Pole to Pole Run with Icetrek - South Pole leg

Jan 08

Thin White Line

Published at 00:36
Dispatch created from email
Today is Day 9 of Pat's run from Union Glacier runway near the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. A summary of daily distances - 8km from the runway to Union Glacier Camp followed by 6 consecutive 70km days. Yesterday Pat dropped back to 60km per day, happy with the knowledge that he made a gigantor effort to get away from the Antarctic coast and it's higher probability of inclement weather. One thing that will remain constant however is the bitter wind that blows incessantly from the south that, together with a constant gain in altitude, makes Pat's task all the more difficult. In addition, the daily distances he logs is a subtraction from the distance remaining rather than the distance from the previous camp and doesn't take into consideration the meandering of the tractor trail we are following, which can be anything up to an additional 3km over the course of a day. But when Pat reaches the van in 45 minutes, completing his fourth 10km stretch for the day, he achieves a significant milestone - half way to the South Pole, in distance and elevation. Tonight we will celebrate with revelry, and a freeze-dried dinner!
The trail has hardened from successive vehicles having lumbered over it, as recently as two weeks ago, and makes the running more predictable, and safer. The threat of crevasses is ever present on a moving ice sheet and the trail weaves a scouted route around these fields of peril, of which one lies in sight on a small rise just 1km to the west. Crevasses are often covered by snow bridges, sometimes detected, sometimes sturdy, sometimes hidden, sometimes thin. Pat's pressure on the surface, particularly a running footfall, is higher in psi than our 6x6 Transit van, so if anyone is likely to break through, it is a runner. My task is to ensure Pat's safety. This safety extends to striking a fine balance between air temperature, wind chill, clothing configuration and food intake. As a polar skier, it is a balance I am intimately familiar with.
Our cameraman, Ming, a polar virgin, has in a heartbeat jumped into the thick of things; filming, cutting, uploading, riding the skidoo, helping with camp duties, and tolerating the cold like a seasoned pro. Speaking of, our driver Scotty is exactly that, with multiple winters and summers in Antarctica working on all manner of machinery. He keeps the van (our safety measure) and skidoo (our runabout) humming along and his field savvy is a great backup for me too.
So far the temperatures have been reasonably mild, between -5 and -20C, with nothing more than a mild ground-blizzard lasting half a day. It will become colder as we gain elevation and Pat will feel the effects of the cold, and altitude, on his body. Having already trekked from North Pole to Canada, and then run the length of the Americas, Pat has not a shred of fat to insulate his core, making the task ahead of him Herculean at best. But in all my years as a wilderness educator and polar guide, I have never met anybody with the physical and mental resilience that Pat draws on daily and I regard him as one of the world's greatest endurance athletes.
Most of my updates are sent as an sms by Iridium phone. MIng pings footage to our media team daily via the Iridium Open Port installed on the van, hence I have little opportunity to send an email with pics. To find video from our thin white line, and to see the fruits of Mings labour, go to www.poletopolerun.com.
Sitting next to Scotty in the van, both tapping on computers, with Ming 5km in arrears on the skidoo, Pat pounding the ice behind, I stare through the windscreen towards the white austere southern horizon and contemplate the second, and most exacting, half of Pat's run to the South Pole.
  • Accumulated distance: 595 km
  • Distance to go: 556 km
  • Name: Camp 9
  • Elevation: 1353 m
  • Latitude: 84° 5052South
  • Longitude: 80° 3711West


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