Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 15: Two great distance days with no problems

85:19.669S 80:19.977W

Elevation: 1351 metres

Only 522km to go! Sled is getting lighter every day... I must be down 20 kg since the start... I'll be flying soon!

A gruelling, but productive two days behind me.... The human being likes routine and I had just settled down into my daily sleep, eat ski, routine, and then yesterday's bad light visibility gave me no option but to change things. It all came so sudden, one moment I was in clear blue skies, then within minutes the fog had moved in and I had to deal with this dull grey atmosphere that blends seamlessly with the ice. You can't make out bumps and humps, and it all feels very eerie. It's debilitating trying to ski in the rough sastrugi terrain I was in, as you stumble and fall almost each step. I'd been going so well, it was 3.5 into the day's marching and I'd already mentally banked the day's record... That's whaat happens, hey, when one makes assumptions: 'Mother Nature' turns around to show you who is in charge!

Anyway, it was eventually the sun that pushed me across the line to stop and take a 5-6 hour rest. There was a very dull sun coming through the fog, but enough to provide depth perspective when facing the sun... I was going away from it. Here where I am the sun basically goes around in a full circle, almost the same angle to the horizon the whole 24hr cycle. It's quite bizarre at first, but in preparing for the North Pole, I spent time REALLY understanding why, and if you don't it's quite a worthwhile exercise. It may also take you to the significance of the Arctic and Antarctic circles, they are both defined by 24 hour sun criteria....! Ok, so I got distracted:

Well knowing that even if the fog didn't lift, 5-6 hours later the sun would start being in front of me, so the visibility from my perspective would be 100% better. Better still the fog might have lifted, so it seemed like a theoretical no-brainer. How to get my body clock to accept the plan with minimal resistance was the practical challenge.

Anyway, it all worked out great, other than today feeling like a particularly punishing day, after just 3 hours sleep last night.

Yesterday I also reached the point called Thiel corner. Now clear of the mountains, I could make a 30 degree easterly 'turn' to start heading almost direct south for the South Pole. Just one more crevasse area to be detoured around, but that's 250 km off still.

The area I have been skiing in the past two days appears to be an old crevasse field, with 150-200 metre crevasses covered with hard snow/ice running 90 degrees to the direction of my travel. These provide great flat ski surfaces, and a little bump to ski down, once you are over the hump up to it. Now and again the ice underneath lets out a load groan as it resettles somewhere under where me and my sled have caused some weight stress. It was a bit spooky to start with, but know I understand it, it's not a problem.

The weather today has been amazingly warm (I'd say -10C at the very coldest) , no wind, but a bit of the dreaded fog. Lots of nunataks, and like last night I'm camped right opposite about 5 mountain peaks just sticking through the ice, maybe 1-200 metres above the surface ice... Pretty cool!

It was great to connect back to my usual heart dinner again, I missed my dinner time in my little tent last night, it's really cosy, and starting it off with a whisky cocktail sets the atmosphere for a 4 course dinner that ends with 'muscle milk for dessert... Very important for recovery from the day's work.

My feet are very sore, not sure exactly what the problem is, but tomorrow I'll be plastering my toes up to try and help. Noot whingeing, just giving you the whole picture....!

Looking forward to my 6.5hrs sleep now...



  1. Hello Howard

    Loving this armchair adventure.
    Keep going.


  2. Great blog! Enjoying living the dream vicariously. Good luck and all strength.

    Robin + Elsa - Kalk Bay

  3. Hi Howard
    Nice distance covered - appears that apart from the change in routine that things are going well (apart from the sore feet). You also make the crossing of old cravasses sound an everyday experience! Think that this would mortify anyone else to hear the groaning underfoot!
    Hope you sort out the foot thing

  4. With you all the way!!!!

  5. Fairbanks
    Almost sounded as if you had fun out there today.
    Keep it up.

  6. Good one H! Keep your mind attuned to your body. Hope the feet feel better and you are able to keep up the really great progress after the body clock adjustment. Thinking of you every step of the way!- Tank

  7. Hi Howard
    Out of the blue! Good luck. Be safe.
    Scott Treloar

  8. Smashing it Howard, keep up the good work! Great following you everyday! Might need to dry those feet out?!

  9. Hi Howard,
    Your headspace is very good & making the trip seems easy with little or no difficulty.Well done boet!
    No mention of the pole-nice 1.Hopefully feet will improve,without them a little buggered.Down 20kgs,presume that's the sledge weight & not YOU!
    Mother nature also has her own agenda even here in normal conditions.Keep up the sleep hours, need rest.Great description of today's trip.Interesting the enjoyment of the simple things in the tent.Travel safe.

  10. John & Vincent HareDecember 8, 2011 at 3:42 AM

    Hi Howard - amazing story unfolding! If I stand on tiptoes here in Kalk Bay I reckon I can see you on the other side of the southern seas! Its strange to look out to sea in False Bay and imagine you slogging away in the cold, way down over the horizon. But in that respect you are close to all of us who are watching out for you. Sterkte - and look after those feet!
    John & Vincent

  11. Great to hear you're making so much progress, Howard :o)

    I'm enjoying the blog and the story that is unfolding. Be safe and best of luck for what lies ahead.

  12. Hi Howard,
    It has been a treat following your adventure. Inspiring stuff. Keep going.

  13. What a magnificent experience you are having!
    I have been reading your blog with great interest!

    Looking forward to talking to you when you get back.

    Imtiaz Moosa

  14. Dear howard

    hope you are having an amazing time.
    look after yourself

    from jenna

  15. Hey Howard, I did post a comment here yesterday but see it didn't get to you...You are so in our thoughts. Pat and I talk about you every evening over dinner and I rush to my computer as soon as i get to my office in the afternoon to catch up with you.

    All strength to you my mate...Peter

  16. Hey..glad it is warm for you on the outside - only a -10C and warm on the inside ala whisky! Keep it going buddy xxxxx

  17. hi howard i am going to keep track my teacher knows your sister so we hear alot from the class room also sorry i am anonymus my name is katelyn