|File pic from Howard's North Pole expedition|
Elevation 2076 metres. New biggest single day climb. It's bloody cold up here!
Well, as I was putting on my socks this morning, first job once I'm out of my cosy sleeping bag, I looked at my right foot, and didn't like what I saw: On the outside, just behind the small toe, was a sizeable swelling, like bruising, and very sore to touch. My boot can never naturally accommodate that, it just exacerbates the problem... Hmm, other than taking anti-inflammatories, I'd largely been in denial there was a serious problem. Breakfast was a bit of a sombre affair. I was thinking through all the options, even taking a day's rest, but "No, the show must go on" and I have hope that it will sort itself. I'll just try lace it loosely for the day. In all honesty I was concerned! Well....
Funny how things work out, hey? I had the best 'foot day' for weeks, finishing with no pain, but I had the worst day from shocking terrain point of view... It was hell out there today!
I managed 28.1 km, using the full 9 hours, so fairly pleased with that, as tomorrow I'll go through 87 degrees!
The day started well, great weather again, no wind and good, fast skiing surface. That means flat, no sastrugi, and a thin soft ice, almost snow, layer on top of solid ice. This is great for fast gliding.... First hour check I'd done 3.7 km. Perfect! Then things started changing, lots of sastrugi, and then a huge hill ahead. But to go the direction I wanted to go I had to angle across and up the hill. Right from the bottom of the hill I thought this surface felt different: It was as though many 'ice' plasterers had come with different techniques, leaving an effect where the surface was continuously changing, making it awkward and impossible to get any momentum. The predominant 'plastering' was glass-like, rock hard ice, and with my angle of travel up the hill, I end up slipping downhill on the treacherous surface... Hmmm, not fun. Sastrugi was everywhere, and either impossible to avoid or required large detours... When I came to sastrugi, I had to make an even bigger climb to get over its ridge, and the sled resistance increased more.... Anyway, I stumbled, and swore, but drove on ahead, and half way up a head wind picked up!
I sensed things were a bit 'cooler', but managing ok, I thought I'd wait for the rest stop to add mitts and windsuit top. Well I shouldn't have, because by the time I'd got to the rest stop, my core temperature had dropped, and I then had a 'difficult' fight to get my temperature (mainly my hands) back to normal. Usually it takes 10-20 minutes after I'm moving again, but this struggle went on for an hour. Probably due to the stop-go, slip-slide of the bad terrain. Ok, the cold was self inflicted, but the two together made for a very restless journey. I thought about how balanced and in sync with the environment I'd been earlier, and how peaceful and productive that was, but now it was horrendous. Balance (holistic), hey, it's so important...!
Eventually after a couple more hours, things settled down, and I made it to the top, to find a big plateau, and this was the next phase of 'Hell'!
The sastrrugi was larger, and running perpendicular across my direction of travel, and in between the sastrugi were big ridged, micro valleys and hills, making for short up and downhill skiing, but where I'd be going uphill and the sled a few metres behind going downhill..! Clearly my friend had had enough of the day too, but rather than deal with it 'herself', she took it out on me, violently tugging me backwards, with me landing on my bum on the ice, no less than 7 times! Crossing the large and complex sastrugi required each step to be considered, and often saw me strung precariously between two mounds with just the ski tips either end forming the bridge points. All slow going, quite stressful, and occasionally painful!
It required full concentration and come the end of the day, I was totally exhausted, mentally and physically.
The good news is (I think!) it's finished now and the surface for tomorrow looks pretty good again. It all suddenly changed 100 minutes before the end of the march today. Thankfully!
I'm wondering whether the struggle today is because I'm getting really fatigued. The build-up of day after day? I don't think so, as each day I feel I start as good as day 1. (Other than my foot, but that seems on a good track now). My recovery each day is astounding.... On stopping marching I'm totally and utterly knackered, but after warm tent, great food, a 'chat' with you guys, and good sleep I wake to a good breaky, and then ready to hit the road again. I'll just monitor the situation for now.
That's it for tonight, I need my bed badly!
All positive for a new day tomorrow