I was looking forward to getting my skates on today and making some decent headway south, but Antarctica of course had other plans. I had to fight through a big area of sastrugi (hard, wind-blown ridges in the snow) for the first hour or so, then found mostly soft, sticky snow after that. I’m currently crossing an area called the Sallee Snowfield and the one redeeming factor has been the view of the mountains: the Forrestal Range in front of me, and the Dufek Massif behind. The sun’s been shining all day, but the wind has been ferocious, and I’ve skied through a blanket of fast-moving spindrift all day. This sort of wind makes stopping to rest/eat/drink more stressful as well: hands get cold very quickly as soon as the big mittens come off, and anything left unattended (a mitten, goggles, the lid of a flask) will be blown away.
It also makes pitching the tent harder, and you feel quite exposed in what is essentially a vast open plain with no natural shelter. A handful of times on the last expedition, Tarka and I (well, mostly Tarka as he seemed to enjoy it) dug up blocks of snow and built a protective wall or windbreak, so I did the same this evening. The tent (a Hilleberg Nammatj 2) will be fine in almost any wind, but it can get a bit noisy when it’s blowing hard, so the wall quietens things down a bit.
Lastly, I was so exhausted yesterday evening that I forgot to write about one of the huge successes of the day, my Skeats! These are specially made minature crampons that strap on to the base of my skis – “ski cleats” – for added traction without having to use full-blown crampons. They worked superbly, and I’m pretty certain no one has ever been up the Wujek Ridge on skis before. Thank you Patrick! I’m sending back another photo from yesterday, part-way up the climb, and you can see them strapped to my skis.
Some quick answers:
Tell me about the music you’re listening to whilst you’re travelling please. What do you listen to? How big is that playlist & how often do you have music playing during the day ?
I have four little iPod Shuffles (one was a gift from a friend and her two boys, and is loaded up with their surprise playlist) and mine are filled with mostly electronic music (a lot of drum and bass as I find that helps speedy progress! Lots from Hospital Records, and I’m enjoying Keeno’s new album if that’s your kind of thing). That’s interspersed with everything from 90s hip hop to 80s air guitar classics to tracks suggested by Flare Audio‘s network of recording artists (Jarvis Cocker sent an entire playlist with his reasoning: “Dancing on My Own – because that’s what you’ll be doing”…)
Do you wax your skis regularly?? And how do you keep your toes warm..?
Konrad! I have long skins on my skis at the moment and will switch to shorter kicker skins when the sledge is a bit lighter. Åsnes in Norway supplied the skis and skins, and I have skin wax that I apply every few days.
I have custom made ski boots (with a NNN sole for a backcountry binding) and my warm toes are thanks to Intuition Liners. They’re absolutely brilliant – Tarka and I used them in 2013-14 and didn’t worry about our feet once. Also zero blisters in more than 3,000km now!
What do you do for navigation? I imagine the accuracy of a compass is reduced when so close to the poles?
A compass is still accurate, but the bearing is not what you’d expect, as I’m further south than the Magnetic South Pole. Today I was on a bearing of 172 degrees. I have a number of waypoints along my planned route, all the way to “Ray Nunatak” at S83° 27, and then it’s blank white all the way to the South Pole (I plan to follow 52° longitude). I have a GPS that gives me the correct magnetic bearing to follow each day, but most navigation is with a compass.
I know it’s early but what would be your average fuel usage be per day? If I can remember correctly you melted snow for 4 litres per day?
I’m melting 4-5 litres per day and seem to be using 200ml or less per day as my new stove/pot is so efficient. I’m carrying enough for 250ml per day, and will need more fuel at higher altitude as the stove becomes less efficient.