Hey this even surprised me: JUST popped over the 88th parallel. Man, that feels good. Particularly after today's struggle! I thought it would be tomorrow's celebration, so left Ruth's lattitude card in my backack... And I'm too cosy in my sleeping bag and the wind has just piped up half an hour ago, so it will have to wait till tomorrow... 'Something' to look forward to!
Elevation: 2 618m. Still climbing every day, and once again ups and downs to get UP, and today one of the big valleys put Sastrugi City of the early days to shame; these were monsters, and sort of terraced down to the valley low point! Funny how there are 'hurdles' on the downhills, so they are virtual uphills too... Man, this is a challenging place! One day (I guess not many left!) I'm hoping I get a downhill where I can sit on my sled and toboggan down! BTW, I checked my notes and South Pole is at 2833 metres, so a bit more UP to go than I had thought!
Well, I eventually struggled across the 'finish line' on skis exhausted but after having spent 11 hours 8 mins and 31 seconds out there today, I achieved my minimum goal 30.00 kilometres! Yeah, I made the finish line exactly where the GPS 'clicked over' to 30! Exhausted, physically and mentally. A very low productivity day, as my march time was 10 hours, giving me a disappointing 3km/h average... Gee, with a light sled, I was expecting to be averaging 3.6 to 3.8 now, but Antartica says otherwise. It was all about terrain: difficult terrain, and the difficult terrain contaminating my mind!
The day started right on wake up, with me REALLY having to dig me and my tent out of the sastrugi the wind made around us during the night. Much worse than rest day, yet we were there for 1/2 the time. Anyway, other than the biting wind, it was quite fun trying to find the tent pegs a metre under snow! My snow shovel had just the handle showing.
I left in clear blue skies, but the strong crosswind. Prepared for 11 hours of it, I had a new face protection solution. Maybe that frightened off the wind because by midday it was still, but a threat of fog was always present threatening on the horizon, but fortunately not quite engulfing me!
There was lots of sastrugi again, but somehow the ice was softer, so instead of walking ON the ice, each step saw me sink in 2-5 cm, and believe me that aint easy walking. Frustratingly for someone like me, who likes to put in bursts of speed now and again to break the boredom, as I went to accelerate all that happened is that I would sink further into the snow/ice. And it was tiring, and very slow! I needed my North Pole snowshoes, and today would have been 35km! Anyway, would haves, should haves and could haves don't help keep one's spirit in times like this!
I switched to skis three times, but each time the sastrugi rubble was so extensive that I was worse off! Oh well, another capitulation point to overcome, I was in a new 'go even slower' prison! I thought about changing weight loading from my backpack to my sled, but it all seemed pointless. At 90kg I was the fundamental problem, and I need to accept the new prison! So that's what today was about...
I haven't shared with you the scary mind abyss I look into each morning: Can you imagine setting out each day, on YOUR OWN, knowing you are going to spend 10-11 hours in the middle of very cold nothingness, JUST to accomplish 28-32 km of travel to the Pole? If you start thinking what you are going to think in those hours, and how you are going to 'occupy' yourself, you are essentially looking down into a deep mind abyss! You have to quickly 'turn away', and forget that that thought came up, otherwise the abyss will 'take you'. I've learnt now that each day brings a new 10-11 hours, and as someone said in their comment: each day is so different and full of new challenges that one gets consumed by the new 'differences', when the days are all very boring from the macro perspective... It's a strange thing, but the line between contentment and the abyss is so fine I'm too scared to even explore it!
Another area of 'broken spirit' fine line appears sometimes when one is walking along... Actually stumbling along because that's what it essentially is at 3km/h on varying softness, uneven ice. Literally each step has to be conciously managed, and the feedback to the brain (well my brain!) is: My God this is so slow and tiring! That's sort of ok, but every now and again either a step produces an extra deep footprint, or my friend the sled gives me a sharp tug and I come to an abrupt halt. Often mid step, that causes me to do a little cross-foot dance to stay on balance. At this point I see this 'broken spirit' line approach me, and it gets very close to being inside me, as I ponder for a split second how even slower I am now going! So far I have fended off the 'broken spirit' line but I can see it will continue to increase its torment as the Pole gets closer... The game is far from over yet!
I think it was Helen Keller who said: "In adventure we find ourselves." Well I thought by now there was nothing more to find, but yeah just like the last one, there IS more to discover, and I'm discovering it!
Just before starting this blog update to you I received probably the last 4-5 days of your comments from Dominique. Well, guys, it's TRULY overwhelming, and 'yes' we do have something very special going on... It's fantastic, and I want to thank each and every one of you for the sincerity, openess, and very motivating comments. I've said it before, but you won't believe how this helps me keep the 'broken spirit' line away....THANK YOU!
I really need some good sleep now... I need another 30 km and more day tomorrow...