I finally put the peaks of the Forrestal Range behind me today, with one final piece of tricky terrain getting past Ray Nunatak and its neighbouring hill Beiszer Nunatak (at the far left on the horizon). The cloud closed in when I was close to the peaks, and I had my hands full traversing some challenging slopes near the bases of the mountains, but things progressively improved as the day went on and it’s a pleasant sunny evening as I lie here typing this with two thumbs.
The surface hasn’t been kind, with sastrugi near the mountains and soft, sticky snow for the latter half of the day, and it’s frustrating to feel that the mileage on the clock at the end of the day doesn’t entirely represent the effort invested.
I started the day with a live satellite phone-in to BBC Breakfast, which was a surreal experience, and I’m happy to hear I’ve had a number of donations to The Endeavour Fund as a result. This prompts me to thank Arqiva, who are very kindly sponsoring all of of my satellite phone calls!
I’ll be on a straight line bearing for at least the next 25 days, and don’t expect to see anything more in the way of scenery, so it’ll be a flat white 360-degree horizon for a while. There’s not much else to report today, other than my dawning, disappointing realistion that it’s – perhaps paradoxically – harder to do any proper thinking on a solo expedition. With Tarka on my last expedition we took it in turn to navigate, so for half the time I was following him, plugged into his ski tracks, and could switch off and daydream. Alone, a lot of my mind is constantly occupied, not least with navigation, which usually involves focusing intently on a patch (or interesting-looking lump) of ice or snow on my bearing, as well as being mindful of the weather, the wind direction and the time, particularly when to next stop and rest/eat/drink. The upshot is that rather than this being an exercise in mindfulness and presence, I’m almost always working really hard to get to somewhere else. The time passes quickly during the day as a result, but the quality of introspection that I recall from parts of my last Antarctic expedition is proving elusive so far. Perhaps now the terrain is simpler I can spend a little longer on autopilot…