Ice Walls

The 6m storm kite was ripping me along at speed, I could barely adjust course to avoid the bumps and sastrugi racing to meet me. Whilst it was glorious to be chewing up the miles with ease for a change, the amber warning light on my internal dashboard was flashing madly. A serious mistake was on the way if I didn’t find a way to reduce speed. One voice in my head saying “take the miles while they’re cheap, you can handle it”, the other voice arguing “you are one of the most isolated people on planet earth, you come off at this speed, on hard ice, with 150 kg of sled slammed into your femur, you are toast!”.

After 15 very scary but rapid kilometres I listened to caution. It wasn’t so much that the wind speed was horrific but that there was just no snow so soften a potential fall. The ice was like polished marble, hence no drag from the sleds.

I dropped to my 4m storm kite, which after 43 days sitting bouncing around sled 2 finally got a go today!

My adrenal gland must have looked like an octopus whose had all its ink scared out of him by a shark. I had three falls, progressively more disastrous than the one prior. On The last fall the sleds ran me over, took off my right ski and the kite ended up powering up with the lines going from my harness, under both sleds. I pulled the safety before things got really ugly and decided to pitch tent once everything was settled again. Too dangerous to continue today. 142km closer to home!

The terrain in this part of Antarctica is unlike anywhere else I have been. Not the plain flat plateau of the other side of the Dome. The Megadunes continue to make life difficult, but also enormous bowls, ledges, rolling hills and today a massive wall of ice.

I was on the 6m, on the very edge of control and in the spindrift (loose snow carried by the wind) ahead I noticed a line of odd ramp-like structures, almost like a quarter pipe in a board or skate park. Ranging from 3 to 10 foot in height.

I aimed for the left edge of one, looking for the most undisturbed ice, then to my horror saw a crack with a depressed snow bridge behind it. It was about 3 m wide and the sleds and I crossed it at speed. I was so relieved to see no more cracks after that, I took the slope on by zigzagging down just staying ahead of the runaway sleds.

“The Wall” as I called it, was the most radical ice feature I have ever seen. I hope I don’t meet one similar again. (It wasn’t unlike a scene from Game of Thrones.)

Never a dull moment on this side of Antarctica. I am very relieved to be injury free after today’s distance. Recover and remember there is still a long way to go till Novolazarevskaya Station.