Today started well. I took the tent down with a beaming parhelion in the sky behind me. Also known as sun dogs, these are caused by ice particles in the atmosphere refracting the sun’s rays, and occur at high latitudes. They usually look like a ring around the sun, or sometimes a smaller spot of light either side of the sun, and occasionally – like mine – with a mini-sun at ground level on the horizon. There was still a lot of cloud around as I set off, but I had good visibility, and shouted ‘Better!’ at the sky after a few strides. Training for this expedition over the summer and autumn, my coach Jonno would occasionally say the same thing to me if I got a particular movement right – a hang clean or a front squat or a kettlebell swing – and the word ‘better’ was always high praise from him.
Up until 2pm, things were great, and then the fog curtains descended on all sides, with the sun turning into a faint cream-coloured disc behind the cloud before vanishing completely, along with any shadow or contrast at ground level. It wasn’t a full-blown whiteout like yesterday’s, as the horizon was still visible as a slightly darker grey line, but I was unable to make out any of the surface features and again had to resort to steering vaguely on a compass bearing (harder than it sounds, as the needle of the compass can swing 40 degrees either way when you’re moving, especially over an uneven surface).
It was colder today as well, with a bit of wind – and wind-chill – from the south east, so I was back in astronaut mode with every bit of my skin covered up, and I’ve attached a photo to show how my face is protected. As well as the hood of my Canada Goose jacket I have a ‘gorilla’ balaclava, with a fleece earwarmer/head band under that, and my goggles have a section of windproof fleece sewn into the lower half of their foam padding, which accumulates a good icicle collection on a day like today. The blue cord around my neck is part of the harness that holds the compass (a Suunto M-3 Global) and the front of my jacket is partially unzipped to vent heat as I ski – it’s far better to be comfortably cool rather than to start sweating and then lose heat quickly at rest stops.
The one consolation in this afternoon’s gloomy weather was that I found a couple of podcasts (from Hospital Records) that I hadn’t heard yet, and that one of my four little MP3 players had been hiding from me until now, so at least I had some new music to listen to as I skied through the mist.
Lastly, thank you and hello (and Merry Christmas!) to Jake, Saskia, Ottalie and Poppy, whose note I discovered in today’s food bag, and an extra-special hello to my niece and nephew Lottie and Harry, and a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY from Antarctica to Harry. I’ll see you in the New Year!