One Country for Old Man… (starring Howard Fairbank)
Published on 31.12.2011 - The South Pole : Solo but not Alone
Solo and unsupported Howard Fairbank arrived at the South Pole on 27 December at noon, Punta Arenas time. He has been on the ice for 35 days.
The day before his arrival, Howard Fairbank stopped for the night having another 22 km to go. But yet he could see the buildings of the Pole. At that moment he remembered the day when he deviated from his route to go closer to a gigantic nunatak (apparently so close to him) and wanted to touch the granite with his hand... But never succeeded to reach it. That's what the optical illusions in such a white and icy world are all about... He thought he had no more than few kilometers to go to reach the Amundsen-Scott base ; on the GPS they were still 22 km to go !
That day, he also met the Chrisitan Eide's group who had rested three days at the SP and who was kiting back to the Union Glacier ALE base camp. Here is his story : "... and something made me suddenly look up, and there, like apparitions, all around me were 5 or 6 red kites in the air, with their pilots hanging on for the ride of their lives, sleds carving out neat telltale trails in the ice. They were heading North. Was I dreaming...? No, this was for real, my first humans again! One came up to chat, and it turned out to be the leader, a Norwegian, Christiaan Eide, who holds the record for the fastest solo, unsupported, unassisted coast-to-Pole trip. He had just completed an expedition from the Ross Ice shelf side, and they were now kiting back. We know each other, and after initial greetings, I guess as any encouraging 'friend' would have done, he said "Not far to go now!" I nearly pulled out my GPS, and said, "Oh, I wondered how far, my GPS is broken!" I must have been irritated by something... They had invaded 'MY' wilderness, and this was the first sign that it's all about to end! We had a brief chat, and then went our 180-degree different ways..."
And on 27 December, he finally made it. His comment : "Anyway, I 'yielded' at the intersection, as there was no 'highway traffic' in sight, turned 90 degree right and was now on the highway myself... 4km to go to the finish line... hmmm, still another 80 mins, yet everything looks so close... but I'm wiser now! It was quite fun, as I skied in a snowmobile trail, straight and fast. Eventually there was a '20 km/h Speed limit' sign, and then a few small tents and another sign: 'Campsite'... I was there... well a few hundred metres to the actual South Pole point, but this is where me and my friend 'sled' stopped our 'joint' journey... Forever? We shall see, but at least for 'a long while!' At least we are still good friends 'she' did well the last weeks."
"It feels REAL GOOD to know its done, but I DO know I'll miss the simplicity, I can feel it already..."
One country for old man...