Day 39: Climbing to the Polar Plateau
Clear sky, 10 mph wind, sastrugi moderate. So what is today's challenge? The cold. But after all, this is Antarctica.
Nevertheless, it's especially cold today, and for the moment I'm worried. Behind me, Jenny is running on only seven cylinders, and has trouble catching her breath. We are both skiing at only half speed at great effort. Something is wrong. Then it dawns on me. The stove.
Jenny feels pretty wretched, so I offer to make camp. But no, "We've got to make our 12.5 today and as long as you lead, I'm fine". So that is what we did, and before long Jenny was back up to speed, and my anxieties were no more.
Mid-day we left the sastrugi behind. No doubt there will be sastrugi most of the way to the pole, but here they were gone. In their place we had soft snow, and because of the low temperatures it was not slippery for the runners. So for the first time on the trip I adjusted both of our sled traces so that the sleds would track directly behind us, not off to one side. This made it easier for her to follow behind me with her sled following in the tracks of my sled.
All day today we climbed. And without the sastrugi the terrain was much more open and expansive. As we climbed higher we could look back and admire the magnificent vistas. It was very beautiful.
After ten hours of skiing with regular, short, standing breaks for snacks and water, we made camp on the same hill. We suspect that this hill is practically endless as we climb to the Polar Plateau.
While skiing today I had a thought discovery. Once in the tent, I checked the stove, and sure enough I found that the jet was loose in its threaded holder. So this must have contributed to the fumes, both this morning and a couple of days ago. I deduced that the jet needs to be screwed in extra tight to cope with the large temperature fluctuations. All stoves produce fumes, but I figure that a loose jet will produce more than carbon monoxide.
For those interested in tracking our progress, this is easy. We are tracking generally down the same longitude (86 degrees west). So we are interested in the latitude. So with ruler in hand, draw a straight line 10 inches long. Then draw a tick mark at one-inch intervals. At the first tick mark, write 80. The next tick mark is 81 degrees, and so on, to the finish at 90 degrees. Then draw a small circle at 86 and a half degrees. That is our approximate position tonight. See the coordinates at the bottom of this entry: South 86 degrees, 33 minutes. And note that each degree is divided into 60 minutes.
Evening camp: S 86° 33.120' W 86° 39.044'
Today's mileage: 13.4 in 10 hrs