Another day, another whiteout. The wind died out completely at some point in the night and it was cloudy, snowing gently and completely still when I set off this morning, and unusually warm for Antarctica; feeling more like I was crossing a wintery field in Berkshire than one of the most southerly ice shelves on earth. For the first time on this trip I could ski with my face uncovered.
Half an hour in and I was overheating. One of the most frustrating facts of life in Antarctica is the inevitable faff with clothing and gear: each time I stop to eat and drink I have to take off my sunglasses (or goggles) and stow them somewhere, take off my face mask and stow that somewhere, take off my compass harness if there’s no visibility, take off my rucksack, take off my mittens and stow them while I have a pee (I wedge them under my left arm), before I sit down on my sledge then reverse back on both skis, picking up the trace (the rope that connects me to my sledge) to avoid running it over. Then comes eating, drinking and reversing the whole procedure to get going again. The faff factor rises when it’s warm, as you can end up with clothing zips and vents open, all of which need closing when you stop. I had eleven zips open this morning, so each break seemed to take an eternity.
It got chilly again by midmorning, and the surface has been frustratingly poor all day today, with fresh snow piled everywhere, which feels like dragging my sledge through wet sand (effectively with a pillowcase over my head as I’ve mostly been able to see nothing at all). My compass kept telling me I was veering slightly left, so it felt like I was constantly turning right all day, and part of me was convinced I was making a giant clockwise circle in the snow. Interestingly I found it made almost no difference to my progress whether I skied with my eyes open or closed. White nothingness or black nothingness. It wasn’t a great deal of fun.
In an attempt to boost morale this evening, I had two Potage chocolate brownies, something my future self will curse me for when he has a brownie-less day later in the expedition. I quoted Winnie the Pooh – as I made a v-sign to my future self and ransacked the sledge for this precious treat – who I’m sure said something like “If we eat all our supplies now, we won’t have so much to carry”…
Apparently I’ve had a question about the rest of the food I’m eating on this expedition. Here are a few details:
– 6,200 calories per day in 1.3kg dry weight of food
– breakfast is a 500ml shake (custom-made, including powdered egg yolk!), granola from Primroses Kitchen made with powdered coconut cream and a 500ml energy drink
– during the day I have two litres of hot carbohydrate/electrolyte drink and six breaks, with snacks including raw bars from The Primal Pantry and Battle Oats protein flapjacks (made with butter and coconut oil). Oh, and Marmite cashew nuts. I take on at least 300 calories per hour when I’m moving.
– as soon as I stop and start melting snow in the tent, I have another 500ml protein/carb recovery shake, another Battle Oats bar, some dark chocolate and a chocolate brownie (I call this little pre-dinner snack attack the Happy Hour) and then my main Firepot meal from Outdoor Foods, which have been superb, usually washed down with some more water.
Despite all this grub, I still expect to lose around 15kg (33lbs) in two months due to the metabolic demands of this sort of travel in this sort of environment. I was wondering as I typed
if anyone on the planet burned more calories than I did today, and if so, how…