Open Leads!

March 31, 2009 8:58pm

85.6495N, 076.8635W


Frostbite is essentially like a burn, but in opposite. The body
secretes a pocket of liquid to protect itself, which is essentially a
blister. With frostbites, it is recommended to stay away from the cold
until it heals. Sounds straight forward enough. Right. But what if you
can’t get away from the cold? Then a frostbite needs to be carefully
shielded to prevent that pocket of fluid from freezing again and again.
Lest the wound goes deeper into the flesh and spells trouble. By now,
both Keith and I have a number of frostbite–his toes, my fingers. This
is certainly not uncommon when traveling regions that men have no
business spending any amount of time in. But those nips have to be
carefully monitored or the risk could be loss. The one that I am
presently monitoring is–appropriately enough–my right hand middle
index finger. One which has seen–I’ll admit it–some good service,
particularly while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
We started late today as a wind from the south was shaking the
tent all night. We felt no rush in getting beat up by the elements and
were slow out of the tent. Also I think today is Sunday and on that
day, we felt, we too could rest. Some. On the trail the wind was mostly
in our back but was painful when it lashed our faces. Consequently, we
were hooded up and not in great conversational moods. Stops are cold so
we minimize them, mainly to catch our breath, eat and drink something
quickly and get moving again. ”You ok?” ”Good.” is about the extent
of our dialogue other than the occasional expletive not aimed at anyone
in particular but just at how tough this really is. Like Sisyphus and
his rock, we pull our heavy sledges across this uneven icy landscape,
one step after the next, occasionally cursing our decision to be here
in the first place! Other time, the zen associated with the simplicity
of the action is enough to create a temporary moment of sheer bliss.
Err, temporary… Luckily today’s terrain was mainly open pans of
relatively flat ice. Three hours in, however we came across our first
open lead, and with it came the black color of the Arctic ocean, which
of course is constantly below our feet, some 5.5 feet or so. The lead
was running East/west, or squarely in our way. It was a complex system
of cracks in the ice generated by the awesome power of currents and
winds, and after following its banks for a while, we finally found a
crossing point. We hurried as the environment was rapidly changing and
the lead widening. A couple of hours later, we came upon another
freshly re-frozen lead, too wide and too fragile to cross over, we
decide to camp near it, and let it solidify over night. Today, we broke
one pole, lost two pole baskets, and the buckle of my harness snapped.
Some fixing to do tonight then, but not too long as we have been burn
ing too much fuel, which is an easy thing to want to do, believe me!
Our position this evening is N85°38.959 W76°52.321. We traveled from
12:30 until 6:30 and covered about five miles. Temperatures were
between -34 and 40F. The wind made this feel like -50 or more. This was
another tough day. But this will change… We keep heading north!

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