Day 52–Boxing Day Pin Down

December 26, 2011 4:42pm

December 26, 2011

S81°30.193 E050°44.931

Elevation 12175 feet

We’ll be denied our final approach one more time today, as the storm rages on, displaying the strongest conditions we have yet experienced on this trip. We had hoped to make a go for it in the night. Last night, the evening temperatures had held us back as the sun was in hiding, and the wind-chill set a morose tone for our advance at 50C below, especially as the tent remained chilled as well. The plan was to rise at 04:00 AM and hit the trail by 06:00 to close the gap with the still elusive POI. At 96 kilometers from us, the distance could conservatively be covered in five to six hours with decent winds. At 04:00, I opened the flap to confirm that these were not traveling conditions. Strong winds had been shaking the tent pretty violently, and outside, the cloud cover and blowing snow reduced visibility down to thirty meters or so. I did not bother waking Eric. I repeated the exercise an hour later, and again the following; the wind was only growing stronger. By 07:00 I gave up and fell asleep for good, amidst the roaring and violent growl of the building storm. Buried inside my sleeping bag, I did not emerge before noon. Eric was still sleeping. I stepped outside for a few seconds, just long enough to stick the wind meter in the air. It read 44.8 knots, but this surely was not the strongest gust! Snow banks had built around the tent, half burrying the sledges, while the blowing snow raced up to five feet above the ground, fast disappearing in the blanket of shapeless white that surrounded us. Within seconds, snow was sticking to my tent clothes and turning me into the boxing day snowman. Drift was filling the tent’s vestibule, and it was time to dive back inside the bag. I would estimate the temps to be around 60C below with wind, and the peak gusts over fifty knots.

I zipped up the bag, pulled the elastic fastener around my neck, my rabbit hat covering my ears, and watched the steam explode out of my nose towards the dancing socks and gloves hanging from the ceiling’s dry line, rocked as they were by the incessant shake. I’ll admit that such sight is almost hypnotic. The displacement of air inside from the shaking of the tent’s walls makes the colums of steam dodge erratically right and left in strict harmonic unity as it rises. I stayed in that position, staring at it, for most of the afternoon, making loose and abstract mileage calculations in my head. I am still holding on to the South Pole leg, but the full transcontinental crossing, ending at Hercules Inlet, is beginning to feel compromised. It’s not over until the fat lady sings, but whistling wind outside hints that she may be warming up. We have just about a month left on the expedition, during which to complete around two thousand kilometers, twelve hundred of which could be done in ten to twelve days, given the regularity of the winds in that region. That still does not leave much room for down days. And given how hampered we have been with those, it’s easy for the spirit to feel stirred…if not shaken.

7 Responses to “Day 52–Boxing Day Pin Down”

  1. Stephane Planchon says:

    Hold on James !!!

  2. Isaiah says:

    Keep it up Bass. You are in our thoughts and we follow your journey daily. What a grand adventure!!!

  3. Prita says:

    Wow, Awesome and Amazing. Truly inspiring adventure!

  4. Andrew Macpherson says:

    Damn, this one seems to have been the hardest prize of all, I hope and pray you get perfect conditions starting tomorrow!!

  5. Stephan says:

    Hey Sebastian, all the Copelands in Montreal toasted you at christmas dinner last night.
    The tone of your updates has a peace with the conditions nature presents each day, grace starring down the dragon!
    Beautiful stuff man.
    What ever course or milage the trail permits for the remainder of the expedition, the tracks you leave there will forever be epic.
    Wishing you fair winds and strong mojo

  6. Gord Lang says:

    How many other teams started out around the same time as you? And how many of them are still on the ice? There is a reason you are still out there – keep plowing, stay positive….the prize will be yours! Toe, ribs and all!



  7. BASILE says:

    I wish you a favorable wind, Sebastian and Eric, for, finally, reaching this POI…

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