Day 31–Two birds and One Flag

June 11, 2010 7:55pm

N77°20.211 W60°10.444 Elevation 6494 Feet

We passed the two thousand kilometers mark today! To be exact, we have traveled a total of two thousand and thirty kilometers as of tonight. And to celebrate, we got it all: almost every possible condition summed up in one day.
The day started well. I had monitored the building winds early this morning and woke Eric up at 8. It looked as if our spell was subsiding, and our wishes answered: the winds were up. By 10AM, we were clipped into the harness with the big kites, in what was sure to be an overpowered session. We were headed almost straight downwind, however, and that creates less pull–once you get past the launch! Taking off is like getting shot out of a cannon, and with almost forty kilometers of wind, we were quick to reach fifty kilometers an hour speeds, even through the deep powder! In fact, we got to truly appreciate the snow conditions–finally! Flying over it at those speeds was like gliding on silk. The sun was out and the feeling of speed was intense and exhilarating, but most amazing was the smooth ride. In fact, for a while we saw not a single fluctuation on the perfectly even powdery ground surface: not a bump, a break or a crack! Just velvety air cushioning to blast over at mach speed! Imagine skiing deep, fresh powder–by yourself–more or less straight down a mountain that stretches in width and height–forever! Yes it’s true: fantasies do come true! The sledges behind followed suit, although occasionally the nose would plow through the snow in explosive sprays. In fact, I am quite sure that I carried half of the ice sheet stowed away in my sledges all day!
Within the first ninety minutes, we had covered just about seventy kilometers. Alas, since all good things generally do come to an end, the wind pulled back rather suddenly; and by midday, we were back at work. The sun played hide and seek for most of the day which yielded some spectacular skies mixing big, puffy clouds with wispy low ones and deep blue patches. Bursts of sunlight galloped across the snow, mixing blue, white and gray stripes into the horizon. Nothing illustrates big sky country better than this vivid, wide open environment; and the feeling of freedom it exudes is next to none. Who says you can’t have it all…
Well, eventually we did get it all: the sun lost to the struggle, and retired behind a thick layer of low clouds, which flattened all details in the terrain. A few flecks of snow came down, and all of a sudden, with no visible reference point off the ground, we could not tell our speed of travel. Just floating inside the early sketching phase of a painting. As the afternoon wore one, the snow on the ground started firming up, giving way to patches of ice. This would bid well for our future prospects of skiing off the ice, if it were not for the troublesome news that the waters near Qaanaaq–our destination–seem to be iced. This means that our boat pickup could be compromised. We have a week before this becomes our reality. A lot can change before that…
Another two birds flew by us today, again. If these were the same we saw the other day, they played coy, and pretended we had never met. We responded by looking the other way. Shortly thereafter, we came upon a small blue flag, planted in the ice–evidently a marker of sorts, but for what? The post was buried too deep to even move it, and we scratched our heads in wonder. This is surely not used to measure the motion of the ice, as that is done with GPS instrumentation. It is not to measure snowfall as that is done with sonar. It certainly was no cache of provisions… At this stage, it remains a mystery.
We skied until 8PM, making this a solid ten hours day, and broke 200 K for the fourth time this trip, at 209 kilometers.
On the whole, a great travel day. I am grateful for the little angel on my shoulder that keeps me healthy, happy and on track. We have 270 kilometers left, and have accounted four more days of kiting. If the winds keep up, this should not be a problem. Beyond that, we have two days of pulling through the crevasse fields, and another two to reach Qaanaaq. With another day like today, we could see land by tomorrow night…

One Response to “Day 31–Two birds and One Flag”

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