I’m not entirely sure what to write about today, as not a great deal happened down here, and my ten hours on foot seemed to whizz by without any decent trains of thought, or any grand flashes of inspiration. It was as if my mind was an old radio with a knob being slowly turned, and snatches of conversation – or memories, or future plans – coming and going in between the static hiss of skis and sledge and poles travelling over snow.
On the whole the weather has been great: blue skies, nice and chilly (minus twenties centigrade), not too much wind, although a giant cloud scudded overhead around 11am like a vast mothership in a sci-fi movie, blocking out the sunlight as it hovered into position, narrowing the light on the horizon to a slit. My shadow vanished for an hour or so as the contrast disappeared, and the sastrugi became extremely hard to navigate as the ridges had lost their shadows too, and just became white against white. I bashed on through them, nervous of breaking a ski, or my sledge, or some tendon in an ankle or wrist, before the sun valiantly reappeared in the afternoon.
One of my little iPod Shuffles did a fantastic job of DJing through the gloomy section of the day, fishing out Lynard Skynard’s Simple Man just when my morale was starting to wobble a bit.
At 6.15pm, quarter of an hour before stopping to pitch my tent, I said ‘Nearly home!’ to myself out loud, which startled some other part of myself, a part that hadn’t heard a human voice since the previous evening’s satellite phone calls. It’s strange that the only speaking I do in 24 hours is compressed into a 10 or 15-minute period in the evening. Speaking of talking to myself, the only other words that pass my lips are the occasional profanity if things are really tough, or an occasional ‘Yeah buddy!’ (in the style of Ronnie Coleman) if things are going well, perhaps if I’ve just made it through a particularly nasty bit of sastrugi.
The miles are still hard to come by at the moment, but the weather seems to be turning for the better and if I make it out of this difficult terrain tomorrow then I’m hopeful I’ll be able to shift gear.
Last up, the very best of luck to Ed Parker and his fellow ex-servicemen who are walking 50 miles tomorrow (which will be today – Saturday – by the time you read this). I hope it’s marginally warmer than here for you, Ed, and that the entire team make it round. Onwards!