Goggles and face mask are essential wear for the team members. Photo: Leo Houlding/Berghaus

Goggles and face mask are essential wear for the team members. Photo: Leo Houlding/Berghaus

Climber and adventurer Leo Houlding’s Antarctic expedition has got off to a slow start, with the three-man team pinned down in their tents in a blizzard.

The men are currently sitting tight, waiting for winds of up to 40 knots to drop.

Temperatures at the site ‘in the middle of nowhere’ are down to -28C.

The Berghaus-sponsored athlete and his team-mates Jean Burgun and Mark Sedon intend to climb the 750m-tall buttress of the 2,020m Spectre in the Gothic Mountains in Antarctica, and plan to snow-kite with 200kg sledges known as pulks for 300km to reach the Spectre and man-haul the pulks on skis for 400km before finally snow-kiting a further 1,100km back to the Union Glacier, concluding a complete trans-continental traverse before departing the Antarctic.

Houlding is posting regular blogs from his tent in Antarctica.

He said: “We need at least reasonable visibility to travel as we really must keep a visual on one another all of the time as we mustn’t get separated out here.

“Ideally we’d also have our first couple of kite sessions in gentle, friendly wind to get used to the giant loads and this hard, bumpy surface. So we’re tent-bound in a storm and it’s really very unpleasant outside.

“The thing which is causing us our main concern it the wind direction. For three years I have been studying wind models and at this location the wind almost always comes from the South.

“This is important as it means we can travel either north along 132-degree latitude to get to the Spectre but also crucially it means on the way back we can travel east towards Theil Mountains and back to Union Glacier.

“Last week when we looked at wind models it appeared the wind was coming from the North-East for most of the week, something I have never seen before for such a long period.

“When it clears up we can still travel to Spectre on this wind direction, but if it’s still the same in a month when we head back up here, it totally scuppers our home-bound strategy.

“No point in worrying too much about weather a month from now, especially when we’re currently pinned in a storm. So much for the stable high pressure and southerly winds which we were not only anticipating, but banking on.

“This unexpected wind direction is also throwing our sense of navigation. This far south it is quite confusing working out directions, magnetic north, true north, magnetic variation etc and this peculiar wind direction further compounds the confusion.

The pulks, loaded with 200kg of 'the lightest, strongest kit ever made'. Photo: Leo Houlding/Berghaus

The pulks, loaded with 200kg of 'the lightest, strongest kit ever made'. Photo: Leo Houlding/Berghaus

“Thankfully our GPS devices have waypoints and tracks pre-programmed so as soon as we begin to travel we will quickly establish whether or not we are going in the right direction.”

He added conditions inside the tent are ‘bloody freezing’.

“Mark is being heroic, filming outside in the storm. Jean is measuring climatic conditions, though they both keep berating me that ‘this is not what it said in the brochure’.

“I am doing the important task of communicating our predicament with the outside world from the comfort of my sleeping bag.”

After getting an updated weather forecast, Houlding said he hoped the conditions would improve on Friday, with the wind turning to a more normal southerly direction.

Updates can be seen on Leo Houlding’s Spectre expedition blog.

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