In a nutshell: grim up until about 4pm, glorious from around 5pm onwards. I’m typing this at nine in the evening and, for the first time since I landed in Antarctica last week, it’s completely still (and therefore completely silent) and the sun is shining on my tent after an overcast and windy few hours earlier in the day. It was warm enough this evening to pitch my tent without having to wear my big down jacket (a Canada Goose Mountaineer, which I normally put on over everything else as soon as I stop moving).
The sunshine came at a good moment, as I wasn’t having much fun this morning. The surface has been mostly poor, with a strong wind at the start of the day from the east (or my left as I skied south). You might be amused to hear that I’m not carrying a thermometer, so have no way of knowing the exact temperature, but going by memories of my last expedition here, the windchill could have been dipping into the minus thirties for a few hours. By contrast, it was warm enough in my tent this evening to lie on my sleeping mats (but not in my sleeping bag) in just a fleece, a hat and my baselayers as I melted snow on my stove, so the temperature range can be vast.
In general, though, it’s just bloody cold here, which is why I haven’t bothered with a thermometer. For almost all of this expedition, it’ll be cold enough that just a few minutes walking around outside bare-handed would lead to irreversible injury. I’ve also seen a surprising amount of exaggeration when it comes to polar temperatures. In nearly 17 years of expeditions, the lowest ambient air temperature I’ve experienced was -48 degrees C. on the Arctic Ocean, and Tarka and I had some desperately cold days in 2013 and 2014, but our little Kestrel wind speed gadget rarely said anything below -45, including windchill. (N.B. clearly I’ve now probably jinxed myself for some sort of freak cold spell…)
Other recollections from today: I saw a shape in the snow that looked a lot like a dog’s paw print, which made me homesick. And the mountains are getting bigger on the horizon, which is encouraging. Also, feeling the warmth of the sun on my back for the last hour of the day, like some giant, benevolent, reassuring force encouraging me on…