Day 9: Finding a daily routine on a South Pole trek isn't easy

Dr. Ross gets to lead the group for a stretch, and answers pressing questions about how one does their 'business' in Antarctica.

Coordinates: S 89 degrees 18.321 by W 81 degrees 58.404. Temperature: -30, winds from the south.

Again, another hot night but as the morning came, the temperature started to drop and it was about -30 degrees Celsius today. The winds were coming in from the south making for quite a cool day.

We managed to knock off just around eight miles, so we’re now at south 89.18.321 by west 81.58.404.

Very steady day on the trail. We’ve been dancing with another group that was here and we’ve been passing each other’s paths off and on. Right now, they are a couple of miles to the west of us but we can see them in the distance.

I led for a time today and it was absolutely serene. I had Miles Davis on and it was the most incredible moment and then all of a sudden AC/DC “You Shook Me All Night Long” came on and the moment was shattered.

One of the really interesting things is that when you stand around, it appears to be uphill in every direction.

At the camp

There is a very specific routine to be followed at camp. Every morning, there is a set time for wake up and a series of routines that have to be done in order to get camp going and get everyone going at the same time.

First order of business is to heat water and sort out breakfast. It's actually about an hour and a half of melting shovels full of snow in order to make about four litres of water per person, per day.

Once that is done, we make sure everyone is coordinating their take-down efforts. Sleeping bags, air mattresses and everything must be packed at the same time so that all the tents can come down together and we can get on the trail at the same time. The main reason for this is to prevent people from standing around and getting cold while they’re waiting for other people to get ready.

The end of the day, it’s reverse order. We start first by setting up tents and making sure we are head into the wind. Then we secure the tents really well. The flaps around the tent have to be buried under snow, which we shovel onto the flaps. We also set up a small snow wall to act as a bathroom. Grey water and urine we’re allowed to dispose of at camp, but all solid waste has to be humped out. The guides mark the urine sites on GPS and that information is kept at base camp so everyone knows where the grey water sites are.

For number twos, we are given a system called the wag bag. This is basically a glorified Glad garbage bag. We’re each given four for the trip, so we have to be very, very careful. Each of us has a separate stuff sack for our own waste. Despite the hassle, the glory of this is that the vista is pristine.

Then the next order of business is getting hot water going so we can begin to resuscitate ourselves. After that come the choices of dinners and snacks. And then, really, it’s just quiet time until we go to bed.

Last night Brien, one of the guides, came in for a rowdy game of Hearts with Keith and I and it was one of the funniest games of Hearts I’ve ever played. Keith has only played Hearts once and poor Brien has played for years and got smoked completely. Truly, we were in hysterics until we called it a night around 11 o’clock.

Everyone is doing well and there are no medical concerns to report, and that’s for the entire 14 people on the trail. Everyone sends their best to their loved ones.

Dr. Heather Ross is travelling to the South Pole to raise awareness for heart disease.

Follow her Journey to the Bottom of the Earth exclusively on Yahoo! Canada.

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About Dr. Ross

One of Toronto’s top cardiologists is heading to the South Pole, and Yahoo Canada News is following every step of the voyage.


Dr. Heather Ross, Director of the Heart Failure Program at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and the Medical Director of the Cardiac Transplant Program, is venturing to the pole to raise awareness for heart failure research, cardiac transplantation and heart health.


Follow along starting Jan. 1 as Dr. Ross blogs her journey to the bottom of the Earth.


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Got a question for Dr. Heather Ross while she's on her South Pole journey? Send her a question by clicking above or emailing AskDrRoss@yahoo.ca and she'll reply in a future blog post!