Howard Fairbank, taking on - solo and unsupported - the 900 km skiing challenge on the coldest, driest, highest, windiest continent on Earth.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Day 18: Half way and a good one
Elevation: 1616 metres,
biggest single day climb today....
You probably picked up from
yesterday's blog that I was struggling a bit.... I woke today a bit worried
whether things would go further down or spiral upward back to the positive days
prior to 'Nunatak day'. It was mainly my right foot issue that was affecting me,
but also I find reaching halfway comes with mixed emotions... It's like Wednesday of the working / school week: You are halfway through, but is that a long
way you have come or long way still to go?
Well, with a total route distance
of 914 km, I now have 461 to go, so almost spot-on halfway. That feels pretty
good, and it also means Christmas day at the South Pole is a very real
possibility, but 'Mother Nature' will no doubt decide!
Back to the start of
I'm not a pain killer
person, never take them, but today I packed 4 in my wind pants pocket, JUST IN
CASE. I put an extra sock on my right foot (now 5 socks, including vapour
barrier layer!). For those that haven't dragged a sled, it's not just like
normal walking: one's back and shoulders are being yanked back, so your toes
have to constantly fight back to keep the front of your boot from lifting
upwards. When one really pushes the pace or has a very heavy sled, the toes get
quite stressed, and almost need like a grab rail in your boot to help them claw
back. This is the problem I have, where my toes and ball of my foot are now
traumatised.... Anyway enough detail...
The extra sock helped a
lot, I had a great day, and forgot about thee painkillers. Not that it's all
hunky dory, it will take a while, but a least now I can manage the situation by
wiggling my toes, yesterday I could do zip...
The day started with a
moderate head wind, and in a big sastrugi obstacle park. I felt good, and
patiently made detours around all the big ones... Not good terrain for getting
into the zone, but I somehow managed a good average speed. Two hours later I was
in exactly opposite terrain, not a sastrugi in sight, not even the occasional
one, but just smooth VAST open desert... With the cloud shadow giving it a
strange brown tinge, it really looked like warm desert sands, This was the start
of the big hill today, but also perfect for getting in the zone, and so I
did... The kilometres flew by, and my mind lapsed into a huge philosophical
journey! Gee, I missed you on the other side of the debates... (I'll come
back to the content later below.)
The now, infamous nunataks
are STILL with me, but believe you me, I haven't been seduced again! Two days
later they are stlll clearly visible, but other than them, it's just vaste ice
wilderness. Today, as I stopped a few times to take it all in, it really hit me
how vast and awesome it really is... strange shadows, magnificent skies,
deceiving virtual hills and valleys, and nobody around, no sounds, other than
the wind when it blows. I take my camera out, but almost each time I realise
you can't capture on camera or video what I am experiencing and
seeing... Photos will be scorned as showing nothing and that would be
tragic, because there is SO MUCH in the scale of things and the experience. I
use the 'Mother Nature' thing quite a bit, but today I thought , I'm SO small,
and instantaneous in her vast timeless wilderness that 'she' is probably
indifferent to my presence.
I managed 28, largely,
painfree kilometres, in 9 hours of marching. To try and minimise further damage
to my foot, I've decided that provided I'm over 25 km for the day, I'll stop at
You may wonder why I never
mention the actual temperatures out here? Well, I'd been warned about
Antarctica: At this time of the year it's not the still air temperature that is
really cold, probably only -10 to -15 C. It's when the devilish wind blows, the
windchill is biting. It's hard out here to estimate the temperature with
windchill, but at the headwind peaks it definitely feels like the minus 30s.
The worst is that one gets caught out by the warmish still temperature, almost
becoming casual and complacent. Two of my fingers have big white frost nip
blisters from just that, and most of my fingers are sensitive to touch from
minor cold damage... I need to be more careful!
As I went through my
planning tonight, it seems it's going to be touch and go as to whether I get to
the Pole on or before Christmas day? I'll be pushing to try and do it, but
largely weather wiill determine it. I plan to dump (burn off!) quite a bit of
fuel soon, I have far too much, and can save 3-4 kgs.
So, my philosophical
Well, I've been living out
here for 18 days now, I'm halfway, and I asked myself: "So what are you
craving for, what are you missing or needing?" I honestly couldn't find
one item, thing, activity, etc. I then thought, that's a bit strange, because
this life is SO different to breakfast at Empire café, socialising with
friends, hours on the laptop, reading the latest news, etc, etc.
I definitely don't miss
shopping, going to gym, paying bills, doing laundry and kitchen dishes,
spermarkets, traffic, garbage duty, etc, etc. I'm eating the same basic food
each day, wearing the same clothes each day, not shaving nor brushing my hair,
not showering, I have no idea what's going on in the world, I haven't seen or
spoken to anyone yet there is NOTHING I feel I need or want?? Not even a hot
bath! Why in that 'other world', do 'we' need so much variety, external
stimulation, so much socialising, news, gadgets, material pleasures, etc,etc? Strange hey, but why is this I asked?
The answer appeared to be
in: I'm doing what I REALLY enjoy (holisticly), in a very spiritual aand
healthy environment, ALL my BASIC needs are well satisfied, and above all I
have huge meaningful, and all consumng PURPOSE. A purpose that is linked to me
gaining 'personal height', a concept my friend Imi introduced to me back on
our Yukon trip. As he said the words, I knew "That's what it's all
about!" A sense of inner spiritual development that is free of
ratification or approval, or motivated by others. It may involve others, but
doesn't have to, and once gained, nobody can ever take that personal height
away from you... A good concept.
Out here I have no need for
the so called luxuries, boredom distractors, pampering, etc, and my life is SO
simple, and free of clutter that I can get within myself and live and feel me!
So if some of this is true,
then maybe it's all about having that meaningful and consuming PURPOSE? That
then leads to the big question: So, what is the PURPOSE OF LIFE?
This took me back to day 35
in my full-on North Pole expedition, where in the same mind space as today, I
had a Damascus experience, where I discovered my response to the question...!
I''ll leave you with these thoughts and share with you further in the coming
Since 2004 I have been
trying to live what I call 'Simply Adventure', a way of life which is Simple,
as outlined above bit. But one also centred 'Simply' around adventure, because
in adventure Ii find In can find myself and my soul, while still having strong
In sharing this with you
I'm not trying to say I know the answers, and have it all sorted, I know many
of you are much further down your own tracks... All I'm trying to do is share
my exploring of an alternate approach.... And maybe it triggers a few thoughts
for your journey...!
Lastly, this Blog and your
participation, whether active or passive, provides a very important social
/ human connection for me, one that enables me to not have a craving need to
'get out of here', and be with friends / others....so thank you, it's a very
special part of the 'not alone' part of 'Solo but not Alone'
Please feel free to post up
your comments, disagreements, views, beliefs...It's all serious fun!
And you just thought this
was a South Pole expedition, hey!
Off to bed, feeling very
content... Bit of a wind outside, but nice and warm inside my little tent!