Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Driving snow

21/05 camp 31
Elevation: 1844 m
Distance today: 71 km
Total distance: 2711 km
Position: 79.368 N 32.949 W, alt 1844m
Hours kited: 6

Driving snow contributes a lot to the beautiful ambiances of the polar regions in the light of the low sun. Yet it can also seriously drive you mad. The minuscule ice crystals, finly ground through their ethernal wanderings over the icy desert find their way into everything. They literally flow through zippers and find the the tiniest holes in any equipment including ski boots, the interiour of the sleds, pockets, tent vents and dry-bags. It accumulates in the shadow of the wind, buries tents and pulks, and quickly fills any open gap not exposed to the wind. We take utmost care where we put the equipment like skis and shovels that have to sleep outside, as they get buried within minutes. It also limits the time, we can open the sleds and bags and manipulate a number of things outside the shelter of the tent. Handling equipment with under-gloves or even bare hands or simply turning our faces into the wind is limited to seconds.

When we set camp yesterday, the absence of any driving snow despite high winds was striking and welcome from a practical point of view. Yet it came at the price of a hard surface devoid of any relief from its sculpted sastrugis ("L'Enfer du Nord - Paves de Sastrugies").

Waking up in the morning we were even relieved to hear the noise of the tiny ice crystals hitting our tent again, flowing around and accumulating behind, in the expectation it may fill the gaps in the ground and soften the surface.

Indeed the going with ou Beringer 8 m2 skisails was little less rough, yet not as much as we had wished for. The wind started to weaken and we were clamping our bars, slowly counting kilometers, hoping this may continue a little longer. The winds being a little low for the skisails, yet still high for the Speed 4 10 m2, the prospect of kiting with these surface conditions was not very appealing.

When it was time to switch to the kites, there was the accumulated fatigue of the last days with an irregular rythm of sleep. And I had a hard time digesting one of the last meals. Strange, as we enjoy almost everything we brought with good appetite. And we are looking forward to our meals as pleasant moments of our daily routine. Yet today, my stomac was rumbling and caught my attention, where my mind would usually wander around, or simply enjoy the skiing through the dreamscape of this remote place.

We finally set camp after only 71 km, while we had hoped for much more.

We have past the latitude of the southermost point of Franz Josef Island.

Image: Mika on Beringer 8 m2. "... clamping our bars, slowly counting kilometers, hoping this may continue a little longer".

P.s. We often sleep during the day when the sun is highest. Already some time ago, we discovered, that the red and yellow tissue of the "Svalbard 5 Camp" apparently let pass enough light for our foldable Brunton solar panels to charge equipment even inside the tent, albeit slowly! This makes life a lot easier.

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