The Journey home begins.
If I’m honest getting off the Dome held as much fear for me as did the ascent. The lack of wind, deep boggy snow and big distances concerned me. It had the potential to be a trap, a cul de sac of sorts.
I have 6 weeks fuel, 6 and a half weeks food left. Plenty. My most concerning resource is me! I am in a good state now, but know a 200 km man-haul could deplete me.
The route is theoretical only, the result of a beer in a Hobart Brewery after yet another failed attempt to exit the continent via Casey Station and a pig-headed refusal to give in. Jason Markland suggested it, after two pints and with disbelief we found that it may be possible. Here we are.
After a good rest day, some media chats via Pivotel/Iridium link (has been phenominal) I slept for two hours then at 2am the wind began.
The bearing was about 30 degrees off what I’d hoped for, but I was able to kite very slowly through the deep snow towards the edge of the Dome.
With mixed feelings I turned and watched Kunlun Station disappear. I will never ever forget making it solo unsupported to that desolate place, but it has a spooky vibe as well.
It was a tough day of extreme leg effort and ripping the kite around trying to generate speed through the impossible porridge.
Desperate just to lose altitude (I’m getting more and more short of breath at night) and keen to see firm ice once more I just pointed as East as the wind would allow and hoped I could lose some altitude.
After about 7 hours of this, occasional sastrugi appeared, and then the odd patch of hard ice that sped the sleds up for an instant then back into the glue.
9 hours in, my legs screamed for release but I could sense an ice change ahead and forged on. Sure enough now I am surrounded by Sastrugi, I can feel hard Ice under about two inches of sticky snow. The sleds are still slow but it’s a positive change.
Just after lunch I filmed with tripod and GoPro on the tailing sled. Foolishly not tied on and predictably when I checked on it, it was gone!
Simon and I did this in Greenland and made the decision not to go back from a safety point of view. I regret that decision. So today I unclipped, marked the sleds positions on the gps and had a two km freaky kite to retrieve the GoPro, pheeew! The GoPro footage makes it look as if you are flying!
By 12 hours the wind zephyr began to die and so had my legs. I dropped the kite and for the first time in many days the tent-pegs hit ice.
When I checked the gps I had lost 1000 ft in altitude and covered 94.8 km.
I am halfway to the “conveyor belt” – one more day like today and I can linkup with the Katabatic wind flow I need to get me home. It’s been an exhausting but superb day.