The wind woke me up at about 4am, and it was blowing so hard that I wondered if it would be sensible to travel today. Thankfully a few hours later it had died down to a modest breeze, and the overnight hoolie had done a fantastic job of blasting away a lot of the fresh snow that had dogged my progress yesterday. It had also buried my sledge, which I’d towed around to the windward end of the tent to give me a bit more shelter.
The sun came out an hour after I set off, and despite a bit of cloud, I had my shadow for company nearly all day, which is a first on this expedition. Things got even better in the second hour of the day, when I spotted a couple of faint dark lines on the horizon, just to the right of my bearing. As the sky cleared and the contrast improved, I realised they were definitely mountains (rather than a bit of sastrugi – wind-blown snow, that often appears far larger than it actually is by some quirk of perspective and light). I hadn’t expected to see the Dufek Massif for days, as my GPS tells me they’re still a good 140km away, but they were undeniably visible until a bank of cloud snaffled them away around 5pm.
It was a joy to spot something physical to aim towards (or just to the left of) and after two days of stumbling around in a whiteout, I barely needed my compass today. My joy was mitigated somewhat by the realisation that after several hours of struggling toward them with all the energy I could muster, they still seemed just as far away. A great day, though, and the sun is shining on my tent (and my solar panel!) as I type this.
Answers to a few of your questions:
1) I have a question, number 2’s must be quite a task? And do they freeze?
I dig a hole with my snow shovel and do the deed as quickly as possible! I expect they’ll remain deep-frozen for centuries, until some confused archaeologist finds them…
2) Do you run your stove to heat your tent up or is it only used for cooking and melting water?
Snow-melting only. If I’m lucky – like tonight – the sun makes the tent noticeably warmer.
3) How many litres of water do you use per day, for cooking and drinking?
I drink at least four litres, so get through just under five in total every 24 hours.
4) I would love to hear more about your approach to crevasse safety while traveling solo like this. What is your self rescue plan other than to turn on your EPIRB, cross your fingers and wait?
Mostly avoidance if possible, and trying to stay on skis rather than on foot. I have Skeats this year which should enable me to get up the Wujek Ridge without having to switch to crampons. If I’m travelling through an area with crevasse risk (principally the Wujek Ridge and the Leverett Glacier, although both are far safer than the Beardmore Glacier, where Tarka and I crossed hundreds of crevasses in 2013-14) I’ll wear a lightweight harness and I carry food, hot drinks, a down jacket, an InReach beacon and my satellite phone in a rucksack, together with four ice screws, carabiners and slings on a gear loop. We found in Greenland in 2013 that slowly aid climbing out of a crevasse with screws and slings was more effective than trying to use axes/crampons and muscling out.