The runway was completed on Sunday and Vicaar flew two cargo flights out yesterday to begin building Barneo camp on the ice. Steve and I spent yesterday putting the final tweaks to our gear and packing our pulks ready to be weighed and loaded onto the plane today.
The gear we've rented is top class. The pulks are state of the art - floatable pulks designed by Alan Hubert who's leading our trip. We spent a while yesterday packing them as weight distribution, and the ability to easily and quickly get to certain items is crucial for negotiating through/over the ice and in the changeable weather conditions.
Also I spent a lot of time adapting my gear for the cold conditions again; putting extra long and big pull toggles on all my zips so I can use them without taking my mitts off. Sticking matches with duct tape to my flasks, so I have more grip with my mitts on opening them as the lids are prone to freezing tight. Insulating all my electrical equipment with foam. Taping our tent poles so we only have one break in it so we can collapse and erect it super fast should the conditions be bad etc.
The feedback from the pilots - as nobody has been on the ice yet this year, is that it looks in good condition, with lots of single year ice frozen by a cold winter. This means that hopefully it's well frozen but without lots of pressure ridges and sastrugi. Only when we get on the ice though will we find out.
Last night Steve and I had our last meal - so to speak. We had a pizza off! We both designed our own pizza by adding toppings and tried to figure out whose was best! I had beef, pepperoni, jalapenos, mushrooms, onions and garlic dip. Steve went for bacon, mushrooms, beef and pineapple with garlic dip! We concluded that it was a draw!
We have sorted our personal gear for the flight in our rucksacks as the conditions on the ice are about -30c with a mild wind.
I've opted to use my podsac rucksack as my harness, rigging it with climbing cord to my pulk's trace (The rope from the pulk to the harness). The reason is that as I'm lighter than I used to be, the extra weight on me will allow me to pull my pulk (generally and over obstacles) easier when I lean forward. And more importantly, I can keep survival gear - insulating jacket, trousers, throw line, sat phone etc on me should I loose my pulk through the ice.
It's a little like pre-game feelings today! Everything that we can control is dialled and we're ready (The rest here has made a new man out of me!), but this leg more than the others is in the hands of Mother Nature, so I'm a little apprehensive about what we're going to find out there! The drift is my main concern but fingers crossed!
Thank you to everyone for your support so far. Please donate anything you can to help me raise funds in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care and thank you to everyone who has donated so far. Iâ€™ll be in touch every day but updates will be shorter now as I don't have the ability to charge my sat phone and Iâ€™ll have to watch the battery life but weâ€™ll be in touch. Rich and Steve.