Bye bye Scott, hello plateau…
Date = 16/12/2017
Day 26 (Expedition), Day 32 (Antarctica)
Location = Scott Glacier
Coordinates – 86 25.894S, 148 16.673W
Altitude = 1586m
Temperature = -15C
Wind speed / direction = 15-20 knot, South, sunny
Windchill = -27C
Distance travelled = 8km
Distance remaining = 1404km
We won’t be mentioning km in tonight’s report. What we will focus on is the fact that the heavily crevassed and complex Scott Glacier is finally behind us. Grizzly peak is still visible in the distance but we are back at the toe of the Robison Glacier and far kinder terrain lies ahead, for a while.
Today was another battle against the wind and ice. Jean did a great job of navigating our way out of the hazardous Labyrinth. We must’ve covered at least 50% more kms than our straight line distance over the last four days due to the constantly changing, complex and heavily crevassed Scott Glacier.
Tomorrow if conditions allow we will attempt to kite into wind, up the good terrain of the Robison Glacier that lies ahead. Upwind kiting is far more difficult than downwind, especially with heavy loads. Depending on the surface and the weight of the load there comes a point when it is no longer possible. But with this surface and around 100kgs each we’re hoping it’ll work. We will have to make lots of tacks, zig zags at a shallow angle into the wind. You must be careful on the turns, slowly bringing the kite high to a complete stop, step your skis over the trace attached to your pulk, then gently drop the kite back into the wind and as the power comes, aggressively hold the edge of your ski against it, to cut a tack into wind. It’s powerful and tiring and we’ll probably be looking at a total distance travelled to straight line distance ration of 4:1
But hopefully it will still be quicker and certainly more fun than the torturous pace of man-hauling. If it doesn’t work we’ll revert back to walking which should be far less work over gentler terrain. We have enough time and supplies to get to our Depots one way or another. If kiting works well we could be doubling our distances or more. We live in hope.
After the Robison we will continue East for 60km across the California Plateau via a different route to our approach. Again if the wind allows we are hoping to kite this across to the South Pole traverse road which we will then follow, most likely man-hauling 50km to our depot B and then 120km further to Depot A. Then the 1100km downwind kite journey from Depot A back to Union Glacier; a kind of expedition in its own right.
Our first goal is the top of the Robison, hopefully by technical kiting. Then we are praying for some California dreaming across the plateau. When we reach the ‘road’ we will probably have to get our march back on, but once again it’s all down to the wind. It dictates everything with wild extreme; from how well you sleep, to how cold/hot you are, whether you travel 0km or 200km, or are in heaven or hell. The wind decides and she’s a wild one!