The silence is deafening. With no wind there is absolutely no noise, so much so that the audible “Woosh Woosh” of blood in your ears begins to send you stir crazy.
I am so close, yet so far as the snow acts like glue and exhausts any effort to make progress towards Kunlun Station. I need that miracle wind back for just one day.
At night the temperature drops from balmy -24 to -33 C or thereabouts. The amazing thing is that my trial by fire in the first two weeks of the Expedition means that the cold doesn’t worry me. The cold does bring a tiny puff of katabatic wind.
At midnight last night I felt it, went outside the tent to pee and verify it might be strong enough to hold a kite, it was so marginal I wasn’t sure. I ate, packed and managed to loft the big kite. Quickly I had one sled 2 km forward, unhitched and tried to return to sled 2. Alarm bells rang as the wind had become so weak that I couldn’t get upwind to sled 2. In the end I dragged the fallen kite behind me 500m to get to sled 2.
I was in a predicament as the skins and pulling harness were in sled 1 two kilometres away. I tried for two hours to reloft the kite to no avail. Wind that would normally help me is not enough to pull through this F-ing porridge.
I pushed the sled, could get 30 metres then collapse, short of breath. I tried pulling, finding my boots burying deep and this too brought on severe oxygen debt and rising panic.
Eventually I got the lighter skis out of sled 2 and managed to make slow headway without skins. 600 metres from sled 1, I unhitched, skied to sled 1, put the precious skins on and returned to sled 2. This was immeasurably easier and the feelings of rising panic abated somewhat.
5 hours, full physical effort to move two sleds 2 km. My mind was spinning. I have worked so hard to get here, 2,555 km in 35 days. I’ll be damned if I’m going to fail 128 km from Dome Argus.
A small puff of wind tricked me into trying one more time. The kite would fly, but there was insufficient power to pull the skin of a custard, let alone tow my heavy sleds.
I put the tent up realising I was physically spent from the effort to get here, calorie deficient and sleep deprived and the enormity of the roadblock was being magnified as a result.
Stove on, boots off, fried drywors (african dried sausage) in pure butter, reconstituted potato also with butter washed down with a hot cup of calorie rich ensure. Followed by 4 hours sleep. Suddenly the roadblock is gone,my mental tenacity and determination back.
This last stretch requires a shift in mental approach. Wind is secondary, manhauling is primary. Whilst that is brutal, I am faffing about for hours in marginal wind, exhausting myself with no progress.
If the wind comes I’ll welcome it and use it to gain cheap miles, otherwise I’m a human donkey. Starting tomorrow I’ll drag one sled 3 km, return for sled 2, repeat. I feel I can make 10 km per day, with some wind assist be at Dome A in ten days?
It fills me with some dread, but I’ll get stronger each day and it must be done. I have 7 weeks food and fuel left so there is time.
Once again I draw strength from my heroes, Mawson walking 300 miles on the bones of his feet, and every woman in Oz battling Breast Cancer dragging their own figurative sled to the Dome daily with no tap out or quit.