Day 35: Difficult Terrain
Seriously difficult terrain
Another slow day, and this time without the excuse of the white out. Difficult terrain. Seriously difficult terrain.
Finding a "street" and climbing onto it, we have smooth skiing for a while, until the street fades out.
The streets are elevated above the surrounding terrain a few feet, and this was our view to one side, looking west.
Heading momentarily off-course for the next street.
Climbing onto a street. The weather is good, so Jenny has little bags of cookie bars and other snacks riding handy on her sled, for quick access.
It seems that whenever we get within five miles of a mountain, downwind, the sastrugi have a field day. This time it was Lewis mountain and the expanse of low lying mountains to the south of it. This will be our last mountains from here, all the way to the pole, so we will have to come up with a new excuse next time.
Our present excuse is the three days we lost, more or less, detouring to the Thiels resupply. To reach this resupply, we had to go a few days, not south - which very generally is the direction of easiest travel because that is where the wind comes from, forming smooth "streets," but SSW rendering the streets unusable because we invariably had to cross them diagonally to stay on our heading. Normally this would not be a problem, but not this year of the monster sastrugi.
Then when we departed the resupply area, the route put us downwind of the mountains where the sastrugi were severe.
So the problem, at least this year, is the resupply is in the wrong place for us. It should have been directly south of PH or Foxy Pass.
The weather is good, so we enjoy a real sit-down lunch break. We have taken off our face masks and goggles for the photo. Even in good weather, the goggles are essential for preventing snow blindness, and to protect the eyes from the wind and piercing cold.
Looking due north, back the way we had come. Nice weather, but still windy.
Looking down on a sharp-edged sastrugi. It's about three feet tall.
The reason I pile so much snow on the skirt is that I don't want to have to get up in the night, get all the expedition clothes on, and go out into a sudden storm to do the job right a second time.
Early this morning we encountered another problem. Upon rising we lit the stove, and because there wasn't any wind, we had to open both tent doors wide for ventilation. This was the first time that we had to do that, and it made the inside of the tent very cold, even with the stove going.
The stove was not going full blast, because of dirty fuel, so the whole ordeal of cooking oatmeal and melting water reeked of fumes. We couldn't even finish, so we had to go short on water today. Even then, we almost made ourselves sick. In fact, we were sick for several hours.
The company (ANI) is the sole supplier of the stove fuel used on these expeditions. They use Coleman fuel in one gallon cans, and at 65 dollars a gallon, one might expect brand new fuel in unopened cans. They buy some new each year, but also they use the dregs leftover from previous expeditions, and what-not. And unfortunately, they had not filtered the leftovers of the fuel we got, so we never knew what we might find when opening a can. We have seen clean fuel; and we have seen fuel contaminated with water and grunge. The most recent can we opened had black-colored fuel mold in it.
Unfortunately, we did not bring a fuel filter, but will have to improvise one tomorrow because I have had to dismantle and clean the stove almost every-other-day to keep it running.
Tonight I cleaned the stove yet again, and it is running beautifully for the moment, with minimal fumes. We are lying here like a couple of fat and happy cats in our warm tent.
I forgot to mention today's weather - it was very nice, some clouds, some sun, 5 to 10 knots of south wind, a bit cold at the rest stops. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking every time we turned around to view the mountains receding in the distance to the north.
Evening camp: S 85° 48.827' W 86° 39.556'
Today's mileage: 10.3
Altitude: 5515 ft., Temperature: -16 C