Hours on skis: 9 hours
Cumulative distance: 654
Still to go: 48 miles
Temp: -31C (-41C with windchill)
Of note: report to basecamp “Whiteout. Coldest day yet.”
Antarctica does not give up it’s prizes easily and when Lewis’s teacher Mr Cook said the hardest was over I am not sure Lewis would agree. Whilst there are no more sastrugi and no further climbing (they are now at approx. 9,800ft the height of the pole itself), there are the new challenges of almost total physical depletion, which all the expeditioners are suffering from at present. They are running on mental toughness only right now. Reading Jon’s excellent write up in previous blog, these final days, especially in whiteout and freezing temperatures, must be some of the most agonising.
Whilst of course we had lots of concerns about Lewis undertaking this enormous expedition, his mental strength was the one thing that reassured us because we had seen evidence of it in the past. When Lewis trained for the Channel Swim relay (World Record Youngest Relay to swim across English Channel 2010), aged 12, he spent hours and hours training by swimming in very very cold water and sometimes very rough seas with currents you could hardly make headway against. But never once in the months and months of training did he moan or ever get out of a session early. He was not the fastest swimmer, as he is not the fastest cross country skier, but he possesses the only thing that all expeditioners really need – a mind that can overcome a body that is desperate to stop – and this is what we hope will keep him going in these final difficult days.
One of the other expeditioners out in Antarctica at the moment, a man attempting to be the first (solo) Finn to the Pole, is reporting he has a blackened frost bitten area on his face, we hope he is okay. We are hoping Lewis and Carl are being very careful as the Antarctic wind will find it’s way to the tiniest area of uncovered skin.
It’s hard to photograph what cold feels like, but this photo of a pair of jeans so cold they are standing up on their own (by Ranulph Fiennes, see Freeze Frame website of polar images) does a good job I think.
All being well, 2-3 days to go.