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Man Hauling in the South Pole

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Wednesday 13 February 2008
-15.4 deg C
Wind: 5.7 kn, at 68 deg E

This Sunday BAS are holding a sponsored ski to the South pole. This will be 320 laps around the perimeter drumline and the event is being held to raise money for the RNLI.

I've decided to do it man-hauling and to treat it as a typical day on a real expedition to the pole. The first task was to find out how real I need to make it, so I contacted Dave Mitchell, our expert on these matters and all-time-hero (sorry Dave, but its true), to find out what weight and distance I should be looking at.

He replied: ‘Now then, your walk to the pole! I'm assuming you are a purist and wish to complete the journey unsupported and without re-supply? If you’re not assuming any wind assistance from kites and your distance is 1600km you would hope to average 22km per day, which is equal to 72 days of travel. The distance per day would be higher but you will struggle to achieve this when the sledge is heavy at the start of the journey and you have uphill terrain. On average you will need 1kg of food per man per day so there's 72kg (assuming you have no need for emergency rations in case you don't make the 22km/day). The rest of your equipment would probably be in the region of 85kg - sledge/tent/fuel - and this assumes that you have a travelling companion to share the communal items, otherwise you would be approx 100kg of equipment and fuel. So the lightest you’re likely to be is 157kg including you sledge/skis/trace/harness. Giving yourself a margin for error in case you get stuck I'd load your sledge with 150kg of weight and set off…’

Yikes! This means I am looking at a minimum of 4 laps with a minimum 150kg sledge!

I tried pulling a sledge tonight. I was given the sledge and harness by the GA, Kirk, and I filled it up with snow. Towing it around felt OK but it wasn't anything like 150kg. This was demonstrated in some locations there the sledge out-paced me. I bumped into structural engineer Danny Wood who reckoned it was about 40-50kg. He said it could do with some steelwork but I'm not sure if that was for weight or structural stability. I didn't ask. From experience it's always best to stop these conversations before the cross bracing gets added.

I've got two days to get into shape before the big day - Thursday and Friday, rest day Saturday and then the long haul. Like the best Antarctic adventures I'm completely unprepared and the wrong shape, but with this blog I'm committing myself.

What's the worst that can happen? If I fall over in the snow, they are bound to find me by the size of the wind tail I'll create in the snow. It could be the smallest Antarctic exploration disaster documented.

At least its going to be an adventure!

In all seriousness, I don't think I'll get 150kg on the sledge. I might get 100kg. And I'll never get four laps round the base. If I can do one lap I'll be deliriously happy. Two would be an absolute miracle. I don't dream of going beyond that, but I'll do my best!


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