Day 6

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A second day of white out here today (the exact moment I saw the weather pictured above), although the veil of white did push out from about 2 metres in front of me to some way into the distance by the afternoon. That’s basically like taking a pillow case off your head and putting a duvet cover on instead, a small victory but a victory nonetheless. Bessie and I set off with a determination to break the 25km barrier that is remaining very much in tact at the moment, I pushed it about as hard as I would dare this early on and we limped in at 20km after 9 hours, Bessie still carrying a bit too much around the ol waist, I’m using around a Kilogram of supplies a day so by this time next week I should be noticing a difference in weight and hopefully we’ll get the mileage up.

Thoroughly enjoyed a couple of official desert island disks today, @james corden, Theresa may and the lovely @judymurray all featuring. I then switched it over to the post watershed version of my friends and families desert island disks made by Liv. The vast majority of which is people talking about how warm they are at that moment in time. Shout out to my Mum @leosears who got song of the day though with Bohemiam Rhapsody. Should have really thought about whether listening to it after 7 hours in a white out was a good idea, bloody terrifying when you’ve got those voices coming at you from alternating earphones, thought Freddy Mercury was about to swoop down out the mist, thanks a lot Mum!

Day 5

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I couldn’t believe it when I woke up, the sky was blue, the wind wasn’t blowing and the surface was firm. I stuck in the headphones, unburied Bessie IV and off we went. If you are following my tracking map you’ll see these early few days I’ve been twisting and turning in a backwards C shape, this was to avoid some rather large and horrifying crevasse fields. Today saw me finally reach the point where I’ll pretty much head in a straight line to the pole. We made good progress and at just gone lunch time I dare say we were rather enjoying ourselves. Antarctica clearly got a whiff of this pleasure and decided to chunder a white out all over us, a white out that reduced visibility to a few feet and erased any hint of a horizon by merging sky and earth with swirling white. If there are any Stranger Thing fans out there I am basically in the upside down now, demogorgons haven’t been spotted yet but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. The morale boost of getting the tent up was quickly vanquished by the snapping of an iPhone cable, leaving me with one left to keep my trusty ipod alive for the next 45 days. I don’t think an iPhone cable has ever lasted 45 days on my bedside cabinet, let alone in a tent in Antarctica.

Quote of the day has to go to the Smith family (my godparents) who opened up their playlist with “it’s the Smiths! The family, not the band.” Many thanks for clearing that up guys, definitely got a laugh out of me.

Shout out to the Queens 6Pl at ITC Catterick and hope their NavEx went well, I spent the last 6 hours staring at nothing but a compass so I feel your pain.

Day 4

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Woke up to a rather strong and chilly wind, I reasoned that at least it meant the surface would have hardened and be easier going. I don’t think I could possibly have gotten that more wrong if I tried. The first 5 hours of my day consisted of me planting my two ski poles three feet in front of me, heaving the so called sled (pretty sure I brought a plough actually) before repeating, moving at similar speeds to the glaciers around me. The snow was swallowing my skis and sled behind me like syrup. By hour 6 of this I decided to take the drastic measure of naming my sled in the hope it would rouse some sort of noble steed persona and get the bastard moving, Bessie the Fourth came good an hour or so later and we finally got shifting at a half respectable place (leaving envious glaciers in our dust).

We managed to squeak out just over 17km, which is quite a long way when you are earning it a foot at a time. The latter part of the day turned into my favourite 4 hours of Antarctica so far, the weather became beautifully still and substantially warmer than this morning and I got stuck into series two of serial, which is excellent. The Chilli Con Carne (Carni? How the hell do you spell it) from Base Camp Foods was off the chain levels of delicious and I genuinely sunk into a slight depression when I finished it. I know I have another one or two in there to look forward to so every cloud. I’m off to get my head down now, ploughing a 17km line across Antarctica has taken it out of me today, Bessie IV is being left outside tonight to think about her actions this morning, hoping for a better performance from her tomorrow!

Question - With it being 24 hour sunlight don’t you find it difficult to fall asleep? I thought it might but I just pull my hat over my eyes and before you know it I’m fast asleep, which is strangely the absolute opposite to when I’m at home!

Day 3

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Absolute dream start to the day with the weather, not a breath of wind and bright blue sky, this had me down to just my underlayer  for the first couple of hours. Should have known that Antarctica wouldn’t like this and she quickly threw what I believe is called a wobbly and pounded me with wind for the next 6 hours. Crossed my first couple of visible crevasses around mid day (the wider of the two seen here in the pic) no dramas to report there, apart from the fact whilst crossing I was listening to my friend Andy Bettles’ playlist  and free falling came on as I was midway across the ruddy thing. I have no proof he planned that but it sounds like something he would do! So for sheer incredible timing, song of the day goes to Mr Bettles (who is single ladies).

Received another question yesterday:

1. How do you charge your electronics and what do you recommend?

I’m using a Power Traveller power gorilla battery pack which is charged from the sun using a solar gorilla. I’ve got 24 hour sunlight down here so I just stick the solar panel on the side of the tent when I’m sleeping and everything is usually good to go by the morning! If you use the code AG17 you can get a discount of any power traveler products.

Day 2

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9 hours skied, 21.3km covered.

Another blue sky here today and thankfully less wind than yesterday. When I had set off from my drop off point, there hadn’t been a puff of wind so I’d gone slightly “light” on the layers on my legs, I had a merino wool layer and my windproof trousers on, I quickly learnt the lesson of how fast the weather can change and when the biting wind hit me on the climb, I ended up with an absolutely freezing “groin” area. Safely in the tent last night (and out of that wind) I was happy there was no damage done to the affected area and donned my down Shackleton, bottoms today which kept all concerned areas warm!

A great day though, had another climb in the middle which slowed progress as well as a few patches of soft snow which makes the sled feel more like a plough than pulk.
Song/quote of the day goes to my sister Kim, who somehow managed to get Mariah Carey, Iron Maiden and Savage Garden in the same playlist. She topped it off with “Let it go” from Frozen because “this is the bit where you said Elsa goes all sexy and sassy in her ice palace.

I also wanted to take the time to answer some questions Liv passed on, this is for Eva and her dad Wayne:
1. I pee away from the wind and go quickly during the day. At night, I go into a bottle in my tent and pour it out in the morning.

Tracking map is now live I believe, head to the blue button at the top of this page!

Day 1

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9 hours skied and 17.6kms covered. The 600m climb out of Hercules Inlet was hard work with a full sled, made slightly harder by a strong wind right into my grid from about 10am onwards. All in all though not a bad first day! The sun was shining which made navigation nice and simple but the blowing wind kept it pretty chilly all day. Before I left Liv was kind enough to get a few family and friends to put together their own desert islands disks style playlists, I listened to the first one today and there some classic quotes and song choices already turning up.

Today’s quote/song of the day came from my good friend Josh Murray who decided what I really needed to help me get through the tough times was Chris and Kem’s (of ITV’s Love Island) new track - “leave it”. He then followed this is up with “I was supposed to ask you before you left if you wanted the pork belly or chicken breast for the wedding, if you could ping me a text on that satphone of yours that would really help me out mate”. Unbelievable. I’ll have the Pork Belly Josh.

Hercules Inlet

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Smashed down my last meal at UG before jumping on the twin otter plane around 2030. The flight to Hercules Inlet is only about twenty minutes, the pilots then have to do a few low runs to find suitable ice to land. I was out the door with my pulk just after 2130 and skied for just under an hour to get me just short of the 600m climb out of Hercules Inlet onto the continent. The pilots were absolute legends and kind enough to whip by me for a wave goodbye. I’m currently sleeping on a 200m thick layer of ice above the ocean and there is not a single puff of wind, it is complete and utter silence and blaring sunshine at 2330. Hoping for similar conditions tomorrow, it can only last so long, best enjoy it whilst I can!

Union Glacier

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I’d been told that after breakfast I’d been given an update on the chances of me getting straight out to Hercules Inlet, I got extremely lucky and it looks like I’ll be flying out tonight at around 2000hrs (Chilean time). My hope was always to get going within 24 hours but the weather here is so unpredictable that you can easily have delays of days or even weeks. The British Army Ice Maidens Team have been here for just under two weeks now waiting for a window to start their crossing from the Leverett Glacier. I was reading their blog from Union Glacier in London so feel very bad that I’ve managed to catch them here and now get out on the ice before them, they are a great group of girls and I’m sure they’ll do brilliantly on their exped.

It’s been brilliant to spend time with the other expeditions here at Union Glacier before we all go our separate ways. Union Glacier is an amazing camp that has been set up by ALE, the staff are the most absurdly nice group of people and the expertise they have is second to none, I’ve picked up some great advice here and feel really good going into the start of the trip. Time for one last big feed now (the kitchen staff at UG are creating feasts fit for kings as everyone packs on the last few extra grams of fat). My stomach has now gone past the point of “insulation” and I resemble a down covered Jabba the hut! Me and the gut best go get the sled and head to the runway.

All the best - Scott

Punta Arenas to Union Glacier

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The alarm went off at 0430 and I frantically started throwing my clothes on, I wasn’t due to be picked up until 0520 but an irrational fear of being late for anything had me storming around the room (apologies to the couple below). I briefly considered not showering, going for the logic that I’m not going to get one for over 6 weeks so what difference does a day make, I decided instead to savour the luxury of running warm water and have one last cleanse. ALE picked me up and it was onwards to pick up all the other passengers from various hotels around Punta Arenas, it’s an incredibly busy season in Antarctica with the Iluyshin jet being maxed out at almost 60 passengers, all on their own various adventures, from skiing unknown antarctic peaks to visiting the penguin colonies. There is obviously no terminal by the blue ice runway of Union Glacier so we had to leave Chile in full polar gear, a rather ridiculous sight when going through the civilian terminal at Punta Arenas Airport.

When the metal detector went off as I walked through I was gutted at the thought of having to tear off my multiple layers and endless metal zippers, thankfully it turns out any kind of attack on penguin colonies are very rare this time of year, and I was waved through without the need for any intravenous searches.

The flight out to Union Glacier on the Iluyshin is as bizarre as it is epic. You’re being flown by a (rumoured to be) ex Soviet test pilot, and the crew are all the most intensely nails looking Russians you can imagine. Rather than much of a safety brief they just hand you ear plugs to help with the deafening roar of the enormous engines required to get the massive aircraft off the ground. The nails Russians then get all the more confusing as they proceed to put on Pretty Woman on the screen which is welded to the front wall of the fuselage. Who knew Richard Gere was so big in Moscow.

After 5 hours we touched down on the blue ice of Union Glacier, the doors open and ice cold wind filled the plane. Due to the difficulty of landing on blue ice the conditions have to be very excellent so I was expecting blue skies as I emerged. Instead it was very very limited visibility and surprisingly windy. Considering the Glacier is surrounded by mountains I have absolutely no idea how the pilot managed to land!

It was then on to Union Glacier Camp 8km away, the Camp is protected from the worst weather by surrounding mountains and I couldn’t believe how warm it was compared to the runway. It felt like a winters morning in Sussex. The sky cleared around the Camp and I finally got to see Antarctica in all its glory and feel extremely privileged to be here, it is like nothing I have ever seen before, the scale of everything and pristine untouched landscape is beyond words.

I’m hoping to fly out on the twin otters to my start point at Hercules Inlet tomorrow night as long as the weather holds.

Goodbyes and Excess Baggage

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After two years of feeling as if Nov 08th 2017 would never actually arrive, it finally came crashing in all too quickly with a whirlwind of last minute preparations and goodbyes.  The first to go was my long suffering Girlfriend Olivia, who has been incredible through this entire process, all too used to dropping me off at airports for four month stints overseas, I was pretty thankful she would be spared the trip to Heathrow this time due to work commitments (my mascara would not have survived a departure gate goodbye I fear). 

I then quickly dashed down to Sir John Moore Barracks in Kent to tie up a few loose ends at work and farewells to everyone down at 1 RGR.  My favourite exchange of the entire day was between my Company Second in Command - Captain Ganesh and Capt Cassini from Sp Company:

Capt Ganesh " Sears Saheb, he is very brave, but he MUST make is back safely."  

Capt Cassini (shocked to hear a fearless Gurkha Officer so worried about a lowly Lieutenant) "oh really Saheb, Why is that?"

Capt Ganesh "He is one of my Platoon Commanders on our next exercise, how will I get a replacement in time?"

I would like to assure Ganesh Saheb I will be back in time for the exercise next year and ready to go! I was then taken up to the temple on camp for a blessing from the Pundit.  "Kaida" which is essentially our 'tradition' in the Gurkhas is incredibly important and what keeps us such an effective fighting unit, it is vital that we never forget where we have come from and keep that bond.  Before deploying on operations the RGR will always pay a visit to the temple to ensure the safe return of each man.  

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It was then a quick dash back to the flat in London to pick up my skis and kit before getting the train to my parents so I could say my goodbyes and be dropped at Heathrow.  However, what followed will probably be the most stressful part of this entire expedition.  Having lost all track of time I didn't realise I had settled upon 5:30pm as the time to try and transport 2m long skis and two large hold-alls through London Waterloo and onto a commuter train out of the city.  To all the ankles I clipped and toes I squashed - I am very sorry.  To the man in the suit who called me a f*@*king ski bum, apologies to you too! 

I had high hopes that if I was ever going to successfully wangle my way out of economy into the lofty heights of premier economy or even business class this was it, this was my moment, they said it couldn't be done but by god this was my chance. Skis in hand alongside the widest smile I could muster, I bounded up to the desk with my most cheerful "Hello!". In about 12 second flat I had been handed a ticket for seat 48D and asked if I wanted to pay with credit or debit for my skis as sports equipment was no longer free on BA.  £65 lighter and with slightly dented pride I headed off to start the long journey down to the bottom of South America. Leg room or not - How can you be in a bad mood when you are off for the adventure of a lifetime.