December 6, 2007
After the last few days of utterly exhausting physical effort, today was a real pleasure. Not what most people would call a rest but a wonderful lightening of the burden after our multi-stage 500+ metre pull up a 30 degree slope (or worse!).
This morning we set off from our high camp on our journey back to the Patriot Hills Base Camp. We even managed to collect a couple of lichen samples (yes, they even grow up here) before we reached the lip of the pass that drops down onto the top of the Horseshoe glacier. This glacier is an enormous plain of snow and ice covering thousands of square kilometres and ringed by splendid mountains. In the distance we can see Patriot Hills but it is actually still 60 kilometres away. Antarctic distances are notoriously difficult to judge. The crystal clear air means that from a high vantage point you can see to the horizon and perhaps as far as 200 kilometres. With no human objects or growing things (houses, people, trees etc) there is nothing to give you perspective. From the lip we had to lower our pulks on a rope for the first few metres and then we were able to toboggan down. Then we walked for over six hours, and we still counted it a rest after the previous few days. We have just calculated that today we have each consumed at least 3500 Calories – or 17000 kilojoules – which is close to twice the energy that we would expect to eat in the UK on a normal day. Keeping warm and working hard both need lots of energy.
Our aim on this long haul was originally to walk all the way back to Patriot Hills but the long climb out of Connell Canyon means that we’re running out of time. We may have to call on the Twin Otter to pick us up. Stay tuned to find out what happens next.