Heavy Breathing

Today was, well, anxiety provoking!

I didn’t set an alarm last night assuming the blazing interrogation-light-like-sun would wake me. I slept so soundly that I awoke with a start at 8:23 am. I’ve never slept that late in my life, I must have needed it!

I could hear no wind, looked like “Lenny” and I would be roomies for another day at the Pole Of Inaccessibility. I looked at the Indigenous Flag, it was silent, flat against its ski. The Aussie flag was a lighter fabric and it was trying to fly. Excited, I moved quickly, packed my single sled, gave Lenin a hug – disturbingly I found I’d been talking to him, calling him “Lenny” and even accused him of taking my down tent bootie. Time to leave the POI!

I got out the GPS and realised sadly even if I got the kite going, based on the wind angle, I couldn’t make the cache (sled 2.) The wind was less than 4 knots on ground but it had also swung 30 degrees. After careful consideration, I hatched a plan. If I could get the kite up, I’d get as close as humanly possible by wind then proceed to the cache on ski.

The kite didn’t want to play, wind too weak. I detached from the sled, kicked off my skis and like a mad animal, ran upwind, willing the big kite to launch. 3 times I failed, 4 times I walked to the kite, dragged its sorry arse downwind, fluffed it, reset and tried for a 4th and final time. Up she went and hit upper airflow and I got dragged back to the sled on my face. Success.

It took me 4 hours to cover 36 km, to a point where I worked out I was as close to the cache as I could get. 14 km due north was safety, food, fuel, gear and sled 2.

I dropped the big kite and carefully considered my options.

  1. Pack the kite and put skins on my skis and trek to sled 2 – then haul the sled back to this position. This is the safest option certainly – although it could take me a full day or more and would cost a lot physically.
  2. Leave gear here, take sat phone, spare GPS, emergency beacon – kite with no sled upwind to sled 2. Pickup sled and return to current position.

With prayer and a heavy swallow I chose option 2. I felt so naked, kiting upwind without any sleds in tow. The angle I could maintain was terrific, as I had no load – but I felt totally exposed and vulnerable with no gear, no tent, no stove, no safety.

Imagine you are on a boat in a wild sea then jumped overboard to swim to another ship kilometres away.

Pure joy is how I would describe seeing the second sled appear out of the white after 20 km of upwind tacking to get there. With relief, I connected the sled, (had a small stress as the kite wouldn’t relaunch initially) then I was headed south again to rejoin sled 1.

Huge waves of relief came over me as I reunited the sleds and set camp. All the stress of my own making, but stress nonetheless.

If I live to a 100 I will never forget the rawness, the exposure of being halfway between 2 sleds, just me and a kite at -26C with a colder night coming on. In a sick sort of way it was free, unfettered and pure.

I will do all I can to never separate from my gear again!