The first major milestone
In 200 years of Polar Exploration – Aussie explorers have opened up vast expanses of wilderness, but amazingly no Aussie has been to the Pole Of Inaccessibility solo and unsupported – aptly named as it is so difficult to get to.
I awoke this morning with high hopes of making the POI today but conditions were dangerous or at least marginal for an upwind slog of 116 km to the POI. Air temp hovering round -30 C and wind gusting above 25 knots – not a good combo for my face and hands.
Dressed for war
Dressed for war, I decided to attempt moving. If I was damaging any tissue or felt like I was developing frost-injuries, I’d stop. Despite the “screaming furfies” making frequent visits (this is where it feels like someone is running a blowtorch across your fingers), I was able to make headway with an 11 m kite slowly upwind.
The cold was brutal, felt most acutely on my downwind foot, face and hands. I had to break today’s journey into manageable chunks (40km at a time.) On a side note, you can get desensitised to the mileage, obsessed with making ground, however, 42km is literally a marathon and I’m doing them back to back, day in, day out. To my horror, I checked in on my GPS. Based on my bearing, I was going to miss the POI altogether.
I decided to cache a sled with all spare fuel food and a makeshift ski-flag. I GPS marked it and proceeded towards the POI with one sled. With half the load I was easily bearing upwind, making the bearing I needed. What a relief. I’ll pick the cache up when I head for the South Pole, it’ll been downwind so compared to the last 1600 km it’ll feel easy.
Visibility was poor, with gusts and driven snow as I approached the waypoint for the POI. 10km out, my legs and hands screamed for reprieve. The last kilometres seemed to crawl. I stopped 5km out to shake and get blood-flow into my fingers, then carried on. Peering into the semi blizzard conditions I strained to see anything. 3km, 2 km, 1 km nothing. At 900 metres from the waypoint for the POI, I began to fear I’d made a navigational mistake. Then suddenly out of the mist a creepy outline of a man. As I got closer I realised it was the bust of Lenin proudly staring into the teeth of the frozen wind without fear.
The most brutal journey
I dropped the kite, fell to my knees and gave thanks that I’d made it. I would say the past 1665 km was the most brutal journey I’ve undertaken to date. The cold, the isolation, the relentless sastrugi and continual difficult wind angles have made me earn every painstaking meter of progress.
I have pushed hard with no break for 23 days. I knew for the Expedition to be a success, I needed a strong first leg. Despite tough conditions, 23 days is a ridiculous time to make it to the very heart of the ice continent.
As I collapse into my beloved sleeping bag tonight I smile and relish the thought of a rest day with Lenin tomorrow. Love to home, phase one is complete!
Send me your favourite song to keep me motivated and I’ll add it to my Spotify Polar Play List
Keep an eye on the home page to see how I’m tracking! Thanks to my Garmin InReach and to Pivotel and Iridium for their top notch communication network that’s keeping me connected.