GAINING GROUND

Breaking the 1000 km mark


Day 12 on terrain
Pos 70 27'04 N 47 44'10 W
Alt 6309 ft

The alarm went off at 3 am and I looked at Simon, just his nose poking out of his frosted sleeping bag. Waking someone from slumber in an artic camping environment makes you feel like such a heel. That first creep out of the bag into the -15c air is like a vicious slap in the face. Bodies arguing for more sleep, we dressed, very little said. No energy for that this morning. Each with ailments and differing stress points but each feeling the rigours of nearly 1000 kilometres of ice travel. We had to press on early as last forecast was for little or no wind assistance for the next few days.

It takes so long to dress, make water, pack sleds, pack tent, check navigation, choose and set correct kite, then one hour and fifty minutes from leaving the down bag we are on our way.

Today was pure magic. Dawn was a few hours old by 5 am, so the sky was already golden with wisps of high stratus breaking the blue made more intense by the cold morning air. We had light wind but our direction of travel northwards was upwind meaning that the apparent wind was stronger and like some invisible hand we were pulled northwards madly by crafted canvas.

Within minutes my right foot, face and hands began to smart. I had seriously underestimated the windchill now well below -20c. I tolerated the discomfort for 40 minutes but then stopped, lay the kite down and dressed properly, some minor frostnip to show for my folly.

We have moved westwards towards the Greenlandic coast to avoid a big wind hole to the east. We have also dropped 3000 ft off the side of the glacier to make use of the katabatics coming off the high point of the ice. This is cold air rolling downslope towards the ocean. We rode this frigid conveyer belt for 126 km today. Upwind angles are definitely tougher on body, much colder but we made headway again.

Rolling across fingers of ice and snow coming off the heights - it was like a roller coaster lit like a professional photo shoot. On and on the ice goes seemingly into infinity.

Mid morning my hungry eye caught texture and as I approached at speed, I realised we had three large crevasses to cross. The largest some 10 m wide. Putting the kite into a down loop to generate speed I madly dragged myself and sled across praying that speed would be enough to gain the far side. The bridge was stable and the kite pulling skyward assured full weight was not stressing the ice chasm. Very glad to get through this area and see that Simon had also recognised the danger and followed my tracks closely.

Thankfully no further crevasses to be negotiated today but it will be a matter for caution as we approach the bear country to our north.

Tonight we realise that we broke the 1000 km mark today! Just short of halfway but in a good position to make some Australian Polar History. Good recoveries, good decisions, a big pinch of prayer and we trek ever northwards eager to see what we can achieve.

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