2013-2014 South Pole Traverse – Day 17

Day 17
Location: Polar Plateau
Miles Advanced: 46.7
Elevation: 9,112ft.
Weather: Ice Fog, -22F

 

We are now entering the area we call Sastrugi National Park. Sastrugi are mounds of snow that have been formed and sculpted by wind. They can be quite beautiful as they form into delicate fins and arches. Sometimes I’ll see one directly in my path that is so ornate, I’ll feel bad running over it.

 

Sastrugi are also a nuisance. They are hard as concrete and can be several feet high. Traveling over them is a jarring experience. We found it best to knock them down with the blades on the Case tractors. Blading a trail, following the GPS, and hauling a load at the same time takes a great deal of effort and concentration. It’s also a full body workout. Going up and down the sastrugi feels a lot like riding a disgruntled horse for 10 hours.

 

To top things off I forgot to latch one of the cupboards and all its contents came spilling out- breaking some mugs and bowls. I guess I’ll have to steal some at pole.

 

Sastrugi
Sastrugi

 

 

Sastrugi
Sastrugi

 

 

Blading a Trail
Blading a Trail

2013-2014 South Pole Traverse – Day 16

Day 16
Miles Advanced: 51.8
Total Mileage: 845.6
Temperatures: -22F Ambient; -61F Wind-chill

 

Yesterday awoke to a delightful brunch of bacon, toast, and hash browns. We forgot the eggs in McMurdo so we scrambled up some pumpkin pie instead. While we ate, Bill played classical guitar melodies with such skill we were all impressed. Had I not looked out the window, it would have been easy to forget our present circumstances high on the polar plateau. It was a fine morning and well deserved too.

 

We are at an elevation of 8,300ft. Our barometer says we are a good thousand feet higher due to less geophysical pressure at polar latitudes. To counter the effects of altitude sickness, our mountaineer says we should take Diamox prophylactically. I will unfortunately suffer because I refuse to put anything in my butt.

 

The altitude also plays havoc with our tractors. They do not like the cold or lack of oxygen and once they are shut down are very hard to coax back to life.

 

In the pictures you will see our grey water outfall from the sink and shower. We don’t collect our grey water but we do collect our urine which is stored in 55 gallon drums.

 

The other picture is microwaved Beef Satay. It looks like dog food but tastes surprisingly good.

 

Plateau
Plateau

 

 

Grey Water Sewage
Grey Water Sewage

 

 

Beef Satay
Beef Satay

2013-2014 South Pole Traverse – Day 15

Day 15
Miles Advanced: 43
Total Mileage: 773
Elevation: 8,221ft
Weather: 13F. On Plateau: Wind-chill -43F

 

Mac Ops had given us the forecast- the weather wasn’t looking good. So the team got together and decided to push hell-bent for the polar plateau. The agreement was based upon the weather knowledge of the Leverette Glacier, which can produce the effects of an enormous drain that funnels storms in a concentrated strength down the valley. These are called Katabatic Winds, and the supercharged storms they create are legendary. Down here they are known as Herbies (hurricane blizzards) and you don’t want to be in the way when they decide to vent. I have pictures on this site under “Storm of the Century” if you’d like to see what these Herbies are capable of.

 

As we made our ascent we passed some of the most stunning scenery this continent has to offer. Nunataks- which are basically entire mountains that have been buried in snow and only their summits are visible, poking up like islands in the sky. Icefalls- which are chunks of ice as large as skyscrapers that topple over and pile upon each other like some horrific train wreck. Hanging glaciers- which appear to defy gravity as they pour over the top of the plateau like melted wax that solidifies firmly to the mountains vertical faces.

 

We worked 15 hours straight but were able to achieve the top of the Leverette just as the storm brewed. We were a tried but a happy bunch. Tomorrow we begin crossing the polar plateau.

 

Seracs
Seracs

 

 

Mount Beazley
Mount Beazley

 

 

Magsig Rampart
Magsig Rampart

 

 

Jeff and Bill
Jeff and Bill