Day 29–Powder World

June 10, 2010 8:20pm

Action shot of the screen of my big camera explains the quality of the transfer

N76°28.481 W52°50.579 Elevation 7395 Feet

We are steeped in powder. A fresh blanket of light, dry snow shrouds the ice, rounding up the sharp edges of the sastruga in one, even layer that stretches in all direction. And somehow, for no logical reason, everything feels quieter. Except, of course, when you attempt to walk through it without ski and sink to your knee with each step. The celestial silence is then invariably broken by the sharp sound of a curse, or a grunt!
And it gets into everything. It sticks to you, and wants to be your friend. It gets in the sledges; on the sledges; inside your bags; your gloves; your helmet… And when kiting, the sledges plow through it creating a spray in their wake that lands–where else–on top of them. After a one hour run, the stowaway snow on the sledges probably accounts for an extra five pounds of weight! Redistributing the loads inside the sledges to reduce the drag is futile and ineffective. You simply have to do with your pesky new friend…
The prevalence of snow, all joke aside, raises serious concerns about the temperatures anomalies around here. This is supposed to be an ice sheet–not a snow sheet. If it snows, it’s warm (relatively speaking for this environment). And even for this time of the year, at this latitude and altitude, it is supposed to be colder. The general temperature we are experiencing hovers around minus 5C, dropping down a few degrees at nighttime. When the wind is up, it can definitely feel colder, but when it is still, as it was most of today, and the sun comes out, it feels ominously warm.
All this powder could be hell for us, if it remains on our way off the ice, especially around the crevasse fields. It will be difficult to ski in, pulling the sledges, and it is likely to obstruct the visibility of the terrain–and hide the ice bridges. We will need be roped in, add more length to the sledges’ leashes, and be extra diligent. One hope is that, as we drop in elevation, conditions will return to more ice. We will cross that bridge–so to speak–when we get there, in about five days.
The wind did not manifest before late afternoon today, and then faded abruptly by 9PM. We had hoped to ski most of the night as we have some distance to cover, still. We barely managed 58 kilometers, before the kites literally fell out of the sky. When it happened, Eric and I literally had to walk the few hundred yards that separated us, dragging sledges and kites through the powder, to meet half way and set up camp. As can be expected, we broke the celestial silence during that process with cursory grunts–and more! We have 479 kilometers left for five days of kiting. We will need wind!

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