Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 6: Sastrugi and sled problems, but another 30km day!

File pic of Howard training on Muizenberg beach:
No sastrugi in sight!
83:26.048S 71:06.447W

Hey sorry about the late Day 5 Post... One of the problems of sat phone comms. I thought it had been sent, but it hadn't. Quite frustrating when one stays up to try give you something live and special! Anyway, as I commited, I will send one every day, at least to 'The Diary'. I can't guarantee comms delivery though!

Ok, so here is Day 6:

I started out at my new 06h30 start time, all very positive about another 30+ day ahead, with my new shorter march times (yes, the skis are called marches, because of the military discipline needed!). It was another beautiful, clear, crisp, and light wind morning, the stage was set!

Well within 20 minutes my sled had hit a small, 'badly angled' sastrugi and it was pushed right over upside down. That's how the day continued - more than 20 sled capsizes forced me to look at better balancing the sled content but no real improvement! This is what goes with taking a 'non-conventional' performance sled! The sastrugi didn't help as today I saw by far the talest sastrugi of the was like an obstaacle course for much of the day, although there were a few great flat (relative!) sections.

When I get focus in the zone, and am well caloried up, with good terrain, I feel my body remove itself from me and become machine-like. That happened quite a few times today, so I feel capitulation point maybe near. For the first time ever on an adventure, I have thought that I may never hit capitulation point, and that this might be just a mammoth no fun struggle, like I have never had to deal with.....! Hmm, that's a scary scenario.... However, I do get glimmers of hope that within the week I'll be looking forward to each day.... The two things that are providing hope that I will master this life out here on the ice cap: The first is how lovely it is getting into my tent after a good distance day. It's really quite warm in the tent with the sun on it all 'night', and also I'm well into a cooking routine, and love my tent food now. Sleep is bliss, I'm sleeping well, and if I wake in the night for a pee, (in my pee bottle in my sleeping bag ofcourse!) I'm always surprised how many hours to the alarm there stil are to go... That's a good sign. Mornings are never 'grumpy' - I almost loook forward to getting on the road. Emphasis on "almost"! At capitulation one can't wait to get out there and ski everyday!

The second ray of hope is that today I could feel my body getting stronger and like a racehorse wanting to 'train' and get stronger. The first few days it basically was in shock, pains everywhere, and resistance from every area. I think it said: Ok, 'he' has gone crazy for a day or two again, just do what 'he' says, and it will all go away in a few days. The 'new' food was resisted, to its own detriment, but now that it believes this is a SERIOUS 30+ day struggle, the new food is welcomed, and the muscles are learning their new 10-hour a day job! I sense that 
now this body strengthening is happening, the 'enjoyment' wil soon come, and it will become a game rather than this current suffering slog. (I am choosing to share with you exactly how I feel, rather than sugar coated, positives!)

These polar expeditions are all essentially a race, a race against time, when your food and fuel runs out. Take more food and fuel, and you go slower, so you still have to race just a different one. Very few life activities are so single mindedly focused for the duration of the expedition: Everyting I do out here has ONLY one SINGLE purpose: To enable me to ski as productively as possible each day, almost machine like so I can win my race against the Antarctic Ice Cap. So when my sled overturns it distracts the machine, takes it off rhythm, and that's why it's so frustrating. Moving to the machine-like and being at one with the ice is my post-capitulation goal, I just hope it comes quick!

Today, quite a strong and chilly headwind, about 18-20 knots popped up, luckily only spoiling for only 3 hours, another perfect weather day.

You may wonder what I wore today? 3 pairs of socks, 1 long thermal pants, 1 fleece pants, 1 windshell high cut oilskin style pants, 1 thermal underwear top, 1 full face balaclava, 1 pair dark ski goggles, 1 set inner gloves, 1 set outer mittens. I prefer to be 'cold' on my upper body, as the ski work soon gives a temperature balance. When the headwind picked up I added a full wind shell top, with hood and wolverine fur ruff.... Very cosy, and I can deal with anything like that!

Regarding Penguins: No I won't see ONE, this is the first environment where I have been where there appears to be not one single other living thing here. I do have a penguin for Ruth in my resupply bag - a surprise for her at the pole. Penguins are only found where there is sea ice, and close to food for them. That question from my all-time favourite class in Alberta, Canada!

Time to hit the sleeping bag....


  1. Love all of the detail in your comments and love the honesty. Still want to know how you stay alert enough and out of your head enough to minimize over turned sleds and possibly falling into a crevasse.

  2. Great to read this blog after the "day of silence" and then the ski pole disaster. Good to hear that your body is adjusting and starting to get stronger and that it does have potential to become something you can't wait to do when you wake up. Every morning I think of you as I climb out of my bed - hard to imagine stepping out into that kind of climate. Love Ros

  3. Howzit Howard,
    Great description of how the body is adapting.Surprised that there no animals.Does your mind wonder on these long days of marching or can you remember what happened for most of the time?

  4. sorry i am anonymous but i am from chaparral elementary school and what else do you eat besides a stikck of butter????

  5. I remember you telling me Howard that you were going to do this South Pole trip solo and I can just picture how hard this must be. It must be glorious yet very hard at the same time. Now for Christmas this time of year the weather at Ellesmere Island in Canada is quite lovely and the sun won't rise again until early in March but you have the northern lights for Christmas lights. :-)
    From Ellesmere island you're just a hop, skip, and a jump from the North Pole, December is such a lovely time to enjoy the weather in the north.
    All kidding to the side I hope you're doing well and don't end up in trouble with your toes again, the bitter cold can do some serious damage if you're not careful. I hope you're having some fun. If possible you should video parts of this trip and make a documentary or try to get any possible pictures. Prayers for a safe trip and Merry Christmas. Enjoy the beauty of the land.