Day 51–Riders of the Storm

December 25, 2011 6:34pm

December 25, 2011

S81°30.193 E050°44.931

Elevation 12175 feet

In the dream the owl landed next to me and remained close, its big yellow eyes peering into mine. I was seated and surprised how large a bird it is. More surprising even was our ability to communicate. Eventually, the bird moved closer and I eased it onto my knees. I asked whether he was territorial and roamed around here; and if we could be friends. He said yes. When I asked him what he likes to eat, he responded: “Noodles”…

“They’re here”, I said. Eric was in deep slumber but surprisingly responded in a sleepy voice: “Direction?” “Due North. We’re good to go”, I replied. It was 1:30 in the morning. We had shut down early, but I did not manage to sleep before midnight; it was dead calm, then. I passed out eventually, but kept one eye open for the slightest indication from the winds. After the noodle exchange with the owl, I perked up to the sound of gentle flapping from the tent. The wind was modest, but given the prediction, I stepped outside to check on direction. Already, there was enough to fly the big guns. By the time we cooked dinner, melted water and packed the tent, the wind was blowing snow and building. The cloud ceiling was low, and the temperature at 30C below without wind-chill. By 3:30 we were clipped into our thirteen meters and flying off.

Waiting for a storm keeps you on edge; and riding the head of a storm mixes excitement and anxious energy in the way that gambling probably does. The variables keep you alert and focused. The wind came up fast and strong within our first hour. At 4:30, we switched to our smallest kites, the six meters, which shot up like rockets into the sky. The visibility quickly dropped and within minutes, it was clear that the storm was on us. The gust grew to thirty knots, and the wind-chill temperature dropped to 55C below. Visibility was down to seventy five meters, and we made every effort to kite in close formation; getting separated in these conditions could have serious consequences. Periodically, the sledges would flip–there are getting lighter and, while the terrain is better than it has been, hitting sastrugi from the wrong angle at speed generates enough force to tip it, or flip it, into an abrupt stop. We kept alert of the other’s position at all times, but an hour of riding in this mayhem and we were done. It is stressful, not especially fun, and borderline unsafe. By the time we set up the tent, the storm was strengthening still. And it was cold! Eric–the mad man–started digging an ice cave, but the snow drift, and the cold, ended the project. Meanwhile, I had brought the stove inside the tent and cooked some tea while getting blood back to the extremities. Toe is stable still, so no worries. The temperature inside the tent temporarily rose to a balmy 20C degrees while the storm was raging outside. It was 7AM. We hung our clothes to dry, and buried ourselves inside our sleeping bags for a day slumber.

We only managed 31.8 kilometers, but have broken our first thousand miles for this trip–1616 kilometers to be exact–and, at 96 kilometers from the POI, we are now within striking distance. We’ll make a push in the middle of the night. Right now, at 19:00 hours, the conditions have mellowed to around twenty five knots. We need to capitalize on every opportunity at this stage. Though I have just stepped outside, and the storm has evidently brought cold air with it. It is COLD out there, people!

On this Christmas day, I think of all the loved ones, friends and family. And a special thought goes to those who don’t have any, as well as those forced to spend this time away, including the armed forces stationed overseas. Whatever warm sympathies we can muster from here goes to you. Merry Christmas everybody!

4 Responses to “Day 51–Riders of the Storm”

  1. Merry Christmas from D & I in Bali – sending you both as much of our excess heat as we can…

  2. Peter Alan Roberts says:

    Merry Christmas Sebastian, from Wales to all the way down under.

  3. Sebastion and Eric,
    A Very Happy Christmas to You.
    I have been following your adventure and want to thank you for this coverage; thru you I can feel an inkling of what it is to be discovering wonders daily.
    May you always have wind in your sails,

  4. Penelope Casadesus says:

    Happy Christmas Bastie – and Eric! It was lovely hearing your voice, Bast, although I hope it was the distance making it sound tired, and not your spirits. We made a toast to you both and I hope that next year you will be spending Christmas at the Ile de Re
    All love – your mother xxx

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