Berridge Ear

 

The following is an email sent to my UK and Dubai Headquarters (Stuart and John, respectively) and friend and racing partner, Jerym, during a training expedition in Alaska. After a while in the Arctic I headed further south to Fairbanks, and whilst there set out for a few days in the White Mountains.  Shortly after my return I sent this email, knowing it would be appreciated by its recipients.  John and Jerym were both familiar with the condition of David Berridge's ear when he completed the Yukon Arctic Ultra race in 2011.  

 

Subject: Berridge Ear

 

Dammit!!!

Indeed...about 300 yards of negligence on the trail and I got myself Berridge Ear.  Stuart - at the end of the YAU race last year, the chap who finished four hours after me came in with a monstrous swelling to one of his ears.  He blamed this on the race organiser, who had driven out to greet him as he was heading to the finish, at which point David Berridge removed some of his protective headgear and exposed his ears.  The temperature was about -50C without the windchill (and there was a fair breeze).  The ear swelled, turned to face forwards like a satellite dish, and produced outrageous, dripping blisters to the front and rear.

Whilst out trundling through the woods, hills and mountains on Thursday night, the temperature was fine and my mood gay.  I traipsed - nay skipped - along the route, breaking trail with my snowshoes as the trail was as fresh as could be.  About a mile before the cabin, the hour approaching midnight, a great expanse opened out before me, the wind bellowing and howling, whipping up the snow and spindrift, and blasting it from left to right.  During my crossing I paused not infrequently to turn away from the gusts, thus to protect my exposed and precious face - a face with skin as soft as the softest baby's bottom (which is more than can be said for my bottom).  But there were no checks to be made - my routine checking of ears, cheeks and nose had been made regularly and recently, and the night was balmy and pleasant - I had no reason to suppose that 300 yards of wind would cause harm.

By the time I reached the trees to the far side the trail was lost entirely.  The reflective trail markers did not show up in the light from my headtorch, perhaps due to the snow blowing across the front of my face.  I moved into the trees and soon found myself up to my chest in the soft white stuff, and I knew my scheme of reaching the cabin was lost to me then.  How long would it take to move through such snow and the blasting winds, up and down, back and forth, to try and find sign of the buried trail?  I stamped out a flat section and pitched my bivi - the snow was so compacted that the compressed base was almost a metre below the surface of the surrounding snow, and offered perfect and warm protection from the elements.

As I made myself at home and removed my headtorch - so as to position it within a loop at the top of the bivi - my left hand moved passed my left ear, and to my astonishment the skin was as rubber but the ear hard, cold and brittle.  Berridge Ear!!!  I was at once irritated and annoyed - a lapse in judgement, an act of supreme negligence - and I immediately pulled my merino wool beanie down over the ears, and further insulated it with my buff, before nestling into my sleeping bag and pulling the hood close around my head.  To have stopped so close to the cabin was scarcely a disappointment - simply a missed opportunity.  But Berridge Ear?!?!  I stayed out in the hills another couple of days before returning to Fairbanks - nursing the thick and rubbery ear all the while, too afraid to check it in my signalling mirror for risk of seeing purple or black and thence hastening a retreat from the wilds.

You may be relieved to know that already the ear looks 'normal' to the untrained eye, but nevertheless a lesson well-learned (I hope).

I share because I know you all care, and will doubtless soil yourselves laughing at my misfortune.

Here but for the entertainment of my significant others.

I hate you guys.

M.


 

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