Last night… wow! That was a terrific storm. As expected, it reached its strongest from around 3-5am and it really was strong. Very happy with the tent – always felt very stable and no problems at all. I have doubled up the guy lines and the tent poles to increase its strength, and yup, all very steady in the midst of the tumult!
The winds did take some time to die down though. Normally I would start getting out my sleeping bag at around 7.30am but there was no point this morning as it was still way too bad. By midday they had eased a little; enough for me to start packing up but still they were strong enough to make life very hard putting the tent away! As I put all the bags into the sled the spindrift would get blown into my face making it hard to see, and into the sled, giving more unnecessary weight to it! By 1.15pm though I was ready to go.
The conditions from then on though continued to improve. Visibility was great so I could see all the sastrugi ahead of me and the winds calmed down further to, within a few hours, effectively just a gentle breeze. Still wind chill of -35C or so apparently though!! There was some uphill for the last few miles, but nothing very steep. The main concern, as it had been for the last week or so, was my neck. Definitely improving, though still uncomfortable. I still have to keep rotating and stretching it, and occasionally when I turn it to stretch I feel a wave of agony that forces an involuntary cry from my mouth… but it’s getting better. The worst is when I camp – maybe because am not moving it so much and it becomes stiffer. But fine… it’s tolerable!
The view from where I am camping tonight is incredible. I can see the mountains of the Horseshoe Valley and the Three Sails that I passed back in the distance… spectacular! I imagine this is the last night I will see them as I will get further away and there will only be flat white snow ahead of me and in every direction. The next mountains will be the Thiel Mountains in around 25 days… if all goes well. Until then… nothing!
So, it was a mixed day today. 15km covered and I felt pretty decent after the rest day yesterday. The pain in neck had subsided; uncomfortable but not bad. Great conditions at the start with a gentle breeze and clear skies. Perfect! Up and all packed up and ready to go by around 10am.
The omnipresent sastrugi was there of course just as you can’t have life too easy here. Really is endless! And Sir Sledmund Hillary has a bit of an issue with them as it’s really hard to pull his bulk over them, and if the sled comes to a large sastrugi at the wrong angle, it basically gets stuck. I have to look for ways around or just use all my strength to get the sled over them.
Looking for ways around the sastrugi becomes harder in whiteouts when you literally cannot see the sastrugi until you are right on top of them. And by around 1pm it had all clouded over and was pretty much whiteout conditions. Fortunately, this seemed to coincide with an easing in the frequency of the sastrugi, but still… not easy.
The last couple of hours I started to feel the pain returning a bit to my neck. Not too bad, enough to continue. But by the time I did camp, when I stopped, the pain suddenly became quite excruciating again when I turned my head from left to right. Frustrating and painful to say the least.
I managed to setup the tent and everything alright, but it was a bit of a tortuous process, and called base camp for my daily scheduled call. Discussed with the expedition manager and the doctor there and we agreed that best taking another rest day and more meds. Most important is for this to get better then get more distance out of the way. I still have plenty of food and supplies so it should be alright. Just a bit of a pain the neck really! hehe!
So, had a nice beef hotpot tonight, some crackers, cookies and a hot chocolate. Time to get ready for bed! Have a good night!
It was strange yesterday being dropped off – a spectacular 30min flight in over the mountains. Could see all the main initial nunataks that will be using to help navigate over the first half a degree. Then the plane landed and left me and Mateusz, a Polish explorer who is also going solo to the Pole, alone on the ice. I went ahead before the plane left as some people had come with Mateusz to help film and they spent some time there… but looking back to see the plane take off… flying up and around, giving a waggle of its wings to say one last goodbye… and that was it! Finally started!
Distance travelled 5km/3miles
I started my adventure at 18.00, giving just a couple of hours to ski. Pretty windy! But great visibility. Wasn’t too steep either so managed to get in a nice 5km.
The pulk (the sled) is pretty important for the entire journey. I will be pulling all my food, tent and equipment, fuel and clothes it and at the start of the South Pole journey, it will weigh around 110kg or so. So it’s got to be pretty sturdy!
In Greenland, where we were pulling around 80kg or so, we used two Paris Pulks each. These are decent in that they are not very expensive, though as they are quite short, it was impossible to put everything onto just one of them. One of the big disadvantages of the Paris Pulks is that they are quite shallow and it is easy for them to become top-heavy and topple over to the side. You also have to have separate bags with all your gear and food that you secure on top of them with bungees or some other means. If you don’t pack your bag properly each morning, then you’ll be in for an annoying day having to go back and forth to the sled to turn it the right way up over and over again. Also, when the wind gets very strong, it can simply push the pulks over, and in Greenland we had to put the two pulks parallel with each other for a few days to stop that from happening.
So for the South Pole journey, I have got myself a nice gigantic IceTrek Polyna sled. 210cm long, 68cm wide and 25cm deep (without the cover). Made by fantastically experienced polar explorer Eric Philips, they have a tremendous cargo volume and are designed to effectively float on soft snow and glide along nicely on the ice. Shouldn’t have any problems of overbalancing! I had arranged with Eric to pick the sled up in Svalbard (long story!)… quite an epic journey to get there and back… Inverness-London Luton–>London Heathrow-Oslo-Longyearbyen-Oslo-London Heathrow–>London Gatwick-Inverness… 6 planes, 6 different airports, 3 trains, 3 buses, 3 taxis, 2 days! Was kind of worried after collecting it that it might be too big for the airlines, and trying to cart it through the airport on the trolleys was pretty tricky given it’s length, but fortunately no real problems in the end! Tiring though.
Just a note: am (trying to!) raise funds for Cancer Research UK with these expeditions – please donate if you can, or share if you can’t!!! It would be amazing to have your support!