Ben Saunders: Its over!

Posted: Apr 04, 2008 06:05 pm EDT

(ThePoles.com) After 8 days on the ice and covering 60 nautical miles, Bens expedition to become the fastest man to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole is over following the critical failure of his ski equipment.

To have an expedition that is the culmination of seven years training, preparation and experience forced to a halt due to an equipment failure is incredibly disappointing, says Ben, particularly as I am still in excellent physical condition. I came here well prepared and believe that the daily distances I have achieved to date (in my first four days I covered 29.4 nautical miles) show that setting a speed record was within my reach.

Ice conditions

The ice conditions I have encountered have been the worst I have ever seen, and worse than I could have imagined. I am witnessing at first hand the disintegration of the last of the Arctics multi-year pack ice. If climate change in the high Arctic continues at its current rate, I may be one of the last to be able to attempt this journey on foot.

I feel enormously privileged to have had that chance and the only true failure would have been not to have started this expedition in the first place.

Equipment failure

The main bolts which attach the binding of Bens boot to the skis have sheered off and the degree of damage is beyond repair, reports the home team. The unprecedented, appalling conditions of the ice, coupled with Ben exerting his absolute maximum effort to achieve the speed record, have clearly impacted this crucial equipment failure.

As a result, and coupled with the current ice conditions in the Arctic Ocean, Ben is unable to continue without his skis on this high speed light weight expedition.

Fortress wall

On 2 April Ben reported about a mother of all pressure ridges:
As I got closer, I started to feel a bit scared. The ridge was monstrous: nowhere was it less than two stories high, it stretched as far as either horizon, it was essentially vertical, and it even had a little moat around it (thankfully frozen) just for good measure. It looked just like a frozen fortress

I skied toward the lowest point I could spot, strapped my skis and poles to the sledge and attacked it with both hands, both feet and both knees. After a surreal vertical climb I wedged myself at the top and hauled the sledge up.

Endless rubble

As I turned to face north, I was greeted with a troubling sight: another giant ridge, then beyond that an endless view of rubble ice so smashed up that it made anything I saw at the start of this expedition seem like child's play.

The consensus among the experts at Eureka was that the ice on the Canadian side this year was more fractured than they'd ever seen before. Right now, camped on a modestly-sized flat bit of ice, surrounded by towering ridges, that's not a very comforting thought.

Last position:
N.83.57.686 W. 074.12.566
Arrangements are currently being made to pick Ben up off the ice.

Ben Saunders was born in 1977 and grew up in Devon (UK). He educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and lives in London. Since 2001 he has skied more than 2,500km (1,500 miles) in the high Arctic.

Ben is attempting to set a new world speed record from Ward Hunt Island to the Geographic North Pole. The current record was set in 2005 by a team guided by Matty McNair with leader Tom Avery, using dog sleds and re-supplies in a time of 36 days 22 hours. Bens expedition will be solo and unsupported and on foot.

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Image courtesy of north.bensaunders.com (click to enlarge).


After 8 days of experiencing Arctic sunsets, Bens expedition came to an end. The main bolts which attach the binding of Bens boot to the skis have sheered off and the degree of damage is beyond repair, reports the home team. The unprecedented, appalling conditions of the ice, coupled with Ben exerting his absolute maximum effort to achieve the speed record, have clearly impacted this crucial equipment failure. Images live over Contact hardware courtesy of north.bensaunders.com (click to enlarg..

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