Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 29: I didn't need this one: Tent bound... Whiteout. No visibility, snowing and windy

File pic: Howard's tent on the ice while training in New Zealand
88:17.615S 81:55.454W

Just 7km traveled today....

Elevation: 2 678. What a coincidence - exactly the same as yesterday. Well I guess I haven't moved far, but still! Maybe a lucky sign!

Gee, that 'prison' I spoke about yesterday got decidedly smaller today! What a difference a day makes: It was REALLY a perfect evening, but early hours of the morning that all started to change with my first real strongish , northerly tailwind. It was quite strange having the tent facing the 'wrong' way and the wind hitting the entrance and cooking vestibule. It made for much colder tent life. So from being worried about the night being too hot, I was suddenly scrambling for all zippers to close all gaps, including my sleeping bag! The unpredictability of the adventure, in 'your' world you would have know about the exact time of the weather change days in advance! Information, hey, good or bad? Neither, I guess, just different prison rooms have different stimulations!

Even with all this change, and the possibility of bad traversing terrain again, I woke up feeling unusually unperturbed about the details, but knowing somehow "all will be good today."

There had been a dusting of snow, so it wasn't a debate about skis or walking. Skis on, and I was moving 10 min earlier than usual. The terrain (and my mind) were amazing, I was at one with the conditions and soon gliding along at high speeds. This fuelled such a positive 'zone', once again I felt invincible and the Pole seemed well within reach. I did warn myself that a lot can change in 10 hours, and I did notice that I was skiing towards a dark grey clouded horizon. The 1hr navigation check showed a very satisfying 3.6 km, and above all I was reveling in the flat ski friendly terrain.

Well in the next hour visibility went to zero and the all-too-familiar three-dimensional dull white room encapsulated me, with a loss of spatial orientation. On top of that it started lightly snowing! Gee, I was disappointed, as I was so in the groove I even surprised myself with how well I was going with minimal visibility. But zero was time to stop! As it had deteriorated I'd thought of my options, and reluctantly opted for the only one: Set up tent, and wait for things to improve.... It would be a waste struggling out there, using a huge amount of energy (food!) fighting the cold, slipping and falling not going very far.

So that's where I am... Snuggled up in my tent, with the wind roaring by, snow rasping against the tent sporadically, and no place to go...

This time it's not like the indulgence of the rest day... It feels very different: I'm frustrated, as I REALLY want to be moving closer to my goal, and having been here for 6 hours already, with ABSOLUTELY no change in the weather, thoughts of being stuck here 'for days' are not very attractive, to put it mildly. With just 8 days of food, I can't be wasting it sitting in my tent, so it's about tea, and left-over nuts rather than excessive gluttony. Inside the tent is probably the coldest it's been, even though just before coming inside the thermometer said -23C. It's probably the wind forcing itself into every little crack. Oh well, nothing a hot cup of tea and a warm sleeping bag can't solve....

This is a challenging time, but I keep on stoking the positive fires, and look to the time when I'll be set free, and be fast skiing to the Pole again... 30 km/d and 6 days I'm there! Please Mr Prison Warder let me out soon, I've learnt the lesson you wanted to teach me, so why can't I go free....?

I hope you 'enjoyed' yesterday's thoughts on Freedom, etc. I always worry that in short, limited-interaction, mass communications, messages are missed, or intent wrongly assumed. And lastly, I'm very aware that nothing comes for 'free' (excuse the pun!) there is a cost to Freedom: It's largely in the 'Belonging' area, but interestingly I've found that the more I grow through experiencing freedom and the micro prisons adventure, the less 'desperate' I am to belong JUST to belong, and not feel alone or lonely. So for me, alongside Freedom, belonging and how we manage it is the second prong of an amazing tripod of life. The 3rd leg being 'Who we are, our REAL identity vs who we project who we are. These extreme adventures, naked in front of Nature, like I am now, leave me no place to hide as to who I REALLY am - my fears, my insecurities, my courage, my beliefs, and relationships, all at a very soul level... And I'd love to share thoughts with many of you who have your own 'life system' that works for you in your life. All fascinating stuff...

Well, for me at least! Don't worry, I'll be back focused on looooong sled pulling days soon!

Enjoy your access to the pleasurable excesses of your seemingly boundaryless lives, from this perspective!



  1. Here's hoping you get out of your tent and your prison soon. Someone was telling me that those who survive well in 'prison' often are people who remember poetry or the lyrics of songs. Reciting these keeps their mind occupied positively. So I shall think of you singing show tunes in the middle of a blizzard today. Giles

  2. Stuck in a tent in a white out or stuck in an office. Hmmmm, how I envy you.

  3. A really awesomely strong mind! To be thinking beyond the confines of that tent in those conditions, is amazing. I would be so focused on the enormity of where I am, the remoteness etc, that I would probably 'freeze' mentally in a similar situation! However,experience shows that nothing ever stays the same and today's experience will shortly be history as you soon fly across the remaining kilometers to that pole. Stay strong!
    Colleen Balfour

  4. Amundsen would approve Howard. Stay strong and focused. Push when you can and yield when you must.
    God's speed my friend.

  5. Thinking of you, Howard, and enjoying tracking along on your adventure. Definitely easier conditions here in the Ozarks right now. What a way to spend winter Solstice! Sasha Daucus

  6. The USA midwest is not getting any snow for Christmas this year! Last year many of the snow falls were close to record breaking. Both years-extreme. I enjoy every weather day.
    I love the changes and surprises. Right now, I'm enjoying all the Christmas lights decorating the houses and trees, snow or no snow, they are beautiful in the dark. I am thinking though that most of my Christmas's blur together, grateful though that there has never been a bad one. I am also thinking of where you are Howard. Thinking that after this year at Christmas you will be able to say, "Yeah, at this time in 2011, I was at the South Pole" and no matter who you are with, they will say, "Why, what were you doing THERE?" This year, for you Howard, will never blur together with any thing! Also, I'd say that out in that blue and white landscape, YOU are the Christmas tree, so don't loose the twinkle in your eye! Sandy T.

  7. Hi Howard,
    Good to see that we all need to change & be able to change.Enjoy your thoughts & beliefs.

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