Icetrek North Pole Ski 2017

Apr 09

tough day

Published at 19:27
Dispatch created from email
A tough day by all accounts. The cold seeped into my bones despite base layer, fleece and shell, and constant movement, and there was virtually no wind to point a finger at. Just a cold day and the ice on our faces was testament to that.

It was a testing day for John, his energy lacking from a poor nights sleep. But he's no slouch, 19km of ski tracks lay between our last camp and this one. In 1978 he spent months in the Alaska wilderness recreating the expedition of Alexander Mackenzie and the experience shows.

The afternoon saw us skimming across a huge expanse of first year ice and just as I'd resigned to camping on this relatively weak platform the pack ice returned and we pitched tent on solid ground. It was a joy and relief to crawl in out of the cold though the forecast for tomorrow is colder still, in the mid-30s. Ouch!


Selfies of me and John, crossing an expanse of first-year ice and our wonderful Hilleberg Keron 4GT tent.

Yes, didn't sleep well - have a chesty cough and woke around midnight not feeling too well and had the runs - not something to be recommended in these temperatures! Think I'm on the mend again now though...

We are settling into a routine now. We wake around six and Eric fires up our trusty little stove for a cup of hot tea or milo. Mmm - great even if the cup still has a bit of frozen chicken Marsala in it from the previous night. After finding every excuse possible to delay getting out of the sleeping bag we start to pack up the camp around 8.00am and are on our way by 9.00am. Even my dry clothes bag is now damp and everything freezes as stiff as a board overnight so I try to thaw things out over the stove before putting them on again in the morning. Still not a pleasant experience at all though...

I will spare you the detail about morning ablutions other than to say that Eric has taught me the technique which is to stay in ones undergarments but be out of the sleeping bag, dash out of the tent into -35C or whatever, do what has to be done, and be back in the sleeping bag to thaw out in under two minutes. Huge opportunity for miscalculation in all sorts of ways but I will leave the rest to your imagination.

Then the misery begins - step after step. Eric would take a rest after three hours if he was on his own but for me we have 5 minutes every 45 minutes and half an hour for lunch. It is so mind-numbingly cold that I have had the new experience of my eyebrows being attached to my beanie by ice and the whole thing being as hard as a helmet. Worse still, if I wear goggles or glasses they ice over immediately so I can't see so I prefer to keep my eyes showing despite the cold but my eyes water as a result and then my eyelashes freeze together which is an odd sensation. Eric has rescued me several times and helped un-freeze my eye without tearing all the lashes out.

Eric skis with the slow, steady rhythmic pace of an endurance athlete whereas I huff and puff sing behind bouncing off blocks of ice and floundering in the occasional snowdrift - I still have a lot to learn!

Then finally the best moment of the day - pitching camp. We stopped at 5.00pm today and were in the tent with the stove on by six thirty. The cold is so intense though that after I strip my frozen undergarments off and put on something dry, if there is any such thing left, I still shiver uncontrollably for at least an hour before getting warm. Eric is fantastic and I feel such a lightweight as I do one chore for every five of his - it is just so hard to force the body to do anything in these temperatures.

Then a freeze dried dinner which is fantastic, a tot of vodka and we are asleep by 10.00pm. The little stove keeps us quite warm during dinner but as soon as Eric switches it off the glacial polar air seeps back in and one has better be in one's sleeping bag with only a small gap to breathe left open. The inside of the tent is covered with ice and it is hard not to touch it from time to time but each time one does a small snow storm descends on everything inside such as one's recently dried clothing.

Eric says that we are making good time and so far no real dramas. Eric heard on the radio check in with the base camp that of the four teams including us attempting the pole two have had emergency evacuations - another one today for a frostbite case. I am being as careful as I can under Eric's watchful eye and although my toes and fingers get completely numb with cold, so far so good and we are in good spirits.

Tomorrow we should pass the half way point which will be a great feeling. Do please keep the messages coming - reading the comments from home in the evening in our little red tent on an infinite white and icy panorama is really appreciated.
  • Name: Camp 3
  • Elevation: 1 m
  • Latitude: 89° 279North
  • Longitude: 129° 5417East


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