New Year, New Miles
The human body is an amazing thing. Each night I get into my sleeping bag thinking my body won’t cop much more of this. 6 to 8 hours seems to be enough for me to regenerate just enough strength for one more day. The concussion that the body is receiving daily is immense, the pressure on lower back and legs from the skiing and sled weight is extreme. My feet have been in contact with Antarctica for 4,800 km now and yet nightly they knit and repair.
There is a continuum in Polar Travel - fatigue - exhaustion - hypothermia - death. Flirting with this progression is dangerous, but it must be encountered if one is to make mileage. With a partner there is always someone to look out for you, “hey mate, a bit of face showing, let’s cover it”, or “mate, you are slurring your words, halt let’s get a tent up”.
On a solo expedition I have to be more cautious in all aspects as it’s only me, I have no second umpire. I pushed too hard once when the hallucinations started, but since then whilst flirting with the continuum I have been getting stronger and more laser focused regards making Thorshammer, then Novo in one piece.
Today started with moderately strong wind, but very cold (wind chill 40 below). Rugged up with an 11 m hyperlink kite we took off, racing downwind on really nice smooth ice. I was having to work the kite, but at about 110 km from last nights camp the wind shifted about ten degrees and nearly doubled in strength.
It became like an eerie moonscape, the entire lower foot of air was spindrift or driving snow. It was difficult to judge obstacles, but the trade off was just hang on and hope for the best ! Flying along at 36-40 km/hr I chewed up the miles but it was borderline scary as you couldn’t see what was underfoot. The sun was directly ahead and the combination of kite, shadow, flying snow and sun flare was absolutely stunning to watch. At 203 km I dropped the kite, to try and get a GoPro to capture the light play. It got dangerous really quickly, with close to gale conditions and a GoPro that froze in any case. So I called it a day.
If the wind holds (Marc’s forecast is good) and I have the tenacity to make 200 km tomorrow as well, then in 7 days I will have covered over 1,300 km of open ice and be within a reach of Thorshammer. Unbelievable. I am trying to just focus on a day at a time, but I'm beginning to get excited.
Because I have pushing so hard, my batteries are all low - tracker, Sat phone, cameras etc. I set to this afternoon to recharge everything ready for a final push. To my horror the solar panels were not working, without them I’m buggered. No one has ever accused me of being handy, but I can deconstruct and reconstruct most things. The extreme cold is cracking all the insulation off the panel’s wiring. One of them was shorting out, fixed, we are back in business, power pouring into my little red tent home tonight.
I cut part of my neoprene knee brace to try and pad the sides of my feet that are creating a source of pain. It semi worked, better but feet still an issue I’m managing.
Tomorrow I’ll exceed the distance of a phenomenal journey set by a Norwegian hero of mine, Rune Gjeldnes 4,804 km. So early to bed for me.