"into a hoar frost, like sandpaper"
Deceptively smooth surface is covered in hoar-frost like sandpaper,
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumDeceptively smooth surface is covered in hoar-frost like sandpaper, - Credit: Paul Landry

Scott and Amundsen both complained of a similar phenomenon at approximately the same latitudes.

Scott, evidently frustrated, returns to the theme again and again in his diaries:

It’s been about the hardest pull we’ve had… Over the sastrugi it’s all up and down hill and the covering of ice crystals prevents the sled from gliding even on the down grade.


I found to my horror we could scarcely move the sled on ski; the first hour was awful owing to the wretched coating of loose sandy snow.” And; “But now the surface is beyond words and if it continues we shall have the greatest difficulty to keep our march long enough. The surface is quite terrible with sandy snow, and when the sun shines it is terrible.


Amundsen, as was his way, was a little more restrained but even his exasperation is patent:

A sledge journey through the Sahara could not have offered a worse surface to move over.