2010 – Frobisher Bay
18th March 2010 – Day 8 – Ian Belcher
Well, here we are at the end of our final day of advanced polar training. After a beautifully still night littered with glimmering stars and stunning Aurora, we awoke to a complete change with the previous calm being replaced by a strong wind and cloudy sky. The wind added a certain bite to the temperature and we all felt the sting as we struck camp and headed into the wind toward Iqaluit. The plan for today was simple, walk to near Iqaluit, set up camp and explore the boulder ice. What has not been mentioned on previous dispatches, but what might have been deduced by the more nautical amongst you, is that the ice we are skiing on is influenced by the tidal flow of the sea it is sat upon. What this essentially means is that for the last eight days the ice has been going up and down in time with the incoming and outgoing tides. The effect of this is a sight to behold with towering walls of ice lining most of the coastline at low tide and broken ice boulder fields present at high tide – some of the boulders were much taller than the team members! It was these boulder fields we spent the day learning how to ski through both with and without a pulk. The reason for this training is that this type of boulder ice is quite prevalent on the Arctic Ocean so it is key that we know what to expect and how to negotiate it. This was a new experience for us all and certainly highlighted just how difficult travelling through sea ice can be. The training has now sadly come to an end and we are all safely housed in the Discovery Lodge in Iqaluit. It was an incredible experience that brought our competence levels and experience much closer to that of fully fledged Polar Explorers. Farewell for now and thank you for following our progress.
17th March 2010 – Day 7 – Claire Mcaleer
After a rather chilly night last night the team were all up this morning by 6.00am and found it to be a beautiful morning with clear blue skies and a spectacular sunrise. So many of us chose to sit outside and eat our breakfast whilst enjoying the view. We packed up camp and set off skiing with our pulks behind us ready to tackle a full day of skiing aiming to cover at least 16km. Ali set a brisk pace and we soon got quite warm despite the low air temperature. After a brief stop at 10.00am for some nose bag food we pushed on another 2 hours stopping at 12.00pm for a well deserved break and with 9km already under our belts. On nearing Deception Reef Ian took over as pace setter and we turned northwards heading for Monument Island. On turning away from the sun and slightly more into the wind there was a noticeable bight to the air and we made sure our faces were suitably covered. After another break and having covered 12.5km Jim took over as pace setter and we continued onwards with the town of Iqaluit becoming clearer in the distance as we moved towards it. Just before the team reached Monument Island Jim decided it was time to play casualty to give us a bit of a challenge and broke away from the rest of the team, heading off in a random direction and throwing away his gloves and hat. It didn’t take us long to realise that this was something more than Jim’s usual crazy behaviour and the team set about dealing with the situation. Simon and Ian went to catch up with Jim and calm him down, while Lee sorted out the pulks and equipment, Ali made a hot drink and started the stove for warmth and Dom and I put up the tent for some shelter. It soon transpired that Jim had been hypoglycaemic and with a hot drink and some chocolate he was back to his usual self. Challenge completed. With one tent up the team decided to pitch camp just south of Monument Island. Having achieved our target distance and covered 16.5km today, we have just had the privilege of watching a spectacular sunset over the ice and with low temperatures again tonight are getting ready for a hot meal and then bed.
16th March 2010 – Day 6 – Ali Kershaw
Having awoken at about 6.00am to wind and snow, it appeared that yesterday’s stormy forecast was finally materialising. As no one else seemed to be up and about camp I went back to my cosy sleeping bag and made a coffee. As the wind wasn’t showing any signs of disappearing we made the decision to wait it out and all stayed holed up in our tents. It’s good training for us to appreciate what it’s like to be tent bound during an Arctic storm. Firstly it’s difficult to stay warm as you can’t move around and generate heat, secondly it’s important not to over use the stoves, as it’s tempting to make another hot drink and fuel is a scarce commodity. Finally it’s the frustration; it’s not long before you’ve read your only book and rearranged your pockets and kit and there’s nothing else to do but chat with your tent buddy and wait it out. Thankfully we were only tent bound until about 3.00pm today as Lee, my tent buddy, had managed to sleep for 20 hours straight and as such had been rubbish entertainment! Finally at 3.00pm we set off for a few hours ski and managed to cover about 7km with the wind behind us, -25° and the sun over our shoulder. As the views were so spectacular various photos and videos were taken along the way and finally as the sun went down we again made camp in the middle of Frobisher Bay. Tonight feels quite cold, -40° with the wind chill so I am writing this in the tent and hope to wake tomorrow to a still and sunny day. Love to everyone back home from all of us.
15th March 2010 – Day 5 – Simon Lewis
Last night brought the predicted wind and snow, so as a result we awoke to a rather hostile sounding environment. After a swift recce by Jim we decided to have a lie-in to see if the wind would abate. It did during the course of the morning and with Jim cheating by ringing for a forecast, we discovered stronger winds were predicted, gusting to 60 kilometres per hour so with a majority vote we elected to stay put, but with the requirement to realign the tents for a change in wind direction. Lee and Dom moved our tent whilst Ian, Mini, Ali and me gassed for a few hours. No wind arrived but Jim made the call again only to discover the wind was due later. After a quick confab we decided to move the camp to an alternative bay and at 2pm we left on a swift several kilometre ski led skilfully by Ian. Having now put the tent up for the second time today we were treated to Ali having a semi naked snow bath as a late afternoon entertainment. Spirits in the camp are excellent, we have all benefited greatly from the additional skills Jim has imparted on us over the last few days. With the temperature hovering around a balmy -13C and a rather bland sounding chicken and rice dinner to finish off a stop/start kind of day, I sign off in advance of another potentially windy night.
14th March 2010 – Day 4 – Lee Howell
Woke up around 6:20am and by 07:00hrs all were up, dressed and eagerly anticipating the day ahead, much relieved that our bear practice drill yesterday was not needed overnight. Phone calls home to say “happy Mother’s Day” were a great bridge back to reality and it was so nice to hear voices of loved ones, albeit briefly. After a brief period taking photos for our sponsors we put on skis and made tracks into a beautiful sunny day, sunglasses on for protection from the dazzling sun, warming up to a balmy -10C. We have selected our location for our cold water immersion and before our eyes a magnificent vista appeared of wonderful natural ice sculptures – the highlight of our training so far. Tension built within the team as we nervously anticipated the cold Arctic depths. Stripping off to our base layers we headed out to meet Jim who had a knowing look in his eyes and a rope around his arm ready to rescue us. Cameras ready, the moment had arrived, we skied onto the waters edge and into the ice cold water. It really is as cold as you imagine. Every one of us was pleased we had experienced something during our training that hopefully we won’t experience in reality on the ice. To celebrate Ali had bought some miniature alcohol bottles that were quickly consumed and with warm clothes, some chocolate and a good team chat we were a happy team again. Jim found some open water leads and showed us how to cross them, then, given the snow and high winds forecasted for tomorrow, we made our tents storm proof and closed down for the night. A memorable day.
13th March 2010 – Day 3 – Dom Larose
After a much warmer night, we awoke to the snow Jim described in the last dispatch. After a pleasant breakfast, hot blueberry and granola (tastes so good out here) and brief musing of what might be happening at home, the rugby sweepstake will have to get settled next week. We set about the day’s chores; our first training exercise included fanning out from our position to locate the best direction for a runway. On a real expedition we will get picked up by a twin otter aircraft on skis. As well as visibility, wind and precipitation concerns we need to ensure an obstruction free landing strip of about 1200 feet. Picking a strip with an ice boulder or a major crack would not be good and is not unknown. Having established our runway we then marked it out, exercise complete. Sadly no plane to whisk us away to a frothy latte appeared. We then made steady progress with Lee setting the pace and Claire navigating. We had our first experience of boulder ice and picking our way through, we also came across refrozen sea ice. Jim tested the ice with Lee, Claire and Simon following after which we quickly moved on and completed 7km before striking camp. As I write we are now near an area of open water so Jim will be able to complete our cold water immersion training tomorrow, all being well. I have been nervously anticipating this for years ever since my polar dreams began and it seems that I am not alone, in fact it could well be that Jim wants me out of the way for some peace and quiet from the volume of nervous questions about cold water immersions! On that note it appears that another snowy night awaits and so I will sign off with love to all expedition members, friends and family back home – goodnight.
12th February 2010 – Day 2 – Jim McNeill
After a cold night we woke at 0600 and slowly but surely struck camp, with the team hoping to improve the process before we left at around 0900. Tea for 10 minutes and then adjusted ourselves, a few alternations to gear and skis and clothing, then on for an hour. After this break we talked about hypothermia with a view to having a full “walk through” scenario in the following 30 minutes. The team handled this very well. We continued southerly across the bay towards Hill Island. Quick chat about bear encounters and the rest of the day we spent travelling. It’s quite cold at -25 but fortunately no wind. Pitching camp we made special effort to ensure that it was wind proof. Good learning atmosphere and teams beginning to work very well. As night approached we could see the snow approaching and by morning had several inches of fluffy snow and so cold temperatures to match, in other words, in had warmed up considerably.
11th February 2010 -Day 1 – Jim McNeill
Got to Iqualuit at around 1400 and then Matty’s at around 1500. Went to work preparing to go out, packing pulks and sorting clothing and equipment. Eventually after a lovely cup of tea and quick demo of tents, which were new to the team, by Matty, we said our farewells and skied off into the night. With little light left we pitched camp not quite 9km from our start point. Coldish night.
5th February 2010 – Day 12 – Claire Mcaleer
N78 11 34
E16 03 18
Distance travelled 12.1km
Well here we are at our last campsite on the penultimate day of our training expedition. It definitely seems like we are coming back to civilisation now. Having not been able to see any light at night other than starlight for the previous few days, tonight we can see the lights of Longyearbyen in the distance and even the mine that had become clear at the start of our expedition is now behind us, seen as an orange glow halfway up the mountain.
Marcus is leader today and decided on a relaxed style of leadership which apparently makes miracles work as even myself and Yolanda had our tents down and our pulks packed ready to go ahead of schedule. It snowed during the night so we all woke with a nice dusting of snow on our tents this morning and the skies continue to be overcast all day today such that even after the day got lighter our surroundings were distinctly grey and eerie still.
These conditions make it difficult to judge the contrast of the terrain ahead but as usual we ploughed ahead at a steady pace led by Ali our navigator at the front. Over the last 10 days we have definitely become more skilled at pulling our pulks at a steady pace and today while skiing next to Ali and looking back at the rest of our team skiing in formation I felt really proud of what we have achieved.
As the valley opened up on the route home we had our closest encounter yet of several caribou. It was at this point that Howard had decided to delay our progress home by getting us to simulate skiing in whiteout conditions by tying up to together in our lines and staying close to the person ahead of you. The caribou watched for a while before heading off uninterested and we continued to experiment with ways of tying ourselves together.
The grey conditions also made distance perception rather tricky today and it was slightly bewildering to find that although we could see the spot we were heading for quite early on in the day it never seemed to get any closer until a few hours later all of a sudden we arrived.
We have reached the road back to town now and decided to make camp next to an old disused building which would once have been used when the mining industry here was more active. Simon has built a Taj Mahal style luxury snow latrine to celebrate our last night camping.
Tomorrow we will trek the last 7km back to the guesthouse where I’m sure there will be lots of queues for the showers where we can all get ourselves properly clean. I think everyone’s looking forward to getting back for a nice meal that is not rehydrated and a warm bed with no bear watch to wake up for. The mood of the team is buoyant, we’ve all learned a lot and I think it’s safe to say that we have all enjoyed ourselves and worked well together.
In case this is the last diary entry I’d like to say a few ‘thank yous’ to our staff, Howard, Em and Mary for keeping us safe and happy and to the rest of the team who have shared this experience with me, thanks for being such a great bunch of people and here’s to many more years of adventure and exploration.
4th February 2010 – Day 11 (under Trango and/or Marmot) – Ness Lindsay
N78 11 09.8
E16 16 26.7
Distance travelled 10.9k – average speed 2.9km per hour
From the dulcet tones of Lee snoring to the very cross and assertive wake up, or rather get up, call from Simon at 7am for our planned early 9am departure (I’m sure Simon enjoyed it a bit too much!) At least it had been a mild night, so getting up wasn’t too painful and with Lee as leader, leading from the top, it was already a big day. After a brief waking, a few friendly reminders from Howard about hygiene and shovels and final dashes to the loo, we were off just after 9.30am – our earliest departure to date.
After a couple of kilometres heading right and west up the valley and some animal spotting, it was to be decided whether it was an Arctic fox, wolf or caribou, Howard called us to a halt for a little hauling exercise. An hour and a half later, all pulks pulled to the top to with some over excited crevasse kit use. Howard then told us about a simpler and quicker way of getting up the slope. A lunch time bothy stop at the top and we were off again to find a spot to belay us down to the valley floor again. After a brief discussion, each team were sent off over the edge, some more briefly than others! Unfortunately there was a small omission of bringing down Howard’s skis and an ice axe – sorry Howard, we promise to make it up to you! With us quickly descending and Phil and Mark back navigating in front, we caught up some ks before finding camp for the night just after 5pm, having had time to add our own impromptu assault course down a slope and various freestyle methods of getting down it with the pulks at our heels, most involved getting acquainted with the snow!
The camp routine is getting slicker, more designer loos were erected, I never knew there were so many different ranges! It’s been a very mild night and it’s strange to be in sight of the lights of the coalmines and orange hue of Longyearbyen in the distance again. I’ll miss the starry skies, night-time lightshows, frozen snowy white valleys and hills. At last for me it’s time for an early bear watch then bed. It’s hard to believe there is only one more night on our snowy mattress and with our tent partners, what will I do without hot blackcurrant drinks made by Lee every morning? Oh well, I’ve got 20 hours to decide what my last rehydrated meal of this mini expedition will be – oh the dilemmas! Good night and sleep well all. p.s. Lee’s leadership tip of today “The leader is only as good as the people around him.”
3rd February 2010 – Day 10 – Ali Kershaw
N78 11 29
E16 30 37
Distance travelled yesterday10k. Getting up for bear watch is never a great feeling when you climb out of your toasty sleeping bag, but once you are out and a hot drink in hand it never feels too bad and last night’s shift was particularly enjoyable, as not only was the sky littered with more stars than I have ever seen but Dom and I were treated to two hours of nature’s very own lightshow with constant green dancing auroras which filled the sky. The two hours spent staring into space on reflection were probably not our most diligent bear watch to date but certainly one of the most enjoyable
Today has been another great day with clear skies most of the day and spectacular views around us. We packed up as usual and set off at Dom’s request, who is leader today and I think everyone was very pleased to get moving after last night, as it had been the coldest night we spent here so far.
With Mary and Mark setting a perfect pace for the group we climbed our way back up the valley we had passed through yesterday and sadly it’s time for us to head for home. I say sadly because the last few days have given everyone the chance to really see some beautiful scenery and I know many of us would have liked the chance to go further up the valley. However we were hampered at the beginning of our expedition by the bad weather and so last night’s camp will be our furthest for this trip
I think everyone enjoyed today’s walk, with perhaps the exception of poor Yolanda who wasn’t feeling great but battled on like the true team player she is and I know that everyone hopes the clear weather we have had for the last two days continues.
At about 4pm we started looking for a suitable stop to make camp and as we were looking we came to a stop where we could make out the movements of a large animal ahead, we lost sight of it in the darkness which was quite eerie put proceeded to prepare ourselves with flares at the ready and although we don’t know if it was a bear I for one will be slightly more nervous on bear watch tonight which will be from 3-5am. We’ve made camp and the usual hustle and bustle of camp can be heard from everyone sat in their tents. Stoves are roaring away heating water for dinner, drinks and water bottles; ice axes are chipping away to make room for ice screws and guy ropes; people are chatting, reading, or writing diaries and the occasional yell for a shovel or water can be heard.
So what have I learnt whilst I’ve been here? Well lots! But some thoughts I have for now are – I’ve learnt that I hate the wet cold ice on my sleeping bag in the morning, I’ve learnt I love walking through the spectacular scenery we are surrounded by, I’ve learnt I’m a lot happier in my own company when skiing single file than I thought I’d be. I’ve learnt that I miss daylight, I’ve learnt that I hate getting up for bear watch but I’ve learnt that I love the time on bear watch to appreciate my surroundings in silence whilst everyone else sleeps. I’ve learnt that if I spill my food and I can just wait for it to freeze and flick it off, I’ve learnt that dehydrated ration packs are a commodity that can be traded. I’ve learnt how much I miss Charlie, friends and family but most of all I’ve learnt that for me surviving in the cold is going to be a challenge but one that I’m keep to pursue. To me this has been the last big stepping stone on a 2 year plan of getting to the point where I can undertake a polar journey, although I know that it will be tough, I’m looking forward to the next step of my Arctic adventure.
2nd February – Day 9 – Louise Cameron
N78 12 46
E16 54 55
Distance travelled yesterday – 10.7kmTemperature -22°Centigrade
This is what it’s all about! Today, Day 9, was magical, really great! My excellently efficient tent mate Simon was team leader and more than rose to the challenge. He had us all in the meeting room (our big tent) by 9am, fed, watered, flasks filled and pulks packed for the morning greeting. An hour or so later we had tents down, were harnessed up and moving out, with Nessy (navigator) heading the charge and Simon leading from behind.
It was with mixed emotions that we left camp, as realisation dawned that a week today we will be back home and at our desks. Of course we can’t wait to see loved ones and friends (who are more and more in our thoughts as the days go by) and return to creature comforts (steak, red wine, showers, baths, beer and pizza, seem to be the most vocally missed!) As it was such an incredibly beautiful morning we also savoured the moment as we realised how special it is to be here.
At last the eternal twilight/night is lifting; we woke to a vast expanse of light blue from a cloud scattered sky and were teased by the suggestion of a sun behind a distant mountain. Which, combined with a nose dive in temperatures, (none of our thermometers seemed to work but this morning was noticeably colder with a bite in the air) and another good dusting of light powder snow last night, meant that we were all eager to get on the move and were in high spirits.
Nessy kicked out of camp at quite a pace, turning right (heading East) back into the valley. Adventdalen stretched out before us in all her magnificence – a rolling white wilderness of low mountains either side and a long, snaking, wide frozen river ahead and behind. Watching the group walking down the valley in parallel lines was an impressive and endearing sight; we are beginning to feel like the Ice Warriors we all hoped we might become.
Some six hours later we had made good ground passing through the Brentskaret and into the Eskerdalen Valley heading towards Sassendalen. We are beginning to work quite efficiently as a team now and only stopped for three short water, loo, and nosebag breaks today.
At 4pm having covered almost 11k at a speed averaging 2.7k an hour (it sounds slow but it really isn’t – on skis and the pulling part was uphill). We stopped to camp behind a pingo (knoll) and shelter from the wind. Already night was closing in and we needed head torches again.
Now it is 9pm and camp is quite apart from the crunch of bear watch feet outside. Skidoo tracks and an old mountain hut are the only signs of life out here along with reindeer trails.
After I’ve had my 4 hour turn under a galaxy of stars I’m going to snuggle down in my sleeping bag and bid goodnight. I’m going to fall asleep dreaming of my boys and hoping that tomorrow will bring another day like today…
Thank you Jim, Howard, Em, Mary and TEAM!
1st February 2010 – Day 8 – Phil Thompson
N78 11 16
E16 34 02
Distance travelled yesterday was 7.5km. An uncertain start to this morning as the weather changed through the night from still to blowy and then snowfall and then back again.
We were concerned the weather would not be good enough to allow us to continue on our route, however after waiting for the weather to settle the day remained as expected so the group took two 5 minute stops though the day as we pulled our pulks through the Adventdalen Valley delta floor. The highpoints of the day were glimpses of blue sky. The sun itself won’t be seen until the 18th February. The lowlight reflects off the snow causing strange and unusual formations, so much so that we debated whether a cloud was the northern lights or not. We had a great opportunity for building complex snow holes into the bank to outdo each other and impress the neighbours who were a bunch of reindeers. The team is settling into a routine with bear watches through the night. Administration around camp is improving. Setting up camp is straight forward although getting the job done is still slow but as we are working to the same pace we all finish more or less together. Last night we broke camp and a mistake was made when a stove fell on a Jerry Can soaking my sleeping bay, bivvy and most of my kit in petrol. We tried our best to keep my sleeping system working but today I found my lunch has been permeated by the fuel. That could make me very ill in the night or hopefully just give me a bad headache. Just bad luck!
31st January 2010 – Day 7 – Yolanda Nunez
N78 10 67.8
E16 14 59.8
We have experienced problems receiving Yolanda’s dispatch – we will update as soon as possible.
30th January 2010 – Day 6 – Marcus Liddiard
Today we escaped! We finally managed to leave the vicinity of Longyearbyne town and venture out into the wilderness, much to the relief of all the team.
The dawn broke with slightly cloudy skies, but with no wind so we were able to safely break camp and head off. To make the process slightly easier we had arranged with our local “fixer” called John to transport the pulks as far as possible by road and then we skied to that same point to pick up the pulks and pitch camp. We are now camping at approximately 8km from Longyearbyne town and have not quite been able to escape civilisation as on the mountain ridge behind us there is a large coalmine and there are a few local cabins scattered around. The large coalmine looks a bit like a bond villain’s lair with a couple of large radio telescopes. Our journey here was made alongside the road which is not very inspiring but it was great to get some distance on skis under our belts and everyone seemed to cope very well (although it will be interesting to see how achy we are in the morning!) The plan is to progress up the Adventdalen Valley before heading up one of the valleys which join this one. However, this completely depends upon the weather.
The forecast tomorrow is for strong winds and snow which could stop us in our tracks. Hopefully it will be wrong and we will make some progress. It will be great to get to a place where we can see no artificial lights and are not interrupted by snowmobiles.
29th January 2010 – Day 5 – Lee Howell
A day of extremes in terms of temperature and weather conditions. A completely still, beautiful night, the full moon clearly visible in the dark blue sky. The only sound being the crunch of our feet on crispy snow and our breath entering the frosty air from our warm bodies. A few hours later we were in the middle of the wildest storm we could imagine. Tents buckled and bowed under the sheer force of the wind and shook until they seemed as though they could be shredded at any second. An experience of nature, beautiful but dangerous, how I love this place and the opportunity to experience the task upon us. From a practical perspective today was one of consolidation. The strong winds meant we could not risk damaging the tents by taking them down and moving on, so in typical polar exploration fashion we waited and waited for the wind to die down; no chance. It was only after we had made contingency plans for tomorrow that the winds began to fade away. Time for more cross-country skiing practice in the dark and preparing our camp routine for our third night out. It is incredible just how reassuring it is to see the cooking stoves splutter into life and provide the heat needed to boil water for rehydrating our meals and hot drinks, which has psychological as well as practical benefits. There is also a real sense of independence which comes from being self-sufficient. Everything we have and need is packed into our pulks and moved physically from place to place. We have yet to experience the isolation that comes with travelling long distances in single file but this will come, I’m sure. Our commitment to sponsors, friends and family spurs us on, along with our polar dreams and aspirations, which whilst are different for each of the team members we are as one in our desire to get as much from this training in order to prepare us for the challenge ahead.
28th January 2010 – Day 4 – Simon Lewis
We are having problems receiving Simon’s diary we will update as soon as possible.
27th January 2010 – Day 3 – Dom Larose
Despite high winds, we headed out this morning for the first time with fully laden pulks. The high winds / low temperature combination meant some challenges in preventing frostbite on faces, and the first kilometre or so featured many headgear adjustments!
With significant food on board, the pulks were noticeably heavier too which meant skill was required on downhill and effort uphill. A group of 15 people is also hard to pace but Marcus did a sterling job! After a while we got better at moving at a constant pace to stay warm.
After 3½ hours we reached the far end of Longyearbyen, the wind was howling so we erected the emergency shelter and had a brew and some food. We lost a Thermorest to the wind – not something we want to repeat and was a good lesson learnt. Whilst taking a break, we decided to go back to town and see how the conditions changed.
Some of us took the opportunity of last minute purchases – gloves for some, camp seats for others, boot liners for me. We then hauled our pulks all the way back to the Hostel, at which point the wind died down somewhat. The majority decided to head to the glacier to make camp, so off we went.
And so FINALLY! We made camp, pitched tents, storm proofed the tents, melted snow and prepared food. Camp making is very lengthy and we are still learning to speed this up, but it all makes us appreciate the dehydrated food more and keeps us warm.
The mood in camp is good – relief, anticipation and excitement rolled into one, now that we have got going after so many false starts. It is now 23.30 local time and I am on bear watch in 3.5hrs time so will go to sleep now and look forward to another day of adventures unknown tomorrow.
26 January 2010 Svalbard Guesthouse 102 – Day 2 – Lou Cameron
9am – Temperatures have dropped slightly to -2 degrees and there’s a good dusting of snow so we’re heading out which is a decision that has been welcomed by all. Due to high winds (41-50 knots/10m per second) the team vote was to head for a ski this morning and pitch camp later, hopefully in the snow! All feeling a bit sluggish with “bricks” in our stomachs after our first morning of monstrous rat pack porridge, but I’m sure these portions will be much appreciated when out on the ice in -30C burning thousands of calories. Jim says he burns up to 8.5k on expedition a day so our 3.5k daily expedition allowance may seem a lot now but it won’t then.
12.15pm – Just back from a great ski practising up and downhill techniques ( “the herringbone” and “the grind”). Temperatures dropped to -6 and later to -11C but with the wind force which literally blew us over at points and along at great speed at others, it’s -20 with windchill (which dropped to -32 later). We’re now tucking into much appreciated coffee and nosebags with our wet gear tucked on the radiators. What a treat to be able to dry kit out. Our learning this morning was that you might feel seriously hot when working hard and burning up quite a sweat in your jacket but exposed skin might be cold and numb without you realising – ie cheeks. We girls have nearly all returned with frozen wind-chapped cheekbones just below the eye! It’s easy to see how you could get frostbite at -40C without knowing it. A neck gaiter (“buff”) is a must in these conditions.
3pm – After a debrief we’ve decided to hold off setting up camp today due to ferociously high winds (force 6-9) for fear of shredding tents, as these are the tents we’ll be taking on expedition with us. There was general frustration at still not being able to get out but once we all ventured outside for an emergency bivvy team exercise we respected Howard’s and Jim’s decisions… Think it’s fair to say none of us would want to pitch a tent while it’s blowing such a hooley.
5pm – Back inside, de-kitted and back to the meeting room for a talk and video session demonstration how and when to use the pen flares and Verry gun, and establishing camp rotas (bear watch, leader, navigator, diary writer). Staying in again tonight.
25 January 2010 – Day 1 – Ian Belcher
Here we are in Svalbard on day one of our training expedition. We have spent the last two weeks learning all of the skills required to survive in Arctic conditions and are thoroughly prepared to give it a go for real (under supervision of course!). Unfortunately the weather has been pretty poor today (Too warm at +2 degrees C and heavy rain) so we have not ventured out. The mood of the team is mixed, on the one hand we understand that the weather cannot be helped and it would be foolish to venture out in these conditions (limited or no training benefit and the potential of ruining some very expensive equipment) but on the other hand we are all very eager to use the skills we have learnt and prepare ourselves for the immense challenge we have ahead of us. The weather is set to improve tomorrow so we are optimistic that we can get the skis out and commence the journey through the Advendalen valley to the coast. Tonight we will eat our dehydrated meals in the guest house, which is not the way it is meant to be but such is life in the world of expeditions!
Images courtesy of Ian and Ali