Polar Wrap-up: Rune's heaven and Borge's hell

Posted: Feb 02, 2006 03:30 pm EST

(ThePoles.com) Rune Gjeldnes is not letting anticipation get a hold of him. He is meticulously calculating his every step before he reaches glory.

Yesterday, after months alone on the ice, he saw a sign of human life: An airstrip. Still, this is not the time to rush for Rune. He knows to take his time across the tricky mountain terrain.

If Rune is touching heaven, Borge and Mike have fallen in a frozen hell. The night and snowdrift dont let them see what's coming; all they see is rubble and ice walls around.

Meanwhile, cold spells down to -40ºC are a constant reminder of the imminent risk of frostbite. According to Borge, this does not look like the Arctic but more like Stalingrad. For the first time since they began, Ousland has experessed his doubts about the expedition's success.

Antarctic crossing teams

Rune Solo Antarctic crossing: Camp by an airstrip

Rune has crossed Browning Pass, and made camp at the end of the air field attached to the Terra Nova base, reported his home team.

He has covered 12 km which means there's only 16km left. Rune still has a small ridge to pass before he reaches Terra Nova, and the plan is to climb the ridge tomorrow and make camp there. The top of the ridge is 410m high - Rune will have to climb the ridge several times in order to get all the equipment up. The next day the Norwegian explorer will try to find a safe way across the base of the Northern hills and down to the Terra Nova Base.

Arctic teams

North Pole teams

Ousland and Horn: Looks more like Stalingrad

The going is extremely tough, blocks of ice everywhere, walls of them every 50 m or so, reported Borge.

It looks like Stalingrad out there, and it is extremely difficult to push our way through. We have no idea how much further its going to be like this, nor can we see far enough ahead to be sure were choosing the best route."

"Our visibility is limited by the darkness, and the almost-horizontal snowfall reduces it further. There is a strong breeze from the west, and with temperatures of 2530 degrees below even without the wind factor, this is becoming quite an ordeal.

We had to set up camp in a hurry when the heel of my right shoe came loose. Totally idiotic that something like this could happen - but it did. I successfully repaired it, sewing as well as gluing the heel securely in place. To be on the safe side, I did the other shoe as well, because a gap was already forming.

While we were tucked in our sleeping bags, some extremely cold air hit us like a bomb. We shivered with every inhalation, our noses freezing immediately. That pocket of cold air must have been 40˚C. Other than that, it is 30˚C, and thats fine. But we have no chance of making any further progress in this wind. We risk frostbite almost immediately and can lose fingers as well as toes.

This seems to be taking longer than planned, and the weather forecast is uncertain. Our plan is to continue but safety has to come first. Our present position is N81˚4800, E105˚1047. Today we managed just one kilometre, but have already drifted at least three or four back. At the moment, were 916 km from the North Pole, but that is going to increase during the night.

Runes website
Borge Ouslands website
Mike Horns website

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It looks like Stalingrad out there, and it is extremely difficult to push our way through. We have no idea how much further its going to be like this, nor can we see far enough ahead to be sure were choosing the best route," reports Borge. For the first time, he seems hesitant about the success of the trip. Image courtesy of Borge Ousland.
Rune is 12 km away from the finish line - he can almost taste glory. But first he needs to climb a ridge and haul all his gear up there. According to plans, he might reach Terra Nova base tomorrow. Image sent live over Contact 3.0 last week, courtesy of Rune (click to enlarge).

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