had a chicken korma last night that I’d consider selling a kidney to have again.

Shout out to all the boys from 9 platoon and C Company who are back from Kenya, hope they all had a great time out there, I’m in desperate need of an enormous messing soon as I’ve lost so much weight I’m starting to look like PC1!

Questions:

How are you managing injuries and soreness?

Touch wood I haven’t had any “injuries” yet. I stretch a bit each evening (I say a bit because stretching is my least favourite thing). If something is particularly bothering me I might pop a couple of pain killers, I try to avoid that though, I’d rather be slightly aware of some discomfort so I know exactly how I’m feeling than mask it with medication.

What’s been your favourite part of the challenge so far?

Getting off the plane and seeing Antarctica for the first time was a very special moment. It took such an insane amount of work to get to that point, this part is the reward really. I’ll also say finding my first spare snickers was a pretty bloody good moment.

Day 19

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When my iPod died last week and I had nothing but my thoughts for 11 hours a day, I became obsessed with the goal of finishing the expedition on Christmas Day, it is what kept me driving through the fresh powder, leaning deeper into the harness. 38..38..38..38..38 days, I literally kept repeating it over and over for hours on end, almost chanting it in my head. To complete the 1100km in 38 days would put me 12 days ahead of schedule, that’s 12 days of mileage that needs to be absorbed into 38. It is risky, but one of the driving reasons behind this expedition was to try and find my limit both mentally and physically. 38 days would definitely require me to find and surpass both those limits.

My body is definitely beginning to show some fatigue, I still feel strong but my legs are slowing a bit, I’ve lost a fair amount of weight in the last couple of weeks as my body is physically incapable of replacing the 7000-9000 calories I’m burning each day. To surpass 30km a day requires constant focus to keep my legs pushing, it is not a pace that allows my mind to drift off for too long at once, I’ll be mid way through my second rack of baby back ribs at the @ribshack end suddenly snap back to reality and realise I’m crawling along like a snail. I’ve had to shelve the audiobooks for now as well, I was really enjoying @hilaryclintons “what happened” the last couple of days but I end up skiing very slowly as I get absorbed in the story (there is also the constant risk of throwing myself in the next crevasse as I am reminded Donald Trump is actually the President).

In some of the few minutes I did drift away today, I found myself in a food fantasy of epic proportions at @pizzaexpress. Started off with 2  x bruschetta, 24 dough balls, 2 x American Romanas (house dressing on the side and a mixed salad (to be healthy). Closed out with a double chocolate fudge cake and a large Peroni.

What part of your body gets most cold?
I can tell you very specifically that it is my right thumb! I wear mittens so all my fingers are keeping each other warm and the thumb is just left out there hanging out by himself. The right one gets coldest because it is taking the brunt of the southern wind coming from my front right.

Have you been In touch with Guinness to make it official or does that happen after?
I verified the current record with the people who hold all the records of polar Expeditions, the Guinness confirmation would come after (if I were successful!)

How bad do you smell right now?
Horrendous. I wasn't expecting it to be anywhere near this bad as I thought the cold might kill off half the smell but it is as bad as you would expect from someone who sweats all day, doesn’t wash and doesn’t change their clothes.

Day 18

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Just when you think it is gonna be a normal day in Antarctica, you go to get your meal bag for the day and only go and pull out a ruddy chilli con carne! How can you have a bad day when you’ve got that to finish your day off with! Despite Antarctica’s best efforts to ruin this most auspicious of days, it wasn’t too bad. Progress was slow due to a pumping 20 knot wind right into my hooter all day, that kept us to a modest but acceptable 27km after 11 hours. As if getting happy slapped by the wind all day wasn’t enough, it then went and genuinely mugged me on my first break of the day. The wind was really blowing at this point so I didn’t want to risk having my precious droewors blown away, so I opted for the (just as delicious) but slightly denser pepperami. Cylindrical in shape, heavy with salami tastiness, a perfect candidate in high wind, surely there was no way the wind could snatch such an aerodynamic snack from my hand. Fast forward 20 seconds and my morning morale is sliding further and further back towards the coast and I’m clambering after it still attached to my harness like I’ve just tried to get out a car with my seatbelt still on. The snack was eventually rescued and consumed in one before any further attempts at theft could be committed.The wind is due to stick around for the next few days so I’m going to have start taking cover behind Bessie rather than on top (pictured) for my snacks, can’t afford another pepperamigate.

Thanks so much for all your messages yesterday, Liv has passed them on and they really meant a lot after a tough day. A few shout outs and answers to questions.

First up - a big hello to Sharon and all the nurses in the trauma department in Northern Cal, what you guys do every day is about a million times harder than what I’m doing. You’re all legends.

A huge congrats to Fletch and Steph on their engagement, good news travels fast, even to Antarctica! Very happy for you both!

Does your compass work differently in Antarctica?
I have a global @suunto compass which means the needle will balance in both the northern and Southern Hemisphere. If I had a northern hemisphere compass down here the needle wouldn’t sit straight.

How do you keep track of what day it is?
I log my position, time travelled and conditions each day with as permanent marker on my @multimat sleeping pad. I didn’t want to sacrifice the extra weight of pen and paper so any other notes I need to make I record on my phone.

Does you body feel fit or tired from walking so much?
I’m feeling ok at the moment! I’m a bit stiff in the evenings but otherwise still going strong!

Do you have medicine if you get sick?
I have a big bag of medicine with me which includes antibiotics, pain killers and anything else I might need. I also speak to a doctor on the phone once a week to update them on my condition, I can always get hold of them if there are any problems.

Which is more taxing, surviving sub-zero temperatures in a single handed battle with Antarctica or sharing a house with @andrew Bettles? From Michael Bettles.
The risk to health is far far lower here than any habitation with @andrewbettles, that’s for sure.