Saturday, December 31, 2011

I finally awoke from a long deep sleep...! And a big decision now made...

89:59.999S 00:16.0W

Still at the Pole!

It's been two days of virtually doing nothing... Well, one very important thing: Resting and recovering!

I have also had the chance to read all your comments on the blog, which were JUST great, and once again overwhelming....!

I logged on to the email account, but there were just too many emails to download by satphone, so they will unfortunately have to wait until I'm back in Punta Arenas.

I've just been knocked out from the exhaustion that suddenly surfaces once one stops! It's something I've experienced a few times before, and now waiting for Ruth's expedition arrival which is a expected to be in the next few hours.... I'm pretty excited to see her, but I bet she just can't wait to stop moving and know the goal destination has been reached.

Life around here at the ALE South Pole camp has changed quite a bit since I first arrived, as three other expeditions arrived. It's always interesting talking to others who have been 'out there' and comparing / sharing experiences. One of the teams had a scary crevasse experience where the sled fell down a 30m deep crevasse, in 'the middle of nowhere', was dangling in the air with the still-taught line, tethered 'pilot', struggling to be the last resource, anchor preventing 'it all' from dropping the full 30m into a scary blue room. He was so consumed with the physical struggle he was unable to help himself, so it took a colleague to pull out a knife and cut the sled free to fall on its own the 30m! Being mountaineers, they then proceeded to abseil down into the 'blue room' to rescue the sled. It had to be totally unpacked and piece by piece removed out of the crevasse... From a solo perspective, I chillingly thought through the situation, and the life and death situation I'd clearly been spared, but that it clearly presented.

I could see from some of the comments that many of you have sensed that I've been re-visiting the decision on kiting back or not... Yeah, I always knew that the solo trip to the Pole was the 'main show', and kiting was an add-on bonus opportunity, but now I'm dealing with the practical and emotional realities...

I'd had lots of thoughts about it in the 35 days on my own, tried to understand the impact of two team members of the original five no longer being part of it, but had decided I'd wait until I'd made it to the Pole, and then had a few days regeneration time, before deciding... Well, I'm at that point now.

It's been hard to be objective and honest with myself, but eventually I've decided I'm not in the right physical and mental state to be able to REALLY enjoy the challenge of kiting back. My right foot is 'normal' again, but it's much more than that.

I could probably rustle up the will and energy to get out there and do it, but after the unbelievably intense and amazing solo trip, it's fallen way down on the 'want to do' priorities, so I'll be flying back.

I do believe that an important part of life is being able to listen to one's passions and deeper feelings, rather than just obsessively following pre-committed objectives. It's not always an easy one, hey! As others were involved, I did need to check that my decision didn't disadvantage / pain / compromise the team / individual member goals / experiences. A phone call to the ever flexible Richard Weber, the kite expedition guide / leader, confirmed my decision wouldn't compromise the team, nor any one individual. I was free to decide entirely in my own world. Was I just taking the easy route and missing out another great life experience opportunity? Would I regret it? Am I focusing on the problems / difficulties, when the joys / highlights far outweigh them? No, I'm happy with my decision, and probably most of all I can now REALLY savour the solo trip. l owe it to myself to fully enjoy what we created together, and I'm really going to do that....

Thanks for those of you who helped 'push me' towards this path too... At the time I read your comment about kiting, it DID have influence. Thank You for your insightfulness, and internalistion of my situation.

Finally, I would like to thank the following people who helped make this 'Solo but not Alone', South Pole expedition of mine such a huge experience success:

Richard Weber: In the expedition preparations Richard was always there to provide his expert advice and support on the many equipment and decisions. His unselfish mentoring on my 2010 North Pole expedition gave me the confidence to take on this solo challenge.

Josee Auclair (Richard's wife) and her team in Ottawa, Canada, who put my amazing food rations together, including customs passing and delivery to Punta Arenas.

My sister, Ros, and her husband, Bob, in California: They provide that special, intimate support that comes through family bonds.

Neil Bailey: a long-time friend and original sailing mentor of mine who, earlier this year, truly helped me through the decision to 'do it alone', and then has been truly close support throughout the preparation and the actual expedition. I know of all people Neil really understands what I've been through.

Dominique, who managed the blog and was the 7-day-a-week interface between you guys and me.

You Guys! My Blog supporters: I've expressed my gratitude and amazement at the bond we developed, but the last few days of personal reflection and comparisons with the experiences of other expeditions, I TRULY see how VERY special your support and our interaction was for 'the journey' part of my experience. Many asked how I had time and energy to write a blog at the end of a hard 11 hour day? Yeah, I only slept 6 hours a 'night' on average, but writing the blog was so natural and integral part of my whole day that I believe it had enormous, 'end of day' therapeutic value for me, and I was excited to share my intense thoughts as they came right off the Antarctic coalface... I'll be in contact with you individually soon.

ALE: For providing the logistics and infrastructure that allowed me to contemplate and then execute the expedition.

Lastly, but far from least, Ruth. She has always been fully behind me doing this expedition, and has lived through the emotional rollercoaster the journey this year has sometimes involved. Her satphone support along the way, while dealing with her own very intense experience, was invaluable and another big part of the 'Not Alone' experience.



  1. Dear Howard, Thank you for this blog. I won't say final because I'm sure there will be more, "...sometime, somewhere..." as the song goes. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! After a monumentous achievement such as yours, you deserve the very best of everything to come. It will be wonderful to see Ruth. I dare say you are all spruced up to see her. Iwould specially like to thank you fromeveryone reading your story, lots of love, Anthea xxxxxx

  2. Howard...congratulations on your superb finish, Happy New Year hugs from NZ, enjoy welcoming Ruth to the pole and make the most of that comfy airline seat on your return to wherever, as I'm sure you will be 'up for another adventure' real soon.....which means ..yippee.. 'another cool' blog to follow.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us.
    Much love Janet and Chris xx

  3. Howard, Congratulations on an amazing achievement. And Happy New Year to you, enjoy the rest and savour the experience , too soon you'll be back in the ordinary world.... Would love to catch up with you when you get back. Big hug, Lynn

  4. Howard what a scary story of the crevasse, it shows how risky lone adventures can be.
    Enjoy your rest and reflection
    Love to Ruth when you see her
    Simon and Julia

  5. Feeling knocked out...understandable!!
    Leave kiting until another time...good for all of us to be able to tune into ourselves, like you have during this experience!
    Another team's crevasse
    couldn't pay me!
    Ruth's arrival; give her a big hug from RF, WI!
    Thank you for the priviledge, Howard.
    Happy New Year, friend!

  6. Hi Howard,
    Must be fantastic sharing current experiences with other adventurers.Especially when you have done it solo.What a great achievement.Interesting to see what a processed thinker you are & not allow emotional issues to distract.
    Good to see you thanking all involved.All the best for 2012.Love to Ruth & please mention to her & her team well done.

  7. Hi Howard,
    i am sure you have made the right decision and can now enjoy your recovery and begin to digest the intensity of your experiences over the past 40 days or so.. I am sure you will have food for thought for many months to come, if not years. I trust you and Ruth are doing some catching up and are enjoying the experience of being at the very bottom, or top!!, of this wonderful planet of ours.. looking forward to catching up on your return to Kalk Bay. Take Care and lots of love from Patrick and Brigitta.