Day 53: Gaining the Polar Plateau
We crossed 89 degrees late afternoon. That makes nine down, and only one left to go. So we are eating our celebratory cake tonight - and nursing our wounds. I have a few superficial cold injuries on my fingers, from today, and Jenny has the same on her toes, from early on in the trip. This is not frostbite, but close.
Today's weather was much different than yesterday's. We woke up to a clear sky, not a cloud anywhere. The sun was doing its best, but fighting a losing battle against the southeast 10 to 15 knot wind. The temperature was minus 25 degrees C all day.
The skiing started out well and Jenny took the lead early on. Twenty minutes later she stopped and said she was out of breath and could hardly pull her sled. She asked me take some weight from her sled, which I gladly did, and then I took the lead.
No doubt people have become hypothermic in Antarctica, but more likely they just quick freeze. The surface of the body begins to freeze long before the core temperature drops. You have only a matter of minutes until your hands stop working.
I suggested we set up the tent, quick. But she wanted to get moving, figuring that she would warm up through exercise. I helped put on her insulated jacket, put her overmitts back on, and she took off post haste with me right beside her. In five minutes she was warm enough to stop again and put on her insulated pants.
Originally she could not catch her breath and the sled felt very heavy, so she psyched herself out figuring she was having a bad day. And it all went downhill from there. In actuality we were climbing a steep hill. She didn't realize this, and that is why her sled felt heavy, and that is why she couldn't catch her breath. Antarctica plays with your mind; it has tricked me many times.
With Jenny feeling warm again, she wanted to ski behind me, which she did for the rest of the day. I was quite happy with that.
An hour later the cold started affecting me, so I stopped and put on my insulated jacket for the first time ever (while skiing) on this trip. I skied with the jacket for half an hour until I was warm again, and no longer needed it.
My overmitts are getting worn and thin, so my hands were cold at times today.
All day we climbed this hill, and still there is no end in sight. It is the same hill we climbed all day yesterday. It feels like a hill because we have to ski slowly, or else we are out of breath. And it looks like a hill, at least when you look straight ahead. But when you look to either side it looks level; same with looking back. Perhaps it is very gradually sloped and the sensation of steepness is caused by the altitude.
Jenny skiing in her insulated pants and jacket.
More of the sun's visual effects. Either that or the Earth is zooming towards the Sun, but we don't feel any warmth yet.
All day we skied on hard crust. But when we stopped to make camp, and took our skis off, our boots sunk in 3 to 4 inches and we realized it was the same situation as last night. The snow is deep, but it has a hard, wind-blown crust.
The bright sun persisted all day, so we were glad to crawl into the tent for its solar warmth. Now we have boot liners hanging from the ceiling to dry, as well as overmitts, face masks, neck gaiters, scarves, and gloves. The wind has stopped and the night is quiet and very pleasant.
It's drying time again. For the first time on the trip, we're drying both pair of book liners, because both of us could use a little more warmth in the feet.
Countdown: 65 miles
Evening camp: S 89° 02.255' W 84° 58.096'
Today's mileage: 12.2
Note: Congratulations to our good friends Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald who arrived at the Pole today, on day 52 of their expedition. Jenny and I were not informed of this until after we reached the pole ourselves, on day 57 of our expedition. Escape to the Pole