Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 8, 2014

Day thirty-seven

Day thirty-seven

Distance travelled: 17 miles
Hours on skis: 9 hrs
Cumulative distance: 542 miles
Still to go: 160 miles
Altitude: 8,100ft
Temp: -28C (feels like -40C) (at South Pole, now the nearest weather station)
Wind: Moderate breeze (South Pole)

Of note: Report to camp “Uphill and bumpy”. We spoke to Lewis last night (Jan 7th). He was the brightest he has been the whole journey, entirely himself and seemingly after 37 days now feeling at home in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth, perhaps even enjoying it a little! This may be down to the fact that the ‘polar thigh’, blisters and chaffing all seem to be under control at the same time and also perhaps that there is a glint of light at the end of the tunnel.

He says it has got significantly colder and windier as they are nearing the polar plateau. He is struggling to eat his dehydrated food and losing weight, but because he put on so much before he went it is not currently a problem. His polar cough has returned as the air becomes thinner. For reasons I do not understand the nearly 10,000ft Antarctic plateau has the effect of somewhere else on earth of about 12,000ft in terms of altitude sickness and dry air.  For those who fly in to ski just the last degree altitude sickness can be a problem, but having climbed over 8,000ft Lewis is feeling fine so far, apart from the return of the cough.

The key now is for Lewis to keep focussed as the risk of frost bite is at its highest up on the freezing windy plateau.

They hope to be out of the sastrugi fields within a few days and then it will be a big push on flatter ground for the Pole itself.  We read him your messages which he loved as ever, thank you.

Picture shows Antarctica in context from unusual southern view. You can see why expeditions launch mostly from Chile or, as with Walking with the Wounded, from South Africa. Lewis’s expedition and website are attracting interest and hits from all over the globe.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 7, 2014

Day thirty-six

Distance travelled: 16.8 miles

Hours on skis: 9 hrs

Cumulative distance:  525 miles

Still to go: 176 miles

Of note: report to base “Going well despite lots of sastrugi”.


Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 7, 2014

Guest Blog

Lewis’s Mum and Dad suggested I write a guest blog on Lewis’s site about my experiences walking the same route as Lewis in 2008, as part of the 1st ever all Irish Expedition to the South Pole. Some have pointed the finger in my direction for putting the idea into Lewis’s head, that he would be capable of achieving the journey as the youngest person in history, but these are only rumors. Lewis has shown on several occasions in the past that he is more than capable of inventing mad schemes that will shred his parent’s nerves, I don’t need to get involved, and certainly not blamed.

JBLewis has been at this endeavor now for some 37 days and whilst he is making incredible daily mileages, he should be feeling pretty exhausted when he crawls into his bag every evening, it not surprising really, as he has covered nearly 4 marathons since the start of 2014. He will have lost considerable weight too (I am guessing over a stone by now and possibly 2 stone by the time he finishes) and the daily deficit of calories (about 3000) will be taking their toll on his body and his ability to recover over night. This will hinder him in starting again the next day. He will be hungry most of the time, the only respite will be when he is asleep, and even then he will be dreaming of food.

He is nearly on the Polar Plateau and the sastrugi fields are also making their presence felt. These sound much more prevalent than when I skied his path 6 years ago. The highest I encountered was 3ft or so, I have heard reports this year or 4 ft to 5 ft in height. Skiing into a 150sq mile field of these rock hard ‘snow dunes’ seems unfair, after all the work you have done to travel the 465 miles thus far.

Mostly things will start to ease now as he passes 88 degrees of latitude, but in a few days he will be climbing up towards 2750m above sea level, and so the air is much thinner. Whilst he is lighter in body and in sledge weight, he has accumulated fatigue in his legs and combined with the effects of altitude and colder air, he will be finding it harder to breath and some of the marches during the day will be a real slog and keeping a focused and positive mind will be crucial in keeping his emotions in check.

The average temperature will also start to drop considerably lower than what he has been used to. This will affect the drag of the sledges and skis, as they work best when the pressure of the ski or sledge runner can melt the snow to ease the friction. This will not be possible in the minus 30’s and the snow and ice will feel like skiing over wet sand and it will be hard to tell where the problem lies, tired legs or sticky ice.

Overall though, Lewis has shown incredible endurance for a 16 year old. The reports I have heard are that he is positive in mind and strong in body, no better attributes for a polar explorer. Without mishap and or a rest day, within 2 weeks Lewis could be at 90 degrees South, joining just a few hundred people that have gone before him, but none so young.
Below is an extract from my blog, whilst I walked to the Pole, I describe here what skiing in a ‘white-out’ is like, where there is no visibility and no contrast, the experience is akin to walking in a cloud as you have no sense of the ground or sky.

Day 38 – January 2008
“I have been looking at my ski tips for 8 hours and 10 minutes non stop today, its the only way to ease the feeling of vertigo. I feel queasy, disorientated and unbalanced. Its hard to stay upright, not that I really know which way upright is, I’m always throwing a pole out to the side to stop myself from falling. This is what skiing in a total ‘white out’ is like, you can’t tell the difference between the air or the ground, like walking in really thick fog, this is the worst we have had in 38 days and we have had no contrast visibility now for more or less 12 days straight – very unusual for this time of year.

So all I can see are the red tips of my skis, and the wind is blowing snow across them at a specific angle based on the direction I’m heading in. I’m trying to walk on a bearing of 121 degrees towards our food cache, but in a whiteout it is practically impossible to walk in a straight line, so I’m using the direction of the wind to help me. When I’m on course the wind blown snow crosses my skis from left to right, if it comes in at 8 o’clock and leaves at 2 o’clock them I’m more or less on the right heading. If it comes in at 9, then I have turned into wind and I’m heading too far North, if the snowflakes cross my skis at 7 o’clock then I’ve turned too far South. As a double check I have a hole in the zip on the left hand side of my salopettes, if my knee is cold from the draught then I’m on course, if suddenly my shin and calf get chilly, I’m off course and the same with my thigh and buttock.

Its amazing when relieved of one of your senses how you can retune others to work for you, its too cold to use a GPS all the time and to read a compass accurately means stopping every 10 ski strides, which means we would be moving too slowly. For the whole day I have looked at the tips of my skis (actually for most of the last 12 days) my mind is exhausted, concentrating on things to distract me from this featureless monotony.

Then in the last 10 minutes of the final march of the day, I ask Clare who is behind me to call out left or right should I stray too far off course (not very effective way to navigate long term) I’m going to ski the last part of the day with my eyes closed! I also asked her to shout if she sees a crevasse. So for 10 minutes, I led a group of skeletons across the most remote place on earth, with my eyes closed, it was bliss, the vertigo vanished and for the first time today I felt calm and relaxed, skiing in total darkness towards the Pole.”

Many thanks

Jon Bradshaw

Photo taken of my team at more or less the same position as Lewis.

Lewis’s current position is here

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 6, 2014

Days thirty-four and thirty-five

Day thirty-four

Distance travelled Jan 4th: 4 miles
Time on skis: 2.5 hrs
Distance travelled Jan 5th: 16.5 miles
Time on skis: 9 hours
Cumulative distance: 508 miles
Still to go: 193 miles

Weather: -20C, cloudy/sunny

Of note:  The boys have now skied more than 500 miles and entered the infamous Latitude 87 (the main sastrugi field).  Carl reports that day thirty-four was like “being inside a ping pong ball”.

The coldest temperature ever recorded on earth was made in 2010 in East Antarctica, -93.2C (-135.8F). Now of course it is currently summer and although the temperature decreases as Lewis and Carl trek higher onto the Antarctic Plateau and more inland, this is tempered somewhat by the fact that as the expedition has progressed they have moved from early to mid summer.   When they started out temperatures at the South Pole were down to -40C, but today the temperature at the South Pole is a balmy -24C.

The unbelievably cold winters are why the ‘expedition season’ is so short in Antarctica, from November to January.  Because Lewis and Carl are doing a relatively long trek they will be some of the last to leave before winter starts to set in.  Ranulph Fiennes tried to do a winter crossing of Antarctica last winter, with vehicles, but the cold and constant darkness defeated them.  Frankly right now though Lewis and Carl are probably less cold in Antarctica than many Americans on the East Coast!

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 4, 2014

Day thirty-three

Day thirty-three

Distance travelled: 18.5 miles
Hours on skis: 9
Cumulative distance: 488 miles
Distance still to go: 214 miles
Temp: -20C
Wind: Light breeze
Altitude: Estimated 6-7,000ft

Of note:  Report to base camp was very brief, “Doing well”. Lewis and Carl are gradually climbing up to the Antarctic Plateau, an area of diameter 620 miles which includes the South Pole as well as Dome C, shown in photo. The average height of the plateau is 9,800ft.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 3, 2014

Day thirty-two

Day thirty-two

Distance travelled: 19 miles (best yet!)
Time on skis: 9 hours
Cumulative distance: 470 miles
Distance still to go: 232 miles

Of note: report to basecamp “Long day, long miles”. Despite their recent battle with the sastrugi, Lewis and Carl are yet to enter the biggest sastrugi field, which is most of latitude 87 (each degree of latitude is 60 nautical miles or about 70 normal or ‘statute’ miles). They have that to look forward to in about 2 days, in the meantime they are making remarkable progress in good weather and slightly better terrain. Lewis says he has lost a lot of weight (we have let him know we’ ve bought him a 5kg! jar of Nutella for when he gets home).

Photo shows Ernest Shackleton.  2014 is a big year for Shackleton enthusiasts. The centenary of his epic Antarctic expedition turned survival story is this year.  One hundred years ago he set out to conquer Antarctica but his ship, the Endurance, got stuck in the ice (sound familiar?). Although he never made it to the Pole, he showed remarkable leadership and, in a most incredible tale of survival with a full two years spent in Antarctica, he managed to save every single one of his men. You probably know the story, but if not there are excellent books and films recounting it.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 2, 2014

Day thirty-one

ImageDistance travelled:  18.5 miles

Time on skis: 10hrs

Cumulative distance travelled: 451

Distance still to go: 251 miles


Wind:  Light breeze

Report to basecamp “Great weather and snow conditions”

Of note: ground hog day, with a lot more sun.  The difference a bit sun and therefore a bit of contrast makes is amazing, making it easier to see and navigate the sea of sastrugi.  Compare the picture above, great contrast, can see the little devils, with whiteout the day before where Carl and Lewis were falling over them before they saw them.  Great fight back boys, hope the sun keeps shining for you.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | January 1, 2014

Day thirty

Distance travelled: 11 miles

Hours on skis: 6 hrs

Cumulative distance: 433 miles

Distance still to go: 269 miles

Terrain: big sastrugi

Weather: whiteout

Of note:  spoke to Lewis last night (New Year’s Eve).  He was not celebrating anything at all but rather flat and emotionally and physically tired out.  The combination of endless sastrugi and whiteout conditions are taking their toll.  Another expeditioner, a kiter, entitled his blog today ‘Mental turmoil’, he says he has never seen so many miles of endless sastrugi in Antarctica so it is not only Lewis and Carl who are struggling.  Lewis is always keen to know about world news so we told him the sad news about Michael Schumacher.


We are not getting any current photos back from Antarctica, but the photo above shows him in Norway on a hard day and I imagine this is how he is feeling right now.  Today was a hard day.  And tomorrow. And the next.

I have found myself hating, deeply hating, sastrugi, every single one of them, their name, their rock hardness, their size, their endlessness and their bloody awkwardness.  I hate sastrugi on Lewis’s behalf, indeed I hate them on behalf of every polar expedition that ever was.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 31, 2013

Day twenty-nine

hannah rotateDistance travelled: 16 miles
Hours on skis: 9 hrs
Cumulative distance travelled: 422 miles
Distance still to go: 280 miles

Temp: -26C and cloudy

Wind: Light breeze

Of note: report to base camp reads “Hard day – big sastrugi and poor contrast. Passed some small crevassing near camp last night.”

Photo shows polar legend Hannah McKeand and Lewis during his training in Norway in February. Hannah took Lewis under her wing and she and Carl have taught him all he knows. Hannah is  keen to mentor young expeditioners like Lewis and he has such respect for her. Hannah is an explorer and has also, incredibly,  skied to the South Pole  on her own and guiding others, six times!  At times like this, with huge sastrugi and crevasses, Lewis will be calling on everything Hannah and Carl have taught him.  Carl is a Northern master of understatement, so when he says “Hard day” you can be sure he means it.  We hope to hear how hard from Lewis tomorrow evening.

Posted by: ezraezra7 | December 30, 2013

Day twenty-eight

Day twenty-eight

Distance travelled: 16.5 miles
Hours on skis: 9 hrs
Cumulative distance travelled: 406 miles
Distance still to go: 296 miles
Temp: -25 C. Cloud.
Wind: Light breeze
Terrain: big horrible sastrugi

Of note: good mileage given terrain, big sastrugi, reportedly up to 3 metres high! Beautiful to look at no doubt but utterly horrible to drag your heavy pulk over. Carl and Lewis have about a week of sastrugi to deal with (all of latitude 87). Roll on latitude 88 and let’s hope the new skis can take the punishment.

[Sastrugi photo courtesy of Hannah McKeand, more about whom tomorrow]

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