Amelia, April 2010: “We've been together three and a half years now and planning this trip for the last two. I think we both knew that the expedition was likely to be a make-or-break point for us, […] but it’s a real boost to our relationship.”
courtesy Dan Darley and Amelia Russell, SOURCE
At only 20 years old, Tessum became the youngest yet to ski from land to the North Pole.
courtesy Tessum Weber, SOURCE
David Pierce Jones - North Pole arrival April 14th 2010.
courtesy David Pierce Jones
The North Pole: how to get there according to David, Tessum, and Amelia
Posted: Apr 13, 2012 10:36 pm EDT
(Newsdesk) Veteran athletes in their respective sports are often used by media for sports commentary. Watching the fails on the Arctic ocean in the past two years, what would veteran North Pole skiers chat about?
In Part 1 David shared his Arctic Golden Rules. Today a few more notes from him with Amelia and Tessum chiming in.
Tessum is the youngest NP skier yet. As for Amelia, when she and Dan Darley were dropped at Cape Discovery among all the veteran skiers shooting for the pole at the time, the Banker and his MD girlfriend were decidedly the rookies. Incredibly the two made it without guides or resupplies.
But first, some finishing words from Dave.
David: Separate your fuel from the rest of your gear using foam pads and ideally a separately watertight molded part of your sled.
Don't wear stupid or inappropriate boots; just buy some from Weber Arctic.
Likewise for tents, skis and bindings, and windsuits.
I am unbiased, really, I just don't like frostbite.
Don't allow people to pretend they've been to the North Pole when in fact they've been to where the Magnetic North Pole used to be in the 1990s... The same way there is a difference between summitting Everest and visiting Base Camp...
And don't listen to people who make claims to the Media about what they're going to do before they've done it, listen to people who have done it first, and talk after...
There is no substitute for Experience.
Contrary to popular belief, I believe a successful Last Degree trip is more useful experience than an unsuccessful inexperienced first full attempt lasting a few days.
If you would want to do it solo, then do it solo.
Go to the Dentist before you leave home.
Don't wash your face the last few days before leaving Resolute, this means there's oil in your pores instead of water, which for me seems to help protect against frostbite.
Put Musk Ox fur in your gloves
Watch out for facial lumps from Weird solar radiation and/or incomplete fat digestion.
Test fire your shotgun before it's too late.
Ziplock bag your iPod close to your body.
Warm your Satphone before taking it out of its ziplock to minimize condensation-inner pocket of your fleece.
It is normally best to avoid thin ice.
Don't let a little thing like an Icelandic Volcano Ash Cloud stop you getting home.
Amelia: Good list David! Very comprehensive. I'd agree with almost all of them, from our experience.
I'd also add.... Do take aluminium poles; don't take carbon poles, with long cork grips if you can get them.
Do warm up duct tape over the stove before you use it, otherwise it won't stick.
Invest in a good dry suit. A cheaper dry suit that leaks adds weight and is eventually completely useless. Staying dry is definitely worth the £2000-£3000 (ish) that Helly Hansen will charge. Make sure it's long enough that you can bend down in it and wide enough that you can wear your boots inside.
Take a camp chair - your back will appreciate it and it doubles up as insulation under your feet.
Keep your group together.
David: Thanks Amelia!
Good ones, if people just shared like this there'd be a lot more of a success knowledge base.
Tessum & the full Choir
Tessum: David, this is great!
Amelia: I did see that there's a speed team going - have been looking on ExWeb every day - I wonder if they're going carbon neutral, vegetarian etc etc as well :) [Ed note Apr 14: This comment was made in jest and referring to the comedy film "Beyond the Pole" about two hapless Brits who are trying to get to the pole and meet some Norwegians who are unsupported, unassisted, vegetarian and carbon neutral, and are still going very fast! Amelia and David both saw the film and found it very funny. It is not based on any real expeditions!] It seems that everyone's being held up by weather delays again, which is a shame.
David: Hey Tessum, add some more!
Amelia: Tyler Fish and John Huston also told us to "enjoy March - because in April the weather turns bad". We did enjoy March, but assumed that April would be even better as the sleds would be lighter, more daylight, warmer etc. As you know the weather got a lot worse, so I'd definitely suggest enjoying March - those days are the ones I remember as being the best. Lovely sunshine, good progress, not too much open water....happy days!
Tessum: Warm up the rubber o-ring on the fuel pump with the match and candle before turning the stove on. Lighters barely work at -50°C!
The fuel bottle will leak if you don't do this - the o-ring contracts with the cold. Good way to avoid tent fires.
David: Add sport insoles to your boots, help insulate a bit, but mainly help avoid your feet going up one size by the end of the trip...
Amelia: We had possum fur insoles - very cozy. And good point on the fuel pumps Tessum (we kept them inside jackets at all times, even at night, so they never got cold - and not a single one failed)
David: Re spare ski poles, at least one per person, I broke two...
One thing potentially for a hypothetical next time would be having the internal waterproof sled bag be big enough to put Outside the sled for lead crossings, very useful if your sled has a split...
And definitely mould or glue in a separate sealed fuel area at the back of the sled.
And perhaps some kind of attachment points on the sides of the sleds to attach sleeping pads as stabilizing "outriggers" for lead crossings with overloaded sledges
And with a resupply: fuel drop separate chute to food drop!!
Tessum: Only thing is that the pads would get wet though... And the sled bag material would have to be a heavier material than presently used.
David: Yes, but do you remember crossings at the end with a lot of weight in one non-leaky sled? And the ice cracks off the foam easy enough! I mean, those sleds were amazing the punishment they took and the impacts they survived, amazing!
Amelia: The problem with submerging the bags is that any material ends up absorbing water which ends up freezing before it can get out. I'm sure that happened to our dry suits - even when "dry" (and with the knee and elbow pads cut off as they got huge ice blocks trapped under them) they gained a significant amount of weight - must have been 6-7kg each before we chucked them a few days before the end.
Two years ago this time David, Amelia and Tessum were skiing to the North Pole from Canada; David and Tessum with guide Richard Weber and mate Howard Fairbank, and Amelia with her now-husband, Dan Darley.
Richard Weber’s team reached the North Pole from Cape Discovery on April 14th, 2010 in 41 and a half days. They got one resupply.
Dan Darley and Amelia Russell were unguided and did not receive resupplies. They reached 90°N on April 25, 2010 after 59 days on the ice. In the past six years only 4 people reached the North Pole without help.
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