Ranulph Fiennes' Coldest Journey: the blog
The latest from TG mag's Man of the Year's bonkers arctic adventure
Posted: 10 Jan 2013
UPDATE: January 1
Spencer Smirl, Engineer
"The last night before our flight to Cape Town was a pretty quiet one. Although it was New Years Eve, we had a flight to catch from Heathrow the next day and it was one we couldn't afford to miss. We decided rather than going out and partying our faces off we would have a nice quiet dinner and get to bed early. I maybe should have partied though. When I woke on the morning of the New Year I had overwhelming feelings of anxiety and nervousness. It was strange - up until this moment I had little fear of my upcoming adventure.
As I drove to Heathrow, Richmond slept peacefully beside me. I listened to my music almost as loud as that little Toyota would play it. Not only to drown out the rumble of Richmond's insistent snoring, but because I knew this would be one of the last times I would be able to hear my music played so loud. We arrived at Heathrow Airport with plenty of time to spare. Which we needed to accommodate for the huge amount of luggage we had to drag through the terminal. Because there was so much kit that failed to make the shipping deadline of the 6th of December when the Agulas left London, the members of the Ice team were left responsible for the transportation of this final bit of kit.
Richmond and I each had 4 bags to check. Each of these weighed a maximum allowable 32kgs. In these bags were mostly CAT parts and medical supplies. There was a large amount of audio and visual kit from the documentary company.
When we arrived at check in, to our surprise, we had been upgraded to business class. We had all thought that Sir Fiennes had left a few days earlier so that he would be able to upgrade without the complication of the rest of us being left to grumble from our seats in economy. We boarded the plane and were directed to our plush seats in business. After I sat down I started to take off my shoes, something I do for every flight.
The Doctor, Rob Lambert sat down beside me and looked at my feet as I slipped them free of their confines. I thought I seen him make a funny face so I was quick to apologise if he could smell something. He said "no worries dude, I always ditch the shoes too". As I reclined my seat and prepared for my first flight into the southern hemisphere, I checked my pocket to make sure I had my lucky stone. Around the time I was accepted into the team for this expedition, my mother gave me a piece of red jasper with a little booklet explaining how it brings good luck and safe journey to travellers. I was never a superstitious person but if I lost this stone now I would have a fit of sheer panic. I never go anywhere without it.
As the plane lifted off, on its way to Cape Town, I felt that wave of anxiety and nervousness surge over me again. I pulled on my head phones and found a movie to clear my head and remind me of the beautiful vacation I was about to have in Cape Town. It had been quite a while since I had watched the Lion King. After dinner I had a couple glasses of wine while I finished my movie and then tried to fall asleep. I couldn't do it. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was excitement. I can't say for sure. I do know that after four more movies and an hour of playing Texas hold'em against my phone, we were landing in Cape Town."
Pic: Geoff Long