Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 31: Closer and close, but not easier!

88:54.872S 81:31.549W

Last day in the 88s, I'll cross the emotional 89th parallel tomorrow morning.... Gee, that's good news!

Elevation: 2 743m: Hey, a day where I did nett downhill... Only 2 metres though! I'm definitely on the plateau, it's flat, the ice is different, and hey, zero sastrugi!

A long 11.2 hours out there today, 10 hours skiing delivered 34.5 km, so happy boy again... Light sled and the flat terrain, this is what I imagined at this point in the journey. Those kilometres don't come easy though. It's focus, and relentless pushing! My foot problem comes and goes, but largely ok during the day, but at the end of the day today, while just getting started with the tent, my foot protested at the day's demands, and exploded into excruciating pain. So bad, I couldn't walk, and had to resort to painkillers. Gee, I wish I knew what the problem was... I've tried eveything. At least be thankful the day's skiing was largely pain free. I hope tomorrow goes ok, too! I do feel I'm really punishing my body at the moment... Keep telling it there's only a few more days then there is good rest. (Ruth's expedition had another setback: Chris fell and broke his wrist and did some knee damage. They have been waiting for a few days for him to be evacuated by plane. So they will be at least 3 days after me at the Pole.)

I'm mentally as well as physically exhausted, and will wait to see what my mind and body say to kiting back...The solo expedition was always going to be the 'main show' by far. And that it certainly has been, thanks also to 'you guys'.

I'm not there yet, and in many ways I'm entering the most challenging part: trying to keep a lid on emotions, and not focusing on the finish, but that's really hard. I only have food for four more days, so it has to happen by 26th!

While the terrain is great for skiing distance, it has got really boring, epitomising nothingness... I was about to say I miss the sastrugi! Humans, hey, never happy! The thing that isn't boring is the big sky and the amazing cloud formations, truly unique and impressive.

I've been going for the equivalent of a month now. Haven't seen the moon, the stars, the sea, a green leaf, shrub or tree, a sunrise or sunset, and most importantly: Another human being!

I wonder when I'll meet my 'first one'. It'll be quite strange! They fly people to 89 degrees to ski 'the last degree' to the Pole, so maybe tomorrow or sooner than the Pole itself! I'd better look respectable, not very at the moment!

It's a truly beautiful 'evening' out here 'tonight' (11pm), really warm and not a breath of wind... Gee, these are special times, when it's like this. Just decided to make another cup of tea, to enjoy before I tackle my serious 'tailor job': It is VERY serious: my zip on my windsuit fly came off, and then the fabric from the bottom of the zip down to the crutch has torn. Too much urgent wear! If I don't fix it, I risk the most serious 'digit' frostbite of all! Not funny, haha!

So, once again I'll postpone the philosophy section, for more important duties. Not forgotten though!

119 kms to go, the 26th is looking good!

Keep with me over Christmas, please!



  1. Huge respect here Howard from your friends at Owen Clarke Design...Merf

  2. Howard, my dear man, how can you even think that you'll slip out of our minds over Christmas? you are solo, but no alone, remember! As one of your armchair travelers I am restless every day until your blog entry pops into my mailbox and I exhale with relief that you are still strong ( even though you are exhausted mentally and physically) and that you've had a good day. The most important thing is that YOU stay positive and focused over the last few days. We could almost start calling them hours instead of days.
    There is no doubt in my mind that you'll get to the Pole by the 26th, you have the most incredible ability to stay focussed on the task at hand. Those evenings out there sound so beautiful and special, wish I could pop out of your pocket and enjoy those times with you. I sincerely hope the garment repair was successful. huge hug coming your way. you remain in my ( and so many people's) thoughts. Lynn

  3. Hey Pal we are with you all the way just not having to endure the hardships.Nearly there Fairbanks, Push, Push, Win.

  4. Hi Howard, I can't believe it is the Friday before Christmas Day . . . Only Saturday in between. Every hour will now be so precious and I am sure you will consider every step as you have so carefully done. Mind you, the 'upto your crotch in a crevasse' is still rather vividly in the mind . . . so there is no way I am going to stop sending those positive vibes to you. Certainly no time for philosphising here either as it is Friday and I still haven't bought the turkey - but hey, what does that matter when I have far more important things to worry about . . . I'm definitely walking to the South Pole with you! Not to mention all the other hangers on like me. In fact I want ALL my family and friends to share the experience. THANK YOU and take care, love Maggie

  5. Hi Howard I don't know if you remember me my husband Paul and I met you at the snow farm it was our 30th wedding anniversary, any way I want to wish you a merry Christmas, I hope the rest of your journey is incident free, you are an insperation, to be able to follow your dreams as you have you are so blessed. merry Christmas and ssafe journeys Viki Jackson

  6. Hi Howard
    Not surprising that you are physically and mentally tired! you have a number of people rooting for you here in Jhb, and are a subject on many a mtbike ride. Please dont forget to fly the flag at the pole - this time the right way up, or are you going with tradition again? In case your mental faculties are shot - remember 'commies' on top. Also a big photo for us please.
    Go Boy!
    Regards - martin

  7. Dear Howard, David and I will definitely be with you over Christmas and however long it takes. Our positive vibes have been ticking and jumping over every parallel since you started...remember you are Solo, but definitely not alone. You don't need to look respectable for others dropping in at the 89th, you'll have made it the whole way. Imagine those beautiful cloud formations are kindred spirits urging you on to your destiny. "You're chief cook and bottle washer" and can sew as well and are amazing...look after your foot, we all love you and will be with every step of the way, big hugs, Anthea xxx

  8. hey Howard, we are with you all the way and we want that pic of you at the pole with the good old SA are the only person i know who can do it! min dae, as they used to say.
    take care....peter and pat

  9. Look after that foot and your peace of mind. We are thinking of you. Giles

  10. Well done Howard, so far so good, enjoy each moment because soon it will all be over, believe it or not! That will be weird not having another day's report from you to look forward to. So we are cherishing each one and go about our days thinking over your experiences and reflections on the mulitple challenges of life.
    I have made some really good Xmas puddings and cakes, so on your return we will get some out, pour some good Irish whiskey over the pudding and set it alight to celebrate your return. Warmest wishes
    Patrick and Brigitta.

  11. Hang in there Howard. I always thought this thing would be tough but having read your blog each day I a realise I had NO idea! This is an EPIC thing you are doing, and what you've already achieved is remarkable. Respect! I would be a jibbering idiot and a mental wreck after 2 days. For what it's worth I don't think you should ski back. That would be nuts even by your standards. Put your feet up and let your body and mind recover. We will definitely be thinking of you through Christmas. All the best.
    Iain and Linda.

  12. Hi Howard

    Martin and I speak of you and your progress every day - we continue to be amazed at your resilience. You and Ruth are both inspiring so many people. It will feel so special to finally be with her.

    We think of you often

  13. No moon, no stars, no sunrise, or sunset?!*($#@?!%^*?&!! Oh no...Why? I'll have to Google that. I'm hoping your foot recovers each night and that you have good sewing skills. If anyone can bandaide those two problems and buck through to the end, I'll bet on you Howard. If you have to, I can see you making a support for your foot from a pole, a spare utinsel and strips of clothing...ha, ha..I have complete confidence in you for any problem that may come up from here on out! Question: what do you miss the most? Top 3 things? Sandy T.

  14. Hey Howard,
    Massively enjoying your daily updates and the philosophy you bring to these expeditions, you have a very pleasantly un-commercial and holistic vibe to your blogs. And glad to see you're getting the experience you wanted, must be fantastic out there even if it is a little chilly! Enjoy the last days by yourself, and hope the pain killers keep your foot under control, but I imagine secretly you quite like the extra adversity!
    You're not missing anything here in London - crowds, rain and tube strikes - definitely no need to rush back, but look forward to hearing all about the adventure when you do finally return.
    All good wishes for a quiet and peaceful Christmas and enjoy every minute you have left, even the rubbish ones, from Dan and Amelia

  15. Hey Howard, way to go mate!
    We're following your footsteps with awe & amazement. Amazing stuff & thanks for the ride-along. I still can't get my head around how you manage to blog after a day's march/ski, but really appreciate that you do - thanks.
    Merry Christmas, we'll be thinking of you & will drink a toast to the intrepid explorer.
    John & Gill in Aus

  16. Howard, You are nearly there my friend and it has been very demanding on you. Your even handed capacity in the face of obstacles is remarkable. Good luck for Xmas day at SP and best wishes, Vaughan

  17. Hi Howard
    What a journey… of mind and body !! I have been reading your blogs with fascination- the description of the terrain, so different with sastrugis from the smooth icy surface I pictured, the extent, speed and unpredictability of climate and temperature changes, the conditions in the tent- ; trepidation – the pain and potential frost bites in both lower and middle “digits” as well as other parts of the body-; admiration – consistence, determination, focus and courage in what is clearly a dangerous enterprise with lurking crevasses and an unforgiving surrounding/climate combination-; and inspiration – to lift the personal bar at least one notch. In your expression of the gamut of emotions from despondency to elation, I never sensed despair. Your reflections, all the more insightful because of the silence, solitude and surrounding grandeur, have been thought provoking. In particular, your observations on “capitulation” and “prisons” are very perceptive and raise a number of questions. Are religion, responsibility, commitment to people or activities, prisons, and, if so, does escaping them land you in other and possibly worse prisons such as fear/doubt, guilt, regret? But back to the journey, regardless of when or whether you reach the Pole (not that I doubt it) your feat is truly outstanding -particularly when compared to the recently unfinished attempts of younger teams. May the weather be kind to you and let you have an enjoyable Christmas.With best wishes … Frank

  18. Hi Howard,
    Congrts on the last parallel,reaching the plateau,with the geographical benefits.
    Fantastic time & distance!You still hide the foot problem(strong mind),look after it.Perhaps your focus is so intense that you don't feel it during the day.Take a pick & describe the problem.One of us bloggers will through our contacts be able to advise.Listen to your body brother.In fact it will dictate anyway!Issue around Ruth's team highlight your great achievements.I am sure the some other struggles that you don't put pen to paper or don't have the energy to tell.But well done Howie!!
    Amazing how nature doesn't give us the complete deal,uninteresting terrain.Pleased you find positives in the clouds.
    Have had to do allot of catch up,been on adventure,I do know you will understand.I am with you all the time.I will say blessed Christmas & travel safe.I am still doing catch up !Will be with the program today cheers Buddy..