Friday, February 08, 2008

Eat cake and kite to coast

Yesterday was an important first step towards a normal life. Planning, desire, pain and the warm glow of satisfaction - feelings encountered most weekends back home - came flooding back. I didn't take a camera, so I'll have to try and describe it all in good old fashioned words. Here we go...

We've had this little plan for a while: Kiting due north along fresh, groomed tracks to Creek 4, the pleasant bay where the Shack docked. Three attempts have been aborted due to poor wind, but at afternoon tea break it was blowing an enthusiastic 15knts and all looked good. So we booked a Snowcat back-up team and stocked up on cake...

So many cakes, such little time...

After dinner, the wind told a different story - now 9knts at most. Most Halley plans revolve around waiting the wind to stop. Actually wanting it to blow is rare situation to be in, but, guessing there would be more speed higher up, we headed out all the same.

Launching in the low wind was tricky. Maybe I'd overdone the cake, but the kite was struggling to pull me up. First impressions suggested another failure, but on edging out of the building's wind shaddow the breeze picked up enough to convince us to give it a shot.

Running along the smooth, groomed track to the skiway convinced us to give it a go. Jules' GPS hit 44km/h and there was plenty of go to be had, if you worked the kite enough to get it. Kites are different to all other sails as they can generate more pull as they move through the sky. A-level vector equations could put a number on it, but put simply, the more the kite moves, the faster you go.

Regrouping, we set off along the drumline flying in close formation: Yellow, blue, yellow, blue. Adjusting the trimmer, I sat back in the harness holding course with only a slightest touch on the bar. Kilometer markers flew by and we were gaining on the Snowcat. Splitting like the Red-Wing in attack formation, we passed the cat on both sides and powerd on towards the coast.

After a few stops to relax and regroup, we arrived at the caboose and parked up. Warm Ribena passed round and hero photos taken, Dean was keen to feel some gravity again so we launched down the ramp onto the sea ice. It was damn steep, but soft. Plenty of falls reminded me that it'll take some time to convert kite-boarding skills to "real" snow.

Heading home, this time riding switch (wrong foot forwards) and edging hard against the much stronger wind, my legs started to burn. Where the journey out was slow and steady, this was fast and furious - blasting only a 1km or so at a time, then stopping to wave my legs in the air and to try and recover. Contrast was now zero so my eyes couldn't tell my knees what to expect and they were taking the punishment blind. Eventually we rejoined the groomed track and could finally relax for the last few k's to base.

By the time we got in it was midnight and the bar was closed, but the ribena and laughs still flowed. We had flown just under 40km on (what we believe to be) the first official kite journey in Halley history. Legs barely moving, I limped off to bed very, very happy.


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