Day 20: Playing in the Junkyard
This morning's games featured a white out in rugged terrain. The rules were simple: Don't break your neck falling off a sastrugi. For those who lack white out to play in, simply wear a blindfold and pretend you see white instead of black. For those who lack sastrugi, simply go to the junkyard and play there. Any kind of junk will do, as long as it is big enough. The object of this game is to simply get though it.
(I just split my lip laughing so hard. We keep our lips covered all day, but the cold, dry air wreaks serious havoc with the skin.)
The odd thing about a white out is in certain conditions you can see the snow up to 12 to 18 inches away from your sled. This is because the light reflected from the sled is different from ambient light. So when you turn around, you can sometimes see what you ran over or fell off of. My most memorable occasion was when I skied directly into what looked like the head of a giant duck. If I had been either left or right 18 inches I would have missed it entirely. It was a direct hit. I climbed onto the head and skied down the bill and landed with a thud. I turned around to watch my sled glissade off of it. And I could see that indeed I had just run over a duck.
(Jenny: I thought it was interesting that when following Ray directly behind his sled I could see more surface detail. But when leading, looking ahead into the whiteness, I could see nothing.)
The white out is slowly dissipating.
Midday the white out broke up, the sun came out, and we enjoyed a splendid afternoon in just ten knots of wind.
This is what the terrain looks like without the white out. Rugged and covered with sastrugi.
In a white out we can't see the "streets," so have to ski directly over the sastrugi. This gully to the left of the "street" is about two feet deep.
The wind was light and we had become severely dehydrated. We had already drank our four liters of water earlier in the day. So we stopped to melt more. And for expediency we didn't want to pitch the tent; so we toughed it out.
This was our coldest rest stop of the entire trip, waiting for the snow blocks to melt. It sure felt good when we got moving again, but it took us almost an hour to warm back up. We had become deeply chilled, almost to the core. Again, I don't think a person can become hypothermic down here. Anyway, we never felt any effects of hypothermia. Its too cold for that. Instead, the cells of the body just freeze. I think hypothermia and cell freezing are two different things.
The evening camp.
Evening camp: S 83° 14.931' W 83° 17.038'
Today's mileage: 11.2 in 9 hrs.