I was glad I camped where I did last night! As I left off this morning it took another hour of skiing for the sastrugi to start calming down and reducing to more normal proportions. Still plenty of it mind you, just the nightmares of the sastrugi fields from yesterday have traumatised me! In the first hour of skiing, I didn’t see any decent spot for a tent either, and that was with good visibility.
Distance on the clock
Though the sastrugi did eventually calm down, and it was so nice to have some space to ski through without having to work out a way through a labyrinth! Was able to get some distance on the clock again which was nice (though again, yesterday definitely was not bad!!), and managed another 27.5km. It’s so good now, getting distances above my planned average of 24km per day. It’s also good to be consistent with these distances – let’s me know that my body is being able to take it and am not completely fatiguing myself!
Obviously the first days climbing up from Hercules Inlet with a full sled were slow, and I was slowed by the pain in the neck and shoulders. So I have a lot to catch up on. The pain is definitely much more manageable now. I slept tonight without waking up with spasms, and the painkillers kept it all in check while skiing over the last days since the resupply. Fingers crossed it will all keep improving and I will be able to manage even better distances as the sled gets lighter.
With the tent setup, one of the first things I do is light the stove in the vestibule. As I say, I cook inside the tent – no way can do this outside – but make sure it is well ventilated. From the day’s skiing I will have in general two litres of hot water in thermos flasks remaining: I always use one of these to out straight in the kettle for melting snow. It is much more fuel efficient for the stove to heat water with snow added rather than just snow and ice. The other litre I use for making a well deserved hot chocolate! And a protein recovery shake, and just a cup of water with the remaining.
While waiting for the snow to melt, I change into some tent gear; a light down vest and insulted trousers and booties. I get the food i need from the food bag (dinner, breakfast and the snacks/lunch for the next day’s travel), and put the food bag back outside the tent. And I start checking my position and checking comms for messages. I need to see what needs charging and also setup the solar panels inside the tent to recharge my main power bank (I have two x 26,500amp batteries, one 40w panel and one 30w). I never thought but yes they do work well in the tent. I previously always put them on the sled, but it’s good this way as the batteries are warmer as they are recharged rather than ice cold (very slow).
With water boiling, I fill a flask with my evening meal with hot water, to hydrate it. I also fill the two thermoses again. More snow into the kettle which I use to refill my Nalgene bottles, but I don’t wait until it’s hot: once the snow is melted I fill up the Nalgenes and drink the excess. Basically the water in the nalgenes will need to be reheated to boiling in the morning, so they stay hot enough for me to drink during the day (and not freeze by the end!). No point in boiling them in the evening and again in the morning. Melting the snow like this just makes morning that little bit quicker and easier.
That’s pretty much it. Of course I then write messages, check in with ALE, call the map, and write the blog… but that’s about it! But still, even with sleeping there are are more considerations..!
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Visit Ben’s blog site to hear Ben’s audio diary from his overnight camp. https://polarweber.com/