What a difference 24 hours can make! Yesterday evening the weather was beautifully calm and now I’m in the middle of a howling gale.
I used the calm weather to have a proper wash. I headed off down the glacier with a piece of carry mat to stand on (very important), took off all my clothes (temperature was -12.9 deg C), soaped up, washed off, dried myself very quickly and just before my fingers lost all feeling I got all my clothes back on! It’s amazing how good being clean feels (although I still smell horrific as I’ve been in the same clothes now for 20 days).
After all the men had washed we got together as a group and had a glass or two of red wine. The red wine has been hauled up passes and through valleys by Amy and Ruth and it was a great, group moment. When we are staying somewhere for a few days we put up a group mess tent, but for the last week or so we haven’t managed to erect the tent as we’ve been moving too often. Without the mess tent you spend all your time at camp in your own tent, with your tent partner, resting, warming up, eating and sleeping. The only time that you see the rest of the group is when you are preparing to leave to go and do your science, and that is only for 10 minutes or so. In that tent-based atmosphere it is easy to lose track of how people are feeling, what they think is a good plan for the next few days etc. The group spirit, which is so important, is put at risk. That hour, standing together drinking wine has done wonders for camp morale … lucky really, considering what we’ve been through today!
For hours today I’ve slogged uphill, into a howling gale with a heavy sledge harnessed to me. The going has been really tough with fingers frozen, nose running, legs burning and mind always wary of crevasses. I finally climbed into my tent to start eating anything I could lay my hands on at about 18.30. Although normally I’m bored of the food as the diet is unchanging, the same spag bol, tortillas with salami/tuna and chocolate tasted so good after all that work today.
What is slightly (no, very) demoralising is that we’re camped at the foot of a very, very steep hill. And that hill is where we’re going tomorrow. Despite being shattered at the end of the day, and with little chance of sleep due to the noise of the storm, tomorrow is going to need a much greater effort than today. After that hill, though, it should be downhill or flat for the seven days back to Patriot Hills.