Day 3–Crevasses…!

May 16, 2010 9:23pm

When the ice suddenly gives from under you, and your legs dangle above a void the depth of which is unclear, you get about the same jolt as when a car screeches to a halt inches from running you over…

We camped mid afternoon yesterday hoping that by evening the ice’ surface would harden some: pulling the sledges uphill is all the more tedious when your foot sinks to the knee with every other step.

By 7 PM we broke camp and set off. The sun was hanging low casting a golden glow on the ice ridge ahead of us. The ice sheet was within sight, though distances in this environment can be deceiving. But the warm colors of the sky belied the biting grip of the wind that picked up. And the placid setting hid the drama that was unfolding below us: we were now square in the middle of the crevasse field! Each variation in color had to be carefully considered, for what might pass for hard ice could in fact be but a flimsy bridge. The cooling temperatures would no doubt solidify this treacherous terrain, but

There is a point of diminishing returns when the dropping light makes challenging the deciphering of color or textural changes. Often, we might make out the curving droop of gravity doing its work on a weak bridge. But for the most part, we probe each step ahead of us with a ski poll, extracting information that can mean the difference between going through; or not. On occasion, however, adrenaline shoots up when a leg–or two–goes clean through the ice! Outside of Newton’s law, there is nothing familiar about dangling in void, your legs sucked in a hole while your upper body struggles on the surface! Both Eric and I trade some of this excitement. To worsen matters, the ice’s surface in the end has not harden enough to support our weight, and we sink to our ankle with each step. In all, we mostly labor through making two kilometers. Temperatures have dropped to ten below. The wind’s chill and the heavy effort takes me back to the North pole, and upon sitting on the sledge sucking on air for a fuel stop, I re-visit some of last year’s moments on the way to the pole.

On the morning of our third day, we stretch our time in the tent as we begin to roll the clock. The winds die down to a deadly stillness, and the sun beats down on the tent. With the vents closed, it’s like an oven in here! What a contrast to last night when I went to sleep with a mask over my face! We ditched our goat milk powder this morning which tasted like, well, ahem, ass–pardon my French! I’m just missing the bright side of mixing goat cheese into your morning cereal! This was a nutritional trick shared with me by my friend Lonnie Dupre, but I’m not seeing it! It shaves a few pounds off the load and will is sure to distract polar bears. At this stage, we are unlikely to encounter any unless perhaps at the end of the trip: they would find no business up on this barren ice desert. Except for us…and now the goat milk!

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