Word of the Day: Sastrugi

Sastrugi

Word of the Day: Sastrugi

Avalanche

Word of the Day: Sastrugi

O'Brady's Sled Next to a Sastruga

O’Brady’s Sled Next to a Sastruga. Photo: Colin O’Brady

Sastrugi” has been both the word of the day and the single largest pain in the ass so far for American Colin O’Brady as he tries to become the world’s first man to traverse the Antarctic unsupported.

Even if not immediately familiar with the word (originally drawn from a Russian dialect), most skiers will recognize a sastruga (plural: sastrugi) when they see one. They are “speed bumps” of frozen snow blown by the wind into a wavelike pattern (*in thinking of an inbound example of where they tend to form, I’m reminded of where A-Basin’s Pallavacini lift crests the ridge shortly before unloading.)

Sastrugi

More Sastrugi. Photo: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Sastrugi may be nothing more than a natural curiosity for most of us, but when you’re dragging a 300-pound sled all day, day after day, for more than 900 miles as you ascend from sea-level to 9,000 feet, as O’Brady is, they can be a titanic bummer. Especially when calories are a major concern.

He explained the challenge on Instagram Monday:

View this post on Instagram

Day 10: SASTRUGI – That’s the word to best summarize the theme of the last few days. Contrary to popular belief, Antarctica is not flat. The South Pole is above 9,000ft. I started at sea level on the Ronne Ice Shelf so I’m going uphill all day, every day. But, the real challenge is the sastrugi. This picture gives an idea of my daily struggle. Not only am I pulling my 300lb sled all day, but I’m pulling it up and over thousands of these sastrugi speed bumps created by the violent wind. It’s a frustrating process at times to say the least. Good news is it’s Day 10! I said to @jennabesaw the day I left “I can’t wait for it to be day 10.” The first 10 days have been full of ups and down, mistakes and magical moments. It always takes some time to adjust and adapt to a long expedition, but every day now I’m feeling more in rhythm. Most importantly, my mind is quieting down as I become one with the environment and tap into flow more and more often. #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible

A post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on

So keep an eye out for sastrugi and impress your friends and strangers on the lift with your new word.

And if you’d like to follow along on O’Brady’s journey, he’s documenting it meticulously on Instagram and even fielding questions on Twitter.

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