I lay in my sleeping bag, covered in horfrost, down clumped together in the chest compartment barely helping me keep warm at -30C. I had looked at my feet the previous night they were not in a good way. Heel covered in blood and my left little toe banged up. Strapping them up I put on my socks and got on with the day. This was not the time to feel sorry for myself. I was determined to get home under my own steam, I had put myself in this situation and I was going to get myself out.
To head west back to Longyearbyen I first had to box round a collection of mountains, heading north, west and finally south. I didn’t see the sun all day it was either at my back on behind the mountains. The day was still and cloudless, perfect conditions for mountaineering. Even in my emotional state I couldn’t help but laugh and smile at this beautiful and brutal place, memories of a previous expedition flooded back causing short lived smiles, i had begun to miss the team part of expedition. In the short time I was there the Arctic had tested me constantly. A little man from Yorkshire trudging through these great valleys just to get home and begin to recover from this ordeal. The masochist smiling.
Overall the day was uneventful, all I remember is thinking I was averaging a good speed only to turn around and see the mountains not getting smaller, my mind had begun to play tricks on me. My eyes beginning to find it hard to focus on the distance with the lack of colour, my pulk a red reference point 5 meters behind me, showing my progress with her tracks into the distance. I knew I was moving but how far and fast I had no idea. Not bothering to get the GPS out and check, requiring far more effort than I had, I would find out at the end of the day anyway.
At 5pm I stopped, today had been long, I had burnt the tops of my ears from having my hood down straining and sweating to hit my target distance. As the crow flies I did 12km, but around the mountains 22km had been done. Not bad for 9 hours in the harness over some tricky terrain. I dragged myself into my sleeping bag and slept in snatches that night, waking every few hours shivering from the cold. My sleeping bag now had a lot of frozen down in it, providing little to no warmth in certain areas. In the morning I looked through the fabric from the inside, in 3 of the 7 vertical chest baffles I could see straight through as the down had clumped at the bottom due to poor routine by myself. The strange thing about this is I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I shrugged my aching shoulders and got on with the day. I had no one to blame but myself and there was no point having a strop over it.