After the walk yesterday, we needed a rest day giving us a chance to acclimatize. Due to the extreme southern latitude of Mount Vinson and consequent thinning of the atmosphere, there is less oxygen available to our bodies, which makes the altitude harder to cope with than the same elevation on a peak that lies closer to the equator. I can feel a remarkable difference on the effect it has on my body compared to both Mount Kilimanjaro and what I experienced climbing in the Alps.
Even on rest days, it is important we stay active, so we walked to a nearby col, which was a three-hour walk. I was exhausted from the day before and effected by the altitude and really didn’t want to go, but it turned out to be a quite easy walk. The weather was sunny and bright and we ended up walking without jackets. We were sweating despite the thermometer showing minus degrees. In fact, the tent temperature that night was 18°C despite the frost outside. The weather here has been absolutely brilliant and the worst day in Antarctica isn’t as bad as the best day I had at the North Pole.
You might wonder how this diary makes it all the way from Mount Vinson in the Antarctic to you, with no electricity, no mobile network or Internet here – the answer is satellite phone. To minimize our environmental impact the only energy source used at Antarctica is solar power.
Even the camp at Patriot Hills is run solely by solar power and we use small portable solar panels to charge our satellite phones, iPods and other electronics during the expedition. With 24-hour sunlight and short days of walking and climbing, that works great and we have no problems continuously charging our electronic equipment. I used the same solar
powered satellite phone and solar panels at the North Pole, but with little sunlight and opportunity to charge the satellite phones due to weather conditions and 10 hours walking every day, it was a lot more challenging.
The difference between the ease of access to solar powered energy at the South Pole and North Pole and the incredible focus on minimizing the environmental impact here, got me thinking about energy efficiency in general and how we take energy sources like electricity for granted without giving it much thought how we use it – or waste it. There are a so many ways we can make our homes, offices and buildings more energy efficient only by paying attention and caring. A simple example is using fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. The fluorescent light bulb only needs 13 watts to get the same amount of lighting as you would get from a regular, 60-watt incandescent bulb. The use of new technology like laptops, TV screens and washing machines built to be energy efficient or insulating our houses are other examples. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Tomorrow is a big day with increasingly difficult climbing conditions, 45° slopes and 1200 meters elevation gain. I am excited, but also worried how I will cope with the altitude now we get closer to the top.