Day 42–Storm Riders

December 16, 2011 6:53pm

December 16, 2011

S80°32.428 E03°12.416

Elevation 11629 feet

“Don’t lose your focus. Nobody wants this more than you do. Don’t lose your focus. Nobody wants this more…” Those words I kept repeating to myself as we bucked over the ice, riding the tail end of a storm that had, earlier in the day, sent us packing back to the tent. Flying the nine meters were already more forgiving than our brief morning session on the six meters, but this remained one of the more challenging kiting days of the expedition. Powerful guts, and almost a straight downwind tack displayed where the Ozone Frenzy’s earned their name: in those conditions, they were super twitchy. And a downwind tack means you are virtually not edging the skis as you are moving in the wind’s direction. Edging creates a resistance to the kite’s pull on which to set your balance. Without it, you are at the mercy of the guts jerking you forward while riding over the sastrugi: it’s a wild ride–exhausting, exacting and intense!

This morning showed promise as the wind had manifested early in the night, growling and shaking the tent. By 5:30, I woke Eric up. We’ve had luck with early sessions before, and a lot was riding on today’s session: testing the new boot and ski; making up for lost time; and, most importantly, monitoring the frost bite after a day on the trail. The later kept me tense through the night: if unable to contain the injury, I would be forced to abort mission and call in a medivac. Over the two and a half hours it took us to get ready and cook water, the condition kept building. By the time we stepped out, the horizon had closed up with a bank of fog, and snow was blowing pretty hard over the ice. After deciding to downsize to the thirteen meters, we then opted for the nine’s and settled on the six’s! Visibility was quickly closing in, and the wind had built to thirty five knots. With the wind-chill, the temperature had dropped to below minus fifty five. And those are the conditions in which we launched our kites, both Eric and I wearing a different boot on each foot, and riding two different skis! It was almost comical. The two skis are completely different; one for back country, long and pretty stiff; the other for freestyle, super loose, short and very flexible! Additionally, the mountaineering boot has no support–it is not designed for skiing! We lasted about five minutes! The six meter Frenzy’s were zipping across the air, and with the reduced visibility it became clear that this could quickly take a wrong turn. We packed the kites and set the tent 978 meters from where we had left!

The wind was still building and by the time the tent was up, we were in a full blown storm. Antarctica was serving up a special we hadn’t seen in about twenty days. It was 9:00 O’clock, and from inside our thin shelter, the day seemed shot: we went back to sleep. At least Eric did; I thought this would be a good opportunity to lay down, and listen to music. Well, music is never as good as when you can’t have it! My iPod has been having tantrums about the temperature, and chose to have me pay for it by cutting off tracks unexpectedly, and then refusing to play altogether. I fell asleep with the headphones on, and twenty minutes later was suddenly woken up by Bob Seger blasting out “Against The Wind”–which it chose to play three times in a row before shutting down altogether!
Well, that was my morning. I finally joined my fellow traveler in a nap. At 15:30, I stepped outside. The wind, while still strong, had dropped considerably, and visibility was restored to about two kilometers. “Let’s go for it”, I told Eric. I was eager to test the new boot system, as well as–needless to say–put in some miles. By 17:00, we were launching the nine meters for the wild gusty ride described earlier. We pushed until 20:00 and managed a modest 31.7 kilometers. But at least we were out of the tent, and, thankfully, my toe never got chilled!That was the best possible outcome to this chilly sortie, and the best news of the trip so far. Eric, in lending his boot, may well have saved the expedition. While we are both awkwardly dealing with riding two different skis, my boot, at least, is warm enough on his foot. Meanwhile, if storm chasing is not as fun as it sounds, the mission–that I can tell, at this stage–continues. We are back on track!

4 Responses to “Day 42–Storm Riders”

  1. “Ozone Frenzy”, almost sounds like an Irish jig. Ecstatic to hear you’re back on track. Bob Seger performed here in New England a few weeks back. Good show…Against the Wind!

  2. Andrew Macpherson says:

    Damn, it’s nerve wracking just reading it, I can’t imagine what living it must be like! Look after that toe.

    • Sam says:

      … Forecast for Dane County Updated: 3:14 PM CST on December 8, 2009 Blizzard Warning in effect until minigdht CST Wednesday night… Tonight Not as cold. Breezy. Areas of blowing snow until early morning. Snow through late evening…then snow and isolated thunderstorms after minigdht. Snow may be heavy at times. Snow accumulation around 10 inches. Near steady temperature around 30. Northeast winds 15 to 25 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent. Precipitation duration around 12 hours. Wednesday Windy with snow and blowing snow. Visibility one quarter mile or less at times in the late morning and afternoon. Snow accumulation of 2 to 3 inches. Total snow accumulation 12 to 14 inches. Highs in the upper 20s. North winds 15 to 25 mph shifting to the northwest 25 to 35 mph in the afternoon. Chance of snow near 100 percent. Precipitation duration of 5 to 8 hours. ZIP Code Detail Wednesday Night Bitterly cold. Much colder. Windy. Mostly cloudy. A 30 percent chance of light snow through late evening. Areas of blowing snow through late evening. Lows around 4 below. West winds 15 to 30 mph. 12 below to 22 below zero. Thursday Bitterly cold. Colder. Partly sunny. Highs around 8. West winds 15 to 20 mph. 13 below to 23 below zero. We are golden!I hope you’ve wintered in the Great White North before, compadre. Cincinnati is going to seem positively tropical compared to where you are now.

  3. BASILE says:

    Last time, I watched the Japonese movie “Antarctica”,,, Now I can imagine the conditions of your journey. Very tough! you eagerly tease our nerves as it’s exciting and scary! I hope you’ll reach POI soon.
    Best for you both
    Be careful

Leave a Reply