THE TESTING OF METTLE

Position: 77°29'59"N, 61°08'23"W

The testing of mettle.

As we inch ever closer to our ultimate goal, the crucible of testing intensifies. Big days of mileage, making use of any wind available. Sleep, a limited luxury. When you are running your body so close to the edge, the odd niggle or tweaked physical ailment compounds and becomes, well, difficult to ignore. For me today, the combination of deep snow and undulation put an immense discomfort on my knees - compounded by the fact our recovery time has been diminished by our eagerness to reach our final destination.

Hour upon hour of mental strain, as my knees screamed louder and louder in discomfort. Each bump or change in direction would induce a wince, as if someone was thrusting a hot poker into my patella. A newly discovered power of the mind however is what I found remarkable today. Inside the final stretch, we have "opened the mental floodgates" to the niceties of thoughts of family, friends and the creature comforts we will enjoy once our time here on the ice is done. With each passing discomfort, I was more and more intensely focused on thoughts of home, my love and the ever-decreasing distance between us. Oh, what rapturous thoughts, warming my heart and quite effectively drawing my mind from the physical perils I was undergoing.

After a brief intermission, to pop up the tent and thaw out our frozen appendages, we spurred one another on, with pinpoint focus and an iron gaze. This culminated in our best mileage yet, 215km. Excitingly we are now within stones-throw of the final position of the journey, which feels surreal to say the least.

We find ourselves camped this evening, on a sea of wave-like sastrugi, dosing up on anti-inflammatories and preparing some safety precautions for the final stretch. We are in bear country again now, being so close to the sea ice, so the rifle is sleeping with us in the vestibule along with some signal flares.

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