(By Correne Coetzer) He was an active person before he broke his back, Sean Rose tells ExplorersWeb, “I was one of them people who thought they'd never cope, but when it did I soon realized, you can't turn back time Sean, so why worry about it!” Despite demoralizing pain, he kept on pursuing his dreams from his wheelchair.
Expedition leader Mike Dann [Ed note, correction Dann not Dunn as presiously written] sent over news about his, Sean, Kieron Jansch and Robert Brown’s plan to do a crossing of Iceland’s Vatnajokull Glacier, from Haalda to Jokulheimar, April 8-22, 2014.
Mike Kieron and Robert will be kite-skiing, on skis, while Sean will be using a special built ice buggy to kite with.
ExplorersWeb: Sean, when you broke your back, why did you carry on and not sit and feel sorry for yourself, what motivates you to have dreams and go for it? And what are the challenges in doing such an expedition?
Sean: As such an active person before my Accident, I was one of them people who thought they'd never cope, but when it did I soon realized, you can't turn back time Sean, so why worry about it!
I couldn't imagine dwelling in self pity would be a great place to be and the only thing I could alter was the future and being Happy - so it wasn't much of a choice in my mind. Obviously I had my down days, but that was more due to the pain than the use of my legs.
I was still the same person and from day one Sport was still a motivating factor for me and this continued throughout my recovery period, working out what I could still do and then trying them out. Sticking to the Sports and activities that still had me grinning ear to ear and I felt I could do with practice just as good as I did before my accident.
I've always been a dreamer and looking for the next challenge, I once heard, 'if your Dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough' and this Adventure scares me silly, that's why it needs to be conquered!
My Challenges on this trip are not as limiting as I once thought following the training trips we've had so far. On snow with a Kite I'm able to move around under power like everyone else, it's just when things go wrong, I'm not able to get up and back in position as easy or rectify issues with the Kite which sometimes requires my Teammates to be close at hand.
Setting up and moving around camp is easiest to just drag myself around on the floor, so I've got to be careful checking for pressure sores or developing frostbite as I don't feel how cold my skin’s getting below my injury level!
Everything else is generally do-able but more difficult, the hardest thing for me to overcome is asking for assistance when I need it! But on a trip like this I'll need to and we have a great Team I'm confident will be able to cope with every eventuality! The only area we can't control is the weather...
ExplorersWeb: Mike, how do you organize your expedition differently when you have a team mate with a spinal injury? Favorite three pieces of gear/clothes?
Mike: It has been a really learning experience to organize an expedition for a team with a team member who cannot walk. I have had to learn from Sean what he can and cannot do rather than basing decisions on my own prejudices.
There are certain task Sean struggles with more than an able bodied person such as building snow walls around the tent or fetching equipment from the sleds and he struggles to re-launch his kite himself after a wipeout. We also have to be even more careful than normal about frostbite as Sean has no feeling below his injury so would not know if he had frostbite without a visual inspection.
In practical terms this doesn’t really change much in terms of how we operate as a team on the ice. The main difference is that, when we are traveling on the glacier, two team members pull pulks whilst a third team member has no pulk and stays near Sean to help re-launch his kite if he has a wipeout.
When setting up camp Sean’s role is inside the tent melting snow, cooking meals and setting up our sleeping bags rather than outside the tent preparing the camp.
Its important to remember that Sean has a huge amount of practical knowledge that really adds value to the team. He a very good navigator, is good at rope work and is great for team moral as he has a hugely optimistic outlook which is infectious.
My favorite pieces of equipment are really simple. Merino underwear is an absolute must for me and I never go on a trip without it. Crawling into an expedition down sleeping bag at the end of the day is one of the simplest pleasures in life and my Scarpa Maestrale Ski boots which are the first ski boots I have had in which you can actually walk when they are set in walk mode.
ExplorersWeb: Kieron, what type of kites do you make? What materials do you use? Where are they available?
Kieron: In recent years I have been making what are known as "ram air foils" with a "de-power" bridle system. In normal language that means I make snow-kites, of exactly the sort we will be using during our expedition.
The difference between mine and commercially available kites is that each of mine is unique, and has a different graphic sewn in to the top and bottom of the canopy (using 45 gsm ripstop nylon). As a result each one takes something in the order of 250 to 300 hours to make, and so they're not really available for sale, as each one, at say £25 per hour for labour, would be more money than most people are prepared to pay!
As I'm also a filmmaker, I have taken to filming the process of each build, and the films have proven just as popular as the kites. This is the most recent of my kite making films and follows the construction of a 12m snow-kite with a Family Guy theme: https://vimeo.com/29214288
ExplorersWeb: Robert, your top three tips for snow kiters?
Robert: Dress lightly, snowkiting uses a lot of effort and you get hot quickly, even in very cold weather.
Carry a GPS with spare batteries when you ride backcountry, it is easy to get lost in a white-out.
Know the terrain, obstacles like cliffs, rocks, and crevasses have the potential to really spoil your day.
The team says they are doing this both to overcome a challenge and to do something extraordinary, and to raise awareness of spinal injuries and highlight the benefit that sports, and kitesports in particular, can bring to both able bodied people and those with disabilities. On personal levels the team members share a love of kitesports and have a strange attraction to cold, remote and snow covered locations.
Read more on the “4 People, 6 Legs” website about the team, the buggy, the route, the glacier and other info.
ExWeb interview with Jaakko Heikka, “Vatnajökull is a great destination for a little expedition”
4 People, 6 Legs pages:
#polar #vatnajokullglacier #iceland #kiteski #buggy #mikedann #seanrose #kieronjansch #robertbrown