6am time to wake and get on with the day, my body asks for some more rest. My legs ache, shoulders burn and my grip is all but gone. I’m finding it hard to close my fists, i’ve strained a tendon in my right ring finger and forcing it to close is not pleasant. Falling asleep for another hour, the extra rest makes some small difference. I drag myself out of my sleeping bag and begin to eat and drink my breakfast. My mind begins to wake and I begin to pack away my equipment, today is going to be short so I don’t arrive in Longyearbyen too early in a days time. As the day begins I look to the south the sun shining down the valley warming me for the first time in days, it feels glorious to have the sun on my face.
I lace up my boots and clip into my skis turning southwest into Adventdalen, today was going to be physically easy but emotionally draining. The past week had taken a lot out of me, the expedition had failed and now for the first time in days I had time to analyse what had gone wrong. My food hadn’t been diverse enough, and was too fat heavy, leaving me feeling sick at times. My arms weren’t strong enough for the constant pulling and stabilising during skiing. I carried too much equipment around 5kgs too much. I had failed, my mind tortured by this thought as I skied southwest, all the while I wanted to ski north. I wasn’t going to give up and will be back in 2014 to have another go.
Skiidoos began to become more frequent as I neared about 20km outside Longyearbyen each train waving as they sped past me. If one had offered me a ride back and a warm bed I would have jumped on and cried, my mind and body a wreck.
I now wanted this to end, end the voice of failure in my mind, to end the numbing cold and to end the loneliness. I was fine being solo when no-one was around, but when you’re 5 meters from someone and there isn’t even a ”Hei!” just a raised arm you begin to feel like you’re in a bubble and even if you scream no-one will hear you. This was the mental battles I had tried to prepare for, I had one remedy up my sleeve, sing. Classics from the 70’s and more modern hits. As the sounds ricocheted off the valley walls the internal voices began to go quiet, soothed by the human noise.
As I rounded the final corner before camping beneath Elveneset, which my previous expedition had nicknames “Everest” due to its similar shape. I remembered the old team, oh the fun we had, I missed being part of a team, the first time I had thought that in months.
That evening I forced myself to take pictures for the first time in days, I needed to remember this place, both emotional and physical. So in the future I will be reminded of what I can do.
That night as I sat eating my sweet and sour pork from Fuizion Food, i looked back on this expedition and realised it wouldn’t go down as a failure. Yes I had failed to get to 80 degrees north and back, but would be returning home safely and I had learnt a lot about myself. Plus having gone far outside my comfort zone and not broken down too much. A sense of pride came over me, now it was time to sleep.