After relatively pleasant conditions yesterday, it was back to the familiar trial by sastrugi today, with a variety of obstacles ranging from sections of short, choppy, closely spaced ridges a few inches high to bright white, rock-hard snow sculptures (that sometimes look a bit like the elongated head of one of Ridley Scott’s aliens) to giant hump-backed walls of snow that looked like some huge creature – about the size of a small car – had been burrowing around under the surface.
My departure this morning was delayed by a strip search. I had all my gear on, I’d fastened my boots and before taking the final step of unzipping that tent door and stepping outside, I reached behind me for the section of my face mask that fastens across my mouth and nose and cheeks. It was gone. This little rectangle of fabric with Velcro at either edge is vital, and on a day with a headwind like today I’m not sure what I could have used instead. I looked inside my sleeping bag first, then rummaged through the bags I was about to pack into my sledge, before reluctantly removing layer after layer in search of the missing mask. It eventually turned up between my shoulder blades, clinging on to my thermal baselayer with its grippy velcro wings…
The two photos today are a selfie (a happy one as the sun came out after a cloudy morning) during one of my six breaks, where I turn the sledge so my back is to the wind, and so that I can take off my goggles and mask to eat and drink, and to feel the sun on my face. The second is my view from the same break: unless it’s a gale-force wind then I hang my goggles on top of one of my ski poles. There are some of the ‘alien’s head’ variety of sastrugi popping up in the background, and as you can see the weather was great, after a grey start.
As I lie here this evening I’m now more than 2,000 metres above sea level, which feels like a milestone of sorts, and I’ll be steadily climbing for a little longer yet.
P.S. A big hello to Marina – I found your lovely note in yesterday’s food bag!