Day 33: Skiing Alongside the Thiels
We knew we had camped in the middle of chaos, and we still had a long way to ski before reaching the far end. But we had forgotten our Checkers set, so there was nothing for it but to load the sleds and see what the day had in store.
Nolan Pillar, Smith Knob, Mount Wrather
Can you believe it? Today was even more of a blubber burner than yesterday. Fortunately, we still have lots of blubber to burn. Speaking for myself that is. I don't know where Jenny gets her energy; she seems to have an unlimited supply.
In most of these pictures, the intense white light has made the surface appear fairly flat. So when we describe the sastrugi as rough, it sure doesn't look like it in the photos. But take another look at this one; Jenny's left ski tip is 16" off the surface.
Boots gave Jenny better traction through this section.
Three hours into our morning, Jenny discovered that she could haul her sled out of holes better without wearing her skis. Boots give better traction. So we strapped her skis onto my sled, and she pulled with boots for two hours. The surface is white ice and frozen snow, and if you find an inch of powder snow somewhere it is a rarity.
The difficult sastrugi was caused by last winter's winds accelerating over the Thiel Mountains. If we would have stayed close to the mountains we would have been in that all day. Instead we headed southeast for five hours on a course that took us away from the mountains.
Now outside the zone of severe sastrugi, we are free to enjoy the grand scenery.
The mountains look close, but actually are some four miles away.
Reaching the edge of the severe sastrugi, we followed a heading that would take us back to the Pole. Then for most of the afternoon we skied alongside the Thiels at a distance of perhaps four miles. The rest of the day we climbed a big hill and watched the Thiels recede slowly in the distance.
The exercise keeps us warm, but even on a nice day like today we can't stop for more than a few minutes without getting cold.
When outside the tent we have to wear our ski goggles all the time. The reason is not so much the bright light which would cause snow blindness in short order, but to protect our eyes from the cold and wind. Even 10 knots at -16 degrees Centigrade is intolerable to the eyes. So the last thing we do before leaving the tent is pull the goggles down over the eyes. Then, at the end of the day, the first thing we do when entering the tent is to remove the goggles.
We each carry a spare pair of goggles in our sleds. Should the lens of the primary pair ice up, we switch to the secondary pair.
Nice day in Antarctica, cold and windy but incredibly beautiful.
In retrospect, it was a strenuous day, but the weather was perfect and the scenery was incredibly beautiful with the mountains nearby and the polar landscape extending away to forever. Never mind our short mileage, it was a day to remember for its beauty, and for the fact that we are in Antarctica!
Evening camp: S 85° 30.724' W 86° 40.558'
Today's mileage: 11.2
Wind: 10 knots; Altitude: 5170 ft., Temperature: -16 C