Day 26: Frozen Cameras
The wind blew hard all night, and at wake-up time we decided to sleep in. Fortunately, it calmed to manageable proportions (25 knots) two hours later. So we quickly did our morning routine (light the stove, melt snow for the day's drinking water, get dressed, put everything away, while Jenny loads the sleds I shovel snow off the snow flaps, then we un-pitch the tent and stow it in my sled).
So it wasn't until 9:00 am when we started skiing. Better late than never.
The morning was cold and windy, -21 C with 25 knot wind. The sky was clear but the sun didn't seem to be doing its job.
The terrain was rough, rough, rough. And at one point we encountered a batch of sastrugi so menacing, that in a white out I doubt we could have negotiated it.
The hours passed slowly but steadily. We switched leads every so often to break the monotony.
Number 1: Monotony of looking at the back end of the other person's sled.
Or, number 2: Looking at nothing but sastrugi ahead and off to the sides.
At least with 1, you are free to relax from the constant route finding.
For the record, back in Punta I through-bolted the sled runners at their aft ends because I could see that the design was flawed and that the runners would likely pull off at the first opportunity. This is exactly what has happened. Two runners have separated at the aft end but my though-bolting has stopped them from separating altogether. So we are looking fine at the moment.
This is what happened to Rune's Acapulka sled in Antarctica last year. Before I submitted my order to Alex, the builder in Norway, he assured me he had fixed the problem. But now I realize that did not remedy the problem.
While on the subject of these Acapulka sleds, the drilled-out holes in the stainless-steel attachment tangs, that the traces tie to, had not been chamfered (de-burred) so these holes have sharp edges which are cutting our traces. The first trace cut loose on Day-2 on the epic evening. The fourth one cut loose today. I now have a system of loops, so that when one begins to cut through, I simply shift the cord so it rides on a fresh spot.
Again with the sleds, the Dragonfly model is intended for kiting. It is wide and short, so it resists tipping over. This sounded good in theory, but in practice the sled does not track very well, because it is too short for its width. In ice or frozen snow, which is most of the time for us, It fish-tails with every step, side to side, like a skier doing parallel turns to slow down. We don't need our sleds to slow down, but that's what they do.
With these minor peeves aside, we had an excellent day, but today's update contains no photos because both our cameras froze right off the bat. We wear two insulating shirts under our ski parkas and today we both carried our cameras between the two layers, and it always amazes us to pull out a camera and have it covered with ice.
I am writing this later, and I will put it here, on this page, because I don't remember which day it happened. Jenny doesn't remember the incident at all. We had finished skiing for the day, and had just pitched our tent. The winds were strong, like always, and our number one priority was to never let go of the tent until I have buried the skirt with snow to hold the tent in place. I always have the tent anchored with my ski poles on the windward end, but the force of the wind on the tent could, possibly, pull the poles out of the snow. So I don't like to take any chances. So while I am digging snow, and covering the skirt, Jenny is supposed to stand on the windward side of the tent and hang on to it. But on this evening, instead of holding on to the tent, Jenny fainted and fell over, onto her back. Lights out. I knew instantly what had happened, and that it was not a matter of life and death. And I could not stop shoving snow until I had piled enough on the skirt so the tent would not blow away. This took me less that one minute. Then I came to Jenny's aid, and right then she came to. She asked me what had happened, and I helped her up and directed her to crawl into the tent. She seemed OK, so I handed her the foam pads, and then the rest of the gear. Once inside the tent, Jenny was her usual self. This was the only time it happened.
Evening camp: S 84° 17.858' W 84° 35.209'
Today's mileage: 13.0 in 9 hrs
Temperature: -21 C