Sunday, 17 May 2009

NIALL: DAY 24, 16th MAY

The end is nigh, or so the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been telling us for some time, with no basis in reality whatsoever. But in this instance the end of our expedition is nigh for we are a mere 6.5km from the finish. We are camped in the most remarkable place, a huge boulder field of blue ice - the world’s largest crystal maze that we have been negotiating since before 2 o’clock this afternoon. We set off at 8am this morning with high hopes of finishing the day at Point 660. We made good time for the first 4hrs travelling over familiar terrain and then came the first blue ice groves that multiplied and multiplied and soon they were everywhere. Towers of rock hard ice as big as a bus barred our passage as we zigzagged through the labyrinth. Crevasses litter the area. I went thigh deep into one, which upon extrication and subsequent analysis appeared to be bottomless. For hours we dodged crevasses, pulling over increasingly disturbed terrain. Every few minutes being knocked over as our pulks crashed into our heels from behind.
The majority of this trip has been purely physical - put one leg in front of the other as many times as you can in a day and you will go far. Now, in it’s final stages, the trip is strangely cranial, each of us scanning the horizon for the best route through the minefield. And so, at a little before 8pm this evening, we chose a suitable campsite free of crevasses and pitched our tent one final time. Our position is 67 08.046’N, 49 53.519’W we are at 701m altitude, leaving us 41m to drop to Point 660, our finishing point, which we aim to reach by midday tomorrow. This trip has had a bit of everything - breakages, blisters, sunburn, snowblindness, frostbite (just a little bit, not to panic anyone at home), falling into crevasses and now at the very end this wonderful natural spectacle is providing one final obstacle. As Muzz and I sit here puffing on his Grandfathers pipe we are both filled with a great sense of satisfaction at what we’ve achieved these past 23 days. And it is with great pleasure that I can say tomorrow, day 24, we will take one final pained step and step off the ice and back onto land once more. Until next time my friends, adieu.

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