Day 43: If your ski tips have no shadow, stop quick!
When first getting up, we usually wipe the walls and ceiling of frost, but this morning the tent was so warm from solar heating, the walls were dry.
After we light the stove, Jenny cooks porridge while I put whoever's boots together. One night I remove the liners and insoles from Jenny's boots in order to thaw and dry them - they are always frozen - and once dry we sleep with them. And the next night I dry mine.
Then Jenny melts snow to fill the day's four liters of drinking water, as I put our charging equipment away and prepare our music and audio players (hi-md's mini-discs) for the day's entertainment. We put them in fleece stowbags and 2 zip-locks, and carry them down our shirts next to our skin to prevent them from freezing.
Once we are wired for sound, we begin the morning exercise of getting dressed. Jenny puts on her ski pants and parka. (I sleep in mine, in case I have to exit the tent during the night for some emergency reason. We both sleep in our two sets of thermal pants and shirts, two pair of socks, and hats.)
At this point, we appear to be dressed, but not yet. Next comes the sled harnesses. Then boots, then the insulated jackets. Then face masks, neck gaiters, headphones, goggles shoved up to the forehead, then scarves to cover our mouth and nose. Then we put up our fur hoods if windy outside, and put on liner gloves with fleece camp gloves over these.
At this point we are so hot we can't wait to get outside.
Jenny crawls out, I hand her the gear, and she loads the sleds while I roll up the four sleeping pads and pack them in the big sled bag with the quilt in its stowbag, the first aid kit, and the tech bag. I shove this sled bag out the tent door, Jenny grabs it and puts it in her sled. Then I heave myself out and zip the tent door shut behind me to keep out the spindrift.
By the time I have shoveled the snow off the snow skirt all around the tent, and we have dismantled the tent and put it in my sled, this particular morning I was ready to take off the insulated jacket and neck gaiter, the camp gloves, and even my ski parka. The sun was shining, the air was still, and it was the warmest and most beautiful morning so far on the trip.
Never mind the thick coating of hoarfrost covering the shady side of my shirt within 30 minutes of skiing. I was warm, comfortable, and having fun. After all, where else do you get to ski ten hours a day for weeks on end. It sure beats going to work.
I have the snow shoveled and shook off the skirt, and Jenny has begun to help remove the fly and fold and put away the tent into my sled.
The view behind.
"If your ski tips have no shadow under them, stop quick!"
For the record, the first half of the day the sastrugi was so dense that it slowed progress practically to a crawl. The second half of the day the terrain opened up a fair bit, and progress was better.
Mid afternoon the clouds appeared like someone was showing a time-lapsed movie in fast motion. The wind piped up, and by now we had our ski parkas back on. Then it began to snow. And of course next came the white out.
This is only half a white out. You can see the horizon but not much of the ground.
Today I developed this rule of skiing in a white out: If your ski tips have no shadow under them, stop quick!
Jenny is posing for the photo, with her ski tips hanging over a hole. We can't tell how big and wide it is, so we went around. In a 100% white out, we would have inadvertently skied straight into it. (See the first photo on the next page.)
The first job inside the tent is to brush off the snow from the boots. We then sweep the snow from the tent floor, and get ready to light the stove.
We're holding a boot over the stove to melt the ice inside the boot.
Evening camp: S 87° 15.835' W 86° 58.702'
Today's mileage: 11.8 miles in 10 hrs
Altitude: 7580 ft.
Note: We were not aware of this at the time, but on this day the RAF "Southern Reach" team had to be airlifted to safety due to frostbite injuries sustained by two of the team members. The team was 100 miles short of the South Pole (89 miles ahead of Jenny and me). More info. The medic at Patriot Hills later told us that Sylvester had sustained frostbite injuries to one of his thighs on the second day of the expedition, then, according the medic, he hid the injuries from his teammates for the next forty days; and meanwhile the frostbite became gangrenous and eventually became life threatening. The other team members declined to break up, so they all boarded the rescue aircraft (ANI Twin Otter) for the Pole. The South Pole Base Commander later told Jenny and me that Sylvester's gangrene smelled awful, and the injuries were so bad that he might have to get skin grafts for many years. Once again, Jenny and I knew nothing about this until a week later, and were greatly saddened by the news.