Day 60–Longest Distance Yet

January 3, 2012 6:00pm

January 3, 2012

S85°36.026 E052°39.086

Elevation 10816 feet

“Looks like a fine travel day,” I said.
“Yes, it does,” Eric replied. Not much more was said for the next hour. It was 5 AM. On a windy day, it is not unusual for our morning preparations to be silent, almost solemn. As we go though the daily nomadic ritual of stuffing sleeping bags away, melting ice and filling water bottles with various teas and protein powders, eating breakfast, and donning the layered cloak of our frigid travel before finally zipping up the tent and getting the house packed into the sledges, we mostly spend time in our own heads. And when we need the miles, as we invariably do, the mental preparation before hitting the trail is also a quiet time before show time.

The wind was steady at around fifteen knots, just as Marc had predicted. We laid out the big kites and jetted out of the campsite that had been home for three long days.

The terrain was hard and shredded. We were flying off a north-north-westerly on broad reach and quickly making miles. But none of it was pleasant due to the brain rattling surface. The sastrugi was different, and in varying stages alternating between what can best be described as a frozen plowed potato field, granulated and randomly shredded; and patches of more organized patterns following one, and sometimes two wind directions, sporadically including larger heads of about two feet in height. And then, for brief periods, the terrain would pleasantly smooth out–but for brief interludes of five or six hundred feet.

We have not lost enough altitude yet to find warmer temps, apparently: with the wind up, the cold was still biting. Given my concern for my toes (both of them, now) we started with two one hour sections, but switched to half hours, in order to walk around and redistribute blood flow. The downwind foot is the one that gets it; and since switching tacks after the POI, my left big toe has been getting worked. But not as much as the sledges! On a break half way through the day, I noticed some yellow spots on the fabric of my sledge. The zipper was frozen with what evidently had been liquid. I managed to pry it open, only to find that the screw top of one of my thermos had exploded, and the chai tea inside had soaked, and quickly frozen over much of my personal items tent bag! Between last week’s petrol leak, the stowaway snow inside the sledge, and now the chai tea, on top of the regular sweat of two months on the trail, my clothes are ready for the end of this trip. And today was going to be my “changing to clean underwear day”! (I have four for the entire trip…)

To be honest, I am getting ready for the end of the trip, too. With today’s sastrugi ride, my toes, knees and ankles have been feeling it. I am getting fatigued on the longer stretches, and the weight loss has been robbing my vitality. But the end is in site; we have about twenty days left, and the South Pole–if we get there!–will mark a break for the remainder.

Strangely, one of Eric’s thermos also exploded in his sledge today, although its content was only water. We stopped around 16:00 hours as we had both ran out of fluids. Between the effort and the dry climate, it is easy to get dehydrated out here. Our plan was to melt ice, call Marc for a weather update, and hit the trail again after a couple of hours rest. But given the cold out there, and finding out that all my tent clothes were now soaked in fragrant chai, the break turned permanent for the night!

We managed our best distance of the trip, so far, with 165 kilometers. This also means that we broke two thousand today, with 2112 kilometers exactly. Upon approaching the South Pole station, we need to adjust our tack to avoid a pristine and heavily protected area called the Clean Air Sector. This area is kept clear of any type of traffic for scientific studies of air quality and seismic research. Unfortunately, this large wedge extends about 150 kilometers, and cuts right through our path. It will add about one hundred and fifty kilometers to our trip! We are now 490 kilometers from the South Pole, but will need to add this on top… Getting there, though!

PS. On a previous blog, I just realized I made an error: Scott arrived at the Pole on January 17, and not 11 as I reported last month. It goes to show that spending too much time in the tent does indeed make the brain go soft! At the rate we’re going, we might well arrive on that day, too!

12 Responses to “Day 60–Longest Distance Yet”

  1. Eva says:

    Congratulations to two thousand kilometres! You are the greatest heros! My thoughts are with you!

  2. It’s a glorious achievement what you’ve done and you still have kilometers to go, but you do have to take care of your health. So, any far you’ll get will be extraordinary for me and probably many readers of this blog. Not many people get to the South Pole everyday. Now, instead of good winds, I’m wishing you health and warm weather! Good luck!

  3. Kinue says:

    I do not know how you do it. xx

  4. Gord Lang says:

    Looks like I need to get Anna back on saying those “take care of Sebastian’s toes prayers”! We are on it and keep plowing…no doubt in my mind you guys achieve your ultimate goal and congrats on passing the 2,000km point.

  5. Joe Robinson says:

    Getting there my friend. What a battle! hang on to your wits and your toes. In 30 days or so you will be making the trek home. Know you have a lot of friends thinking about you and sending you love and well wishes.

    A gala event upon your return home! press on.

    A prayer for you guys every night!



  6. Sean H-B says:

    Onward you go !!!! – this is riveting stuff and we look forward to each update as you close in

    Keep it up and the very best of Luck to you for this final stretch

    Best Wishes to you both –


  7. Florence Rondeau-Chang says:

    Sebastien, Je suis ton aventure depuis le debut et je viens de dire a Caro que quand j’ai froid je pense a toi et j’ai soudainement chaud en contraste! You are making history and I am at a loss for words to express my admiration for your courage, perseverance and passion. I send you my best wishes from cozy warm 18F in NY tonite…lol!

  8. Tmac says:

    Your fortitude is through the roof………654 is sending packages of support, inspiration and well being every 5 minutes, we are all right behind you……keep believing, don’t stop trucking, you got this.!!!!! much love and good times ahead Tmac 🙂

  9. BASILE says:

    Glad for the 2000 kilometers,,, Now you are so near the South Pole!!! Terrific!
    Congratulations Sebastian and Eric 🙂

  10. Tom George says:

    Sebastian….i still think you are blooming nuts….engaging for a crazy person but nuts, nonetheless You are now listed weekly in the prayer book at St. Thomas Aquinas in Alpharetta GA. Good luck brother Sebastian.

  11. Anne de La Baume says:

    Que te souhaiter pour 2102 ? Dix doigts de pieds au retour.
    Evidement aussi succès personnels et professionnels et immense retombées pour cette incroyable aventure.

  12. you just always blow me away!!!!…congratulations on another huge adventure and amazing accomplishment in this life……….

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