It was only on Saturday evening, after a few (too many) days of anxious waiting in Punta Arenas, that Mike was finally given the thumbs up. At long last, it was time to leave!
Having done all the necessary customs checks at the airport, Mike boarded a large Iluyshin 76TD aircraft and settled in for a confortable 4 and a half hour flight to the highly organised Americain base at Patriot Hills situated West of the Antarctic Peninsula. It was well after midnight when the aircraft touched the Antarctic ice of the runway, which incredibly enough, sits on 800 meters depth of ice! This runway is known as a Blue Ice Runway and is formed by the force of the crosswinds rushing around the surrounding mountains.
Mike was stunned by the calmness when he walked off the plane. It was a very still evening and he was overjoyed to be back!
Just 1 km away sits the ALE base where Mike was able to set up his tent and grab a few hours sleep before starting on his way the following day.
Sunday, at 6 am, Mike awoke. After a quick check-in at the base would he be able to leave. Not so fast Mike – it was only three hours later that he was given the okay to leave! Staff there wanted to check his route, equipment, plans, provisions and discuss the do's and don't's of this rigorously controlled continent.
A 12 minute helicopter flight took Mike down to Hercules inlet. At long last he was where he wanted to be – alone with only his sled and provisions and the white Antarctic landscape in front of him.
The first task ahead of him was to reach the continents edge which was situated 12 kms from his drop off point. Heading northwards Mike skied the 12 kilometers and set up his tent for his first real night on the ice.
Mike says " It's -15°C so it's pretty warm for the time being. Once I go up in altitude it will start getting colder. There are however strong catabatic winds blowing along the coast at the moment. I'll stay here tomorrow. It'll be a day of testing my boots and the feel of my equipment.
I'll take it slowly at the beginning and will probably only do 4-5 kms a day to start with. My sled is very heavy and it's not going to be easy going as I head over the mountains. "
"I'll keep you posted and will send some photos as soon as possible – but for now I'm just eager to start moving!"