Finding the way

We are impressed. How did the five men who were here in 1911 gain an understanding of the landscape so quickly? How did they know which path to choose? Where we are supposed to make our ascent, it looks as though the onward road ends abruptly in a vertical wall of rock.
Polar explorers en route to the South Pole approach the Axel Heiberg Glacier.The main road to the South Pole in 1911. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Were they just lucky? Was it determination and fearlessness? These are our thoughts as our skis carry us within sight of one sheer ice wall after the other, and tall mountains are succeeded by even taller mountains. Regardless of how the feat was accomplished, we feel deep respect for the way they managed to move all those dogs and people and all that gear southward and upward with such impressive speed.

We thought we would start climbing up the icefall today, but history repeats itself. Let’s listen to Amundsen again: “The task we had taken on was larger than we had expected. For one thing, it was three times as far as any of us had imagined. In addition, the snow was soft and deep and made moving a great effort.” We organised ourselves like a cycling team: five minutes at the head of the line, clearing the path, then the next man takes the lead. And when we reached the bottom of the icefall, the two fittest of us continued, tramping a path up 200 metres, while our two more domestically oriented members pitched the tents and made dinner.

Tomorrow we will take a day’s rest: we’re almost certain of that. We have had 25 strenuous days without a break. Several bodies would benefit from a bit of recuperation.

The observant reader will have noticed that we have narrowed the gap between us and Amundsen. This is mainly because he was delayed by weather for several days just after he reached the plateau. But “now” he is moving on again.

And one last thing – for those who are wondering: no-one has found the fiver yet. There is still a bit of extra excitement every morning when we open our breakfasts.

Position: S 85 26.416, W 165 50.709
Temperature: -15°C
Wind: Calm
Elevation: 1000 metres
Distance traversed: 22 km
Distance behind Amundsen: 78 km
Total distance traversed: 760 km
Distance remaining to the South Pole: 551 km