Icetrek North Pole Ski 2017

Apr 06

life on the Arctic Ocean

Published at 19:38
Dispatch created from email
We had a comfortable night in the tent, our beefy bags and dual layer mattresses keeping us toasty despite the -30ish.

Overnight we drifted NW giving us an extra km towards the pole.

Clipping into our harnesses at 9am we skied on good terrain, crossing a couple of flat leads in the morning. The still conditions made for awesome arctic makeup and John's eyelashes, eyebrows and face wear became festooned with ice.

After lunch a ball of extreme cold seemed to descend on us and we skied on the edge of comfort. But a zone of pressured ice warmed us up as we heaved our sleds over ridges and rubble.

After 6.5 hours of hauling we pitched camp on a flat pan amongst the pressure, thankful to climb into our haven and ecstatic about our 16km of advance.


A better day today. Yesterday when we pitched camp I was so exhausted I could do little more than collapse into the tent. Felt like a lightweight with Eric doing all the hard work. I wore too many layers of clothing and although I didn't realise that I was sweating all three layers became moist from sweat and then froze solid - even my underwear. Frozen underwear chafes as well so I had to take everything off and get into my bag to try to get warm while we dried my clothes out over the little gas burner.

Today was a lot better though - we skied for 2 hours more and I felt OK still at the end. The cold is intense - this is something that I have never experienced before to this extent. At -30C to -40C everything, even the tiniest things are complicated. Stopping to take a photograph has to be thought through. With three layers of mittens on each hand (gloves don't work here - your hand would freeze in minutes) you can take the outer two off but you only have seconds to take the photo and get them back on again because even with the inner woollen mitten on your fingers will freeze almost immediately.

When skiing it is not like a hike in the hills where even if tiring one can walk alongside friends, chat and admire the view. Here we are one behind the other and never speak as we go along. Every step is an effort with head down looking at the ski tips - left ski, right ski, I can do this, left ski... hour after hour. The weight of the sledge is like a brake so each time you move forward you are jerked backwards by the sledge and in some places the terrain is so rough with huge jumbled blocks of ice everywhere so you have to take the skis off and manhandle the sledge over the obstacles.

Eric does trips like this as a warm up for his real expeditions but is not only probably the most outstanding polar explorer of his generation but is also unfailing courteous and caring as well as being great company. In this incredible place I am acutely aware of the extremely fine line between success and tragedy. One mistake and you are literally finished. With Eric leading and looking after me I believe I will get there. Without Eric I am not sure that I would last more than a few hours out here.

The positive though is that this is the most incredible, breathtaking and untouched wilderness I have ever seen. Not a blade of grass, not a tree, not a bird or animal (other than polar bears - we keep loaded firearms by the sleeping bags at night) but just an endless, majestic white landscape to the horizon in every direction. I am so incredibly lucky to see this and to actually experience travelling though it on foot the hard way. More tomorrow...
  • Name: Camp 2
  • Elevation: 1 m
  • Latitude: 89° 1638North
  • Longitude: 132° 4643East


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    2017-04-11 00:30:15 Lindsay says: John dad is trying to comment on your blog every day but technology is failing him! He is thinking of you every day and trying to give you words of encouragement. He is in full admiration of you - as are we all. What a bucket list John. You are an inspiration! Travel safely x Lindsay
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    2017-04-07 15:26:51 Brett says: I'm onboard now, will be watching your every move. Hugely impressed and envious. Will be overhead you in about 10hrs flying from Chicago back to Dubes. I'll be looking down. Be safe.
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    2017-04-07 02:48:54 Jake says: Great feat of mindfulness! You'd blitz the course!! Sounds like you're making great progress!! If you keep up this speed, when do you estimate you'll get there? Keep staying safe and well. Loads of love. Xox Thanks, Erik for looking after John so well!!
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    2017-04-07 01:33:40 Guy Morgan says: Great commentary. I'm glad it's you and not me. Fantastic effort getting to camp each day. Stay steady and strong.
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    2017-04-07 01:29:08 Andrew says: Frozen undies sounds the most challenging bit ! Looks unbelievable.Bon courage John ,you can do it !
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    2017-04-06 21:32:04 Roddy says: JP, I am so impressed with your fortitude. Bon courage and enjoy the extraordinary experience. Travel safely both of you and look after each other as I'm sure you will....
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    2017-04-06 19:56:44 says: For tomorrow - go for it and enjoy, lucky people.stay safe. Greetings from Holland.
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    2017-04-06 19:46:35 Lorenz says: incredible pictures!!!!! i would be glad to join You!!! Eric is really a great guide! go for it and enjoy it!!!

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