|Overview: After a year and a half of preparations, we went to Antarctica. Starting from very near the coast, we skied 58 days to the South Pole. Jenny returned home, and I joined an expedition to climb the highest peak in Antarctica, Mt. Vinson, at 16,050 feet. Then I went to Argentina and climbed to 22,025 feet on Aconcagua. Altogether I was away from home for nearly four months.
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Preparations Arizona USA
Our preparations for this trip began one and half years prior, with gradually increasing exercise and a whole lot of sewing. We started training by climbing our local mountain, Pic'ho Peak - a few times a week. And during the next year, we climbed the mountain over a hundred times; and in fact, set the (unofficial) record for the fastest time. Meanwhile, in early 2006 we also started running five or six times a week. And mid-year 2006, we started dragging tires around the neighborhood to build more strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Climbing Pic'ho Peak
We learned to kite ski, and enjoyed a few trips to places that would help prepare us for the rigors of the ultimate icy endeavor. Early 2006 we went to Colorado for skiing and kite skiing. Then Utah. Then a trip to Minnesota's frozen lakes. Then a one-month trip to Greenland and Iceland.
In July of 2006, after months of negotiating with ANI, the sole company that manages expeditions to Antarctica, we finally reached an agreement, signed their contract, and made the initial deposit. This cleared the way for ordering our sleds and other expedition specific equipment. Our list of remaining jobs was still quite long, but at least we felt that our preparations were going in the right direction.
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We made almost all of our clothing.
Jenny sewing my ski pants.
Making thermal long underwear.
Making waist harnesses with which to pull our sleds.
We made this quilt the previous year, and decided to use it on the South Pole trip. It was the first ever quilt with a draft-stopper and gorget, and we liked it so well that it became the Ray-Way 2-Person, Two-layer Alpine Quilt.
The Ray & Jenny Sewing Factory with its two employees busy at work, getting ready for the South Pole.
Sewing a mountain of down jacket parts.
Screwing skins to the bottom of a ski.
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There's no end to the projects we have been working on. One of our projects, developed late 2006, is a system to use a satellite phone to post daily updates to our web page, including text, photos, sound and video from anywhere in the world. I wrote all the code myself, and reprogrammed my sat phone.
Originally my system was pretty rudimentary and relied on some outside help from my computer. But as time went on, I refined it piece by piece, and eventually managed to connect my entire update system autonomously. No more computer, no more phone line or cell phone.
The good news is this system actually worked! And not only did we use it on our South Pole trip, but the Vinson and Aconcagua climbs too. I was gone for nearly four months, and during that time my server back home handled everything automatically. So all I had to do was write the updates, take the photos, and send them to my server by sat phone.
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Making hook-ups for the tech equipment.
Our tech gear. The radios (yellow) and battery chargers were for the kite skiing, and were not actually used. The company ANI required us to carry two sat phones. Everything else we could recharge with the solar panels, shown at top right.
Baking high-calorie expedition cookie bars. We used a portable outside oven because our kitchen did not have a stove or oven. We had been eating mainly raw for nine years, and built our house without a stove. We were too busy to install a stove for this trip, but in later years, did.
Pulling sleds for ten hours a day will require a lot of power, not just strength and endurance. Dragging truck tires is the best way, that I know of, to develop this power. I could write a whole book on our experiences of dragging tires. But just one tip: make sure you have a quick release on the harness, in case you have to ditch it off the road to avoid a fast moving car.
We drug a lot at night to beat the heat, and to avoid stares.
A neighbor came out and put his polar bear on my tire. He wanted a photo of it going for a ride.
This tire has served me well this year, and although it appears to be a bit shabby on the sidewall, this is mainly cosmetic. It still has a lot of life in it. I am thinking of parting with it (sadly) for only $50.00. Comes with drag trace, but harness and carabiner are not included. It is hoped that the new owner will take it out for regular morning drags, and store it in a garage, out of the weather, and preferably locked up. One of a kind, but before long, models like this may appear in the backpacking mags and equipment stores along with the hi-tech cannonballs. Come to think of it, one could indeed carry a few cannonballs in the backpack, along with dragging the tire behind, to increase the workout.
My tire sidewall has worn thin as paper. The hole has increased the drag, so it is a bit harder to pull, which suits me fine.
I trained so much for this trip - running, climbing Pic'ho Peak, and dragging tires - that I wore out my shoes.
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Oct 18, 2006: We did it!!! Pic'ho in under an hour.
From the parking lot, to the summit, and back to the parking lot in
59 minutes and 2 seconds.
Today we pulled out all the stops, and beat our Personal Best by over 2 minutes.
|From the parking lot:||17:38||to the bench|
|From the bench:||16:43||to the summit|
|From the summit:||13:51||down to the bench|
|From the bench:||10:50||down to the parking lot|
Pic'ho Peak. Someday I would like to write a book about what I call "My Pic'ho Story" (about my recovery from an accident). When this book becomes available, I think everyone will be surprised by it. Meanwhile suffice to say that Pic'ho has become a life source.
August 2006 training for the South Pole by climbing Pic'ho Peak.
Making a bow drill fire to celebrate our one-year anniversary of my "Pic'ho Story." Jenny took this photo on 2006-09-20, one year after my accident.
I'm modifying our tent, and while I am at it, I'm editing music that we plan to listen to on the ice.
Making a door for the tent.
We do a great deal of sewing, and have lots of sewing machines. This is our industrial.
Jenny modifying our ski bag using an old Pfaff. After we re-finished the table and adjusted the timing etc, it sews great. Lots of power and zigzag too.
We made this ski bag for our Greenland trip, to carry two pair of skis. It also holds our foam pads, assorted clothing, and miscellaneous equipment. Now for our next trip, the ski bag must hold 4 pairs of skis, and two of them are longer than the bag, so we had to lengthen it by 8". Fortunately, when you make something you can easily modify it.
I'm mounting bindings to our kite skis with Heli-Coil inserts. We used these skis during our preliminary trips to Colorado, Utah, Minnesota and Greenland.
The countdown to our departure date has begun. 7 weeks remaining. Every day counts now. The food preparation is coming along well, the gear is slowly coming together, the sewing machines are humming daily, thanks to Ray keeping them well maintained.
Up to my elbows in sewing machines. We bought this sewing machine on ebay, and unfortunately it wasn't in good shape as advertised. Buyer beware! Rather than return it, I considered it a challenge, and spent lots of time and a few parts getting it to run smoothly. Fortunately I was successful.
Our prototype down quilt with five and half inches of loft!
Taming the beast - in this case a prototype down quilt. It was beautiful, sumptuous, luxurious - but that was before we began filling it with down. After stuffing down into the many cavernous baffles, the beast emerged. The oversized baffles were absolutely bulging, and the quilt looked more like a jumbo air mattress. We didn't even want to weigh it, and we couldn't imagine how we would possibly get it into a stow bag. The thing was almost too large to fit inside a sled. Well then, we'll take out some of the down. But this proved only to point out a major design flaw: the baffles were too big. There was only one way to tame this beast: we went at it with scissors. Ray held a cell open, and I reached in as far as I could and scooped out handful after handful of down. After emptying cells and salvaging the goose down, we dumped the now battered and defeated beast into a trash sack, (all 10 pieces of it) brushed off the clinging bits of down, and went back to the drawing board.
Emptying the cells and salvaging the 800 goose down. We subsequently sold the down. We much prefer our synthetic insulation, and think it would work much better than down in the harsh climate of Antarctica.
Jenny and her home-made down parka. We designed this jacket and made the patterns from scratch.
Making patterns. I have studied pattern construction and drafting, and so was able to developed our jacket patterns. It is both a science and art to get the pieces to fit together and the jacket to fit as intended.
We designed and made these insulated boot covers, for our kite-skiing boots.
Putting together a selection of parts for stove repair. These were well used during the trip. In retrospect, we should have also carried a spare stove, because a person's life would be on the line should the stove fail. While making preparations, I didn't realize how important the stove would be. The tent and stove are THE most important survival items.