Life has taken a turn for the hectic here as I once again get into expedition mode. Ben and I are off to Greenland for a month for our final test and training phase before we go SOUTH and I am juggling phonecalls, kit orders and eccentric email servers.
In mid May we are taking a helicopter from Ammassalik and will do two round trips out onto the ice cap. One with SOUTH expedition-weight sledges and full skins where we will lay depots and one with backpacks and short skins where we will eat the aforementioned depots. One of the key elements of SOUTH will be our ability to switch to backpacks at the South Pole and use skis with short skins and more glide for our return to the coast and we are looking to fine tune our calculations to see how far and how fast we can go. Getting these as accurate as possible is crucial: too optimistic and you force yourself to ration, limiting the body’s ability to recover, too pessimistic and a heavier-than-necessary sledge will slow you down, compromising your chances of success. It’s a pretty fine line and when you are out there on the very edges of human capability, there’s not much room for screw ups.
We’ll also be testing out a range of equipment from solar water heating systems to backpacks to special mp3 players and making our final choices as to our nutrition strategy. Testing expeditions like this are always fun because they are a huge spur to creativity as Ben and I question every process and every action we take; could we do it better, more efficiently? It’s amazing how you can find little areas to improve even after all this time.
I think what I’m really looking forward to is just being out there on the ice again. East Greenland is one of my favourite places, when the weather isn’t trying to kill you it’s stunning. Each view is enhanced by the knowledge that you are the only person in the area for hundreds of miles and all you have to do is lean into the harness, check your bearings and haul. There’s a saying that East Greenland isn’t scenery, it’s savagery, but to me, sometimes, it’s a little bit like heaven.