It’s hard to know how to write about today. Lying here in my tent at 8.40pm it feels like I’ve experienced the range of emotions and sensations one might normally go through in several weeks. In the 11 hours I was outside, the weather turned from mild to frighteningly cold and windy, and then back to benign and sunny again this evening. Soon after starting I had to battle through an area of sastrugi that felt more like crossing the fractured pack ice of the Arctic Ocean. At mid-morning the temperature plummeted and the cloud dropped to give me only a few metres of visibility. There are a few cues that tell me when it’s very cold: my face completely ices up from my breathing, the energy bars I eat at breaks become rock hard, and without mittens on (I take them off at each break for 5-10 minutes) my hands start getting worryingly cold. By midday I was fearful that I’d get into trouble at the next break as no matter how hard I skied, I wasn’t warming up after the last stop. Eventually I decided to pause to put on my red Canada Goose gilet (a Hybridge Lite) that I’d normally only wear when I was stationary, and it did the trick, tipping my body temperature back over the line between relative comfort and potential danger.
The next thing Antarctica threw at me, in the mist and fog and whirling blizzard, was a crevasse field, where I was expecting nothing but a safe surface. Thankfully it was a localised area of ice and the deep cracks crossing it were obvious and narrow enough to cross on skis, but most of the thin snow bridges yielded to a hard prod with a ski pole, and the few glimpses I had into these glowing blue abysses really spooked me. Was I lost? Had I made some colossal navigational error?
And then in the late afternoon the sun came out, one of my iPod Shuffles started playing me some brilliant tunes (thank you K, K & D!) and the cloud all but vanished, leaving me with this glorious view of the mountains from my bedroom window.
In the space of a day I’ve gone from at times feeling desperately homesick and afraid to feeling like I wouldn’t swap places with anyone; the master of my own little frozen Kingdom with an evening view of some of the remotest peaks on the planet that only a handful will ever have seen with their own eyes.
Favourite song of the day: Come as You Are, Nirvana
Books I’ve read in my tent so far (on a Kindle app):
Sweet Caress by William Boyd
Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker
(And I’ve just started Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart)
Top five favourite Outdoor Foods Firepot meals so far:
1) Pork noodles
2) Orzo bolognese
4) Beef stew
5) Mushroom risotto