We are five miles from the North Pole. Five miles. Nature has blown us all away... no pun intended. The ice slowly started drifting north overnight! Slow, but north anyway. We will make an attempt on the pole tomorrow, two days ahead of our estimation.
That was not the only surprise today. As we drew closer to our remote destination, we seemed to encounter mankind more. We woke to find two fresh ski tracks a few feet from our tents! Two other early bird expeditioners passed us – shame they didn’t say hello.
Then in the afternoon, as I skied across a wide open pan, fur ruff caked in ice and snow, creating an arctic frame to my view, I heard a distant ‘chop chop chop’, totally different to any sound I’d heard for the past week. I turned around and saw a blob in the distance which, as it grew closer, turned into a helicopter. It was exciting as it was clearly on the way to the pole to pick someone up… and I knew that would be us soon. But at the same time it was an almost unwelcome disturbance of nature, which we all came here in search of.
The temperature was the coldest so far today, around -30°C along with windchill. I indulged in an extra layer of fleece for the day and handwarmers to prevent the frostnip on a couple of my fingers from turning into frostbite and it worked perfectly.
Today it seemed as though the Arctic was welcoming us home. We skied over mostly open pans that are flat and fast to cover, each ranging from half a mile to one mile long. And with the northward nudge we made our eight miles target in just six hours. We are now in our tents drinking hot chocolate, tea and cider, and about to eat dinner which is beef chilli with macaroni.
I have so much more to say. Somehow today all the thoughts I have been working through seemed to come to their own conclusion, and I felt like an observer watching my own thoughts pass by from the outside. The energy here is amazing, powerful, uplifting. I smiled the entire day, despite how biting the cold was and how much my right knee ached. It’s like you are not alone, not at all alone, although you are physically in a single file solitary march. Of course, being the fifth in line, I also had the silent entertainment of seeing my uber-enthusiastic team mates rush forward over snow piles and slip and disappear sliding down the other side in a great big rush to reach exactly the same destination (this is normally Ian; Rachel, Ian says you will read this and say ‘typical’).
One last hot chocolate then bed time. So excited!