Day 11–That Hill

November 17, 2011 1:40am

November 15, 2011

S71°39.281 E010°44.375

Elevation 5890 ft

My head is down as I walk, looking up only periodically to set a path amidst the mounds and mini canyons that make up the broken up surface of the ice. The sky is covered in white clouds and the wind is hissing. Only when I look down do the hood and fur ruff of my jacket spare me the onslaught of cold head winds. It is cold, and the grip on my poles stiffens. The harness cuts at my shoulders and waist from the heavy sledge behind me. Moving uphill, the cargo feels twice its weight. One hundred feet ahead, I can make out, one more time, the clear fault line of a crevasse. The snow bridge depression that covers it fading to the blowing snow. We are in the middle of a crevasse field. I am cold. But stopping means it will be colder still. I look towards Eric. In the drifting snow, his legs and sledge all but disappear, as if erased from the landscape, his silhouette dwarfed by the looming hill we are ascending. Underfoot, I hear the snow crack from my weight. I feel the floor below me shift, and before I realize what happened, it drops, first a few feet at an angle thrusting me forward, and then collapses in fragments swallowing me down. Below, the crack plunges thirty or fifty feet into what looks like a dark abyss. I can barely make out the green iridescence of the frozen walls on each side of me as the trace of my pulk slams me into one of them. The free fall has stopped but my ski twists and comes off my boot, falling into the darkness below. Above, my pulk is jammed; I am suspended in mid air. And I then wake up.

A wind storm lashed at the tent all night long. The snow drift was hissing at the fabric like an angry cat stalking its prey’s desperate shelter. By mid morning, the forty knot gusts had come down by half. The sky was partly cloudy, and the temperature noticeably cooler. Today would have been a nice rest day, but given the two forced on us this week, we can not afford it. And ahead laid that hill.

We are trying to find a way up between mountain paths an crevasse field, an the best we could come up with is a nasty grade of a hill. With today’s head winds and frigid weather, this proved every bit as hellish as we anticipated. “Hell of a hill,” is all I muttered on our various breaks. “Yep,” is what invariably came back, “this sucks”. My ribs make difficult the use of my right arm to lean on the pole. The imbalance makes the left arm work twice as hard but half as efficient. Halfway through our short day, Eric took on the two extra sledges I am towing. With the wind and extra elevation, we feel for the first time the Antarctica bite at around 35C below. The sweat of my hands turns cold, and I have trouble regaining feeling in my fingers. The more we ascend, the more we run into slippery patches of blue ice. After only four and a half hours, we are spent. It is five thirty PM and we have merely covered 3.9 kilometers but gained 400 feet in elevation. Inside the tent it takes me an hour to regain warmth in my hands. Outside the wind is still at it. Too many crevasses to be kiting. Perhaps tomorrow….

3 Responses to “Day 11–That Hill”

  1. Stephan says:

    Sebastian, so riveting brother. Thank you for sharing the experience so beautifully.
    It s amazing to think in that cold blue expanse there are two orange-yellow heat forms
    powering you and your partner inner cores. You are able to produce a fire as few people will ever know.
    Breath deep man.
    With you everyday.
    Love from Steve and 3 young cousins

  2. Anna Lapushner says:

    Relieved to read your crevasse drop was simply a dream. You’ve got a lot of love to come home to. Be well. Be safe. As if you don’t know that … xo a

  3. Matthew says:

    Best of luck my friend. If anyone can do it it is you.. See you for ” a cuppa” when u get home.
    Love and praise,

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