Sunday: The Antarctic summer has not yet set in. The weather in the Chilean sector has been atrocious for a very long time now. This is were the Union Glacier base is and the (our) gateway to Antarctica is.
The expeditions that have been flown out to their drop off points are really struggling. They started a lot later that hoped, and since then it has been snowing heavily with big winds and thick white-out. They are fighting to do a mere 10 kilometres as max, and many days they have been confined to their tents. This is desperate for those going far as it saps strength, test their mental stamina to the maximum and jeopardises their possibility to reach their goals.
On the other side, The Ross Ice shelf (where our team is waiting to go), the weather has been the very opposite. It has been absolutely great. But both teams out there is running a tad late due to the delayed start. They (www.sorpolen2011.no and www.tilsydpolen100aaretter.com) are both aiming for the Jubilee at the South Pole the 14th December. They can both get there, but is in need of very good ‘Polar handwork’ and a bit of luck with the weather to do that. Amundsen had some 15 stormy days in 1911 – though he did progress some in 8 of them, so to do that route without any tent bound days would be a miracle. And every day stuck means a kilometre or two added to an already strained km / day ratio. – There could be a lot of very un-Amunsensk worn out bodied at the Pole this year, but hopefully not – Scot-like as disillusioned and late…
For our team(s) we can report on still a very high spirit. . They enjoy the days, the meals and the training. But it is impossible to hide that they are straining at the leaches. Every day stuck in Punta means a tougher ordeal getting to the Pole for the 14th. At some point the window will close. So far, it is still open. But strategies are being tossed around. Our plan and hope is to climb Peak Nansen is diminishing by the hour. Sledge weights are worked over every day to find the extra gram that can be left behind. Maps and photos are studied in every loser detail to se if any time can be found up the Axel Heiberg Glacier. – It will be a highly motivated, totally focused and super hungry team that is dropped off at the Ross Barrier sometime in the next week.
The best guesses is that it looks like a weather window from Wednesday at Union Glacier. At the same time the weather looks good at the bottom of Axel Heiberg… we are crossing fingers, toes, - everything!
The last couple of days our friends have broken away from the wait in Punta and taken on the Torres del Paine. There they too got a taste of strong winds as they hit 44m/s or 158km/h gusts! But, it bettered and they got 2 great days with some good walks in the stunning Patagonian landscape. It truly is one of the natural wonders of this world, so if you have not been there, start planning to go!
Now it is back to Punta and hopefully the last day or two of waiting.