The Longest Journey Begins
After a beautiful night’s sleep in a container at Novo Station, we awake to Russian porridge and coffee, and then prepared the sleds for the journey ahead.
The final checks and double-checks are next: food, fuel, solar, stoves and the rest. Everything is looking in good order and ready to roll.
The trip to Thors Hammer is a climb of 9000 feet over 160 km and will take 12 hours! The Arctic Trucks, taking us up the glacier, have been frozen solid during winter and the base’s mechanic, an Icelandic man by the name of Eirtur, has worked tirelessly to make sure they are safe and ready for our journey to the starting point of the expedition.
Stepping out of the heated Arctic Truck, I am greeted by the bitter thump of cold air against my chest and the chilly sting that follows, drawing into my lungs. This is a quick reminder of that fact I am now at altitude, and I am not acclimatised to the brutal cold yet. The journey begins!
The major issue facing me as I begin my journey is that the wind direction is from the south in total opposition to my direction of travel. This means an upwind beat lies ahead of me – potentially dangerous for my face, feet and hands.
I prepare my 18m kite, ready to move in the light-wind, although my gut feeling is that the size is a little ambitious. I pack the 18m kite away, then lay out a 15m kite instead. This takes time, all the while my extremities are screaming for reprieve from the cold.
In the rush to get moving, I launch my kite in haste and pay for it. The kite launched “hot” meaning I didn’t control its angle of ascent properly and it lifted me and my 200kg sled, 3 metres into the air before I was yanked back to earth again. With 3 layers of mitts on, it took me two terrifying attempts before I could release the safety buckle on my harness and snuff the kite.
After a wobbly start to the day, I finally set an 11m kite enabling me to get moving. A warning light in my brain has been on for 2 days. The greatest risk of failure on a polar expedition is inside the first 72 hours, so I need to be especially wary until I get into a good routine and become better conditioned to the cold.
I can feel something coming from the north – a storm – confirmed by a new weather report. I desperately want to get south, as far away from the coast as possible if things get nasty.