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Palestinian Olfat Haider, painfully injured in her stormy sea crossing: It still hurts, but I think I can make it. I really want to do this. Its important to reach the top.
Were this narrative about someone other than Israelis and Palestinans making their first, practice ascent in Antarctica, it might not mean so much to us.
But it does touch us hugely, because we identify with these remarkable women and men -- their courage, their new flag overhead of two doves meeting over a blood-red background.
Their willingness to go to a new place together -- trusting themselves, taking chances, 100% depending on one another, confident that they will succeed and show us that we can, too.
Photos are at http://www.breaking-the-ice.de/t_gallery.htm .
Below, their abbreviated Daily Log, with the full version at http://www.breaking-the-ice.de/WebLog/b2/ .
BREAKING THE ICE -- Daily Log -- Friday, 9 January 2004
Friday, 9 January 2004
The first summit -- Hovgaard Island, Antarctica (65 S -- 64 W)
The scenery is so beautiful. . .sailing has become so smooth. . .anchoring at night. . .a relative term, since it never gets dark. . .the atmosphere of the Antarctic summer.
Plenty of time for conversation. . .no lack of it. . .politics to family matters children, professions, health and lifestyles. You see, says Palestinian team member Suleiman al-Khatib, were not that different from one another. All of us have the same problems and we share the same desires. This is why I think that we can learn to live together, side by side.
This morning theres excitement. . .On Hovgaard Island the members of Breaking the Ice. . .about to climb their first mountain. . .a training session meant to help develop the skills required for the final trek to an unclimbed peak on the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.
First. . .equipment to prepare: plastic climbing boots, snowshoes, gaiters, ski poles, ice axes, climbing harnesses, carabineer clips, ropes, thermoses and backpacks. . .Then clothing to put on: thermal underwear, fleece shirts, balaclavas, fleece hats, gloves and more gloves, windproof trousers and jackets, sunglasses and goggles.
The equipment is ready. . .time to smear on large quantities of sun block. In these latitudes, even when clouds hide the sun dangerous amounts of ultraviolet radiation reach the earth. Even those with the darkest complexions, like Israeli Yarden Fanta, who was born in Ethiopia and Palestinian Nasser Quass, whose father came to Jerusalem from Chad, have to take care not to get burnt.
Cameras to prepare -- many, many cameras. Digital and film cameras and video cameras. Cheap cameras and expensive cameras. Everyone has a camera -- and some have two. Nary a moment of their time together with go undocumented, much to the frustration of the expeditions mountain guides who believe that frequent stops for photo opportunities destroy the pace of the climb and tire the climbers.
Getting everything and everyone ready. . . make sure nothings been forgotten. . .no quick moves on any expedition. . .Proper preparation is essential for success and safety.
But. . .this morning, just as the team is ready. . .the weather turns bad. . .temperatures dropping and horizontal rain pelting against us. Its not a good idea to go out in conditions like this, says expedition leader Doron Erel. Its not just unpleasant. Its also unsafe, because the frigid temperatures can turn the snow to ice in no time at all. The climb will have to wait.
Theres disappointment among the team members, but its mitigated by the thought that they can pass the time in the warmth of the boat. . .If they face a situation like this during their trek on the Antarctic ice, theyll have to shiver away the hours in tents.
Just as theyve accepted the idea. . .weather suddenly changes for the better. . .typical of the Antarctic Region. . .an hour after Erel puts the climb on hold, he gives the green light. . .patches of blue appearing in the skies. . .equipment into rubber dinghies and head for shore. By the time theyve clambered up the rocks and snow at the waters edge its absolutely sunny and warm outside and people are removing the outer layers of clothing they put on just moments before. I cant figure this out, says Ziad Darwish, the Palestinian journalist. I never know what to wear. I feel like Im in a sauna.
Mountain guide Nadav Khalifa explains. . .its better to walk and climb with as little clothing on as possible. Your enemy is perspiration, he says. Even though its cold outside, climbing is strenuous. . .makes you sweat. . .afterwards, when you stop exerting yourselves, you become cold and all the moisture on your bodies turns cold, too. . .better to put on more clothes only when you need them. He also reminds us that people tend not to feel thirsty in cold weather. Youve got to drink as much as you can because theres a real danger of dehydration here.
Before beginning their ascent. . .the team splits into three groups, each with a mountain guide. . .they are roped together at intervals of about four meters. I want you all to keep the ropes almost taut between you, Doron Erel instructs them. This is for your own safety. The snow looks harmless, but it hides crevasses that can be several meters wide and dozens of meters deep. If one of us falls into a crevasse its going to be up to all the rest of us to stop their fall. What you have to do is anchor yourselves by digging your ski poles and ice axes into the snow. After we do that well figure out how to solve the problem.
At the sound of this warning. . .a ripple of anxiety among the expedition members. Olfat Haider, the Israeli Arab, is still nursing a bad bruise she received on board during a storm several days ago. . .hoping shell be equal to the effort ahead. It still hurts, she says, but I think I can make it. I really want to do this. Its important to reach the top.
Reaching the top of this 380-meter high dome-shaped mountain will be an important test for all the expedition members. . .with the exception of Doron Erel, who has climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest. Its not merely a test of their physical abilities. . .a matter of principle. . .Climbing the mountain is meant to send a message to show the world that when they work together as a team Palestinians and Israelis can reach their objectives.
The climbers move ahead. . .slowly and steadily. . .stopping occasionally for a brief rest and a drink. . .move again, snaking steadily up the slope, their snowshoes and ski poles crunching through frozen surface of the snow. . .As they ascend. . .a new perspective on the sea and icebergs below. . .breathtaking. . .more of this frozen world coming into view. . .mountains, sea and icebergs. I just cant get over how beautiful it is, says Avihu Shoshani, the Israeli lawyer. Ive never seen anything like it and I want to remember every single moment. But Im afraid Ill never be able to make anyone understand just how wonderful it is.
About two hours after setting off. . .the Breaking the Ice peace expedition reach their first summit. They raise their arms in exaltation. In Hebrew, Arabic and French they wish one another, Happy Summit! Skip Novak rewards the climbers with pieces of chocolate while, off to the side, Nasser Quass kneels in the fresh snow, chanting prayers to Allah.
By professional standards its really no more than a hill. But, for these newcomers. . .a real mountain. . .standing here, together, is a genuine source of pride. . .an important step towards climbing the real mountain just days from now.