(Correne Coetzer/Tina Sjogren) Once again the North Pole has eluded full distance skiers. It's the second consecutive year so here goes thoughts and tips from three skiers who did it.
Two years ago this time David Pierce Jones, Amelia Russell Darley and Tessum Weber were on their way to the North Pole.
David, Tessum and mate Howard Fairbank were guided by Richard Weber. Amelia went with her now-husband, Dan Darley, unguided and unsupplied.
First out today, David Pierce Jones shares his advice for success. Some of it is bound to upset the Norwegian part of the Arctic tribe but hey, whatever works. Here is Dave.
Arctic Golden Rules
by David Pierce Jones
"The Hardest Trek on the Planet" in Richard's words (and he should know, having been there more often than any other human) the Geographic North Pole has now been reached by a hundred people using human power. Of those, twenty have also summited Everest, and of those nineteen have also reached the South Pole. I'm the one who hasn't.
The North Pole is not Everest, nor is it the South Pole. In my experience it is not harder than Everest, nor easier. As for the South Pole, I haven't been there.
Here are a few Golden Rules to help get you there:
Go on Weber Arctic's Polar Training Program. I believe It is a serious false economy in time and money not to. Expeditions that follow his advice have a significantly higher chance of success than those that don't. I am not biased, just realistic.
Read ExWeb Archives, especially the Expeditions that ended early, understand why; then do it differently. Emulate the successes and learn from the experiences of others. In no other field of Human Endeavour have I seen so many people avoiding learning from the experiences of others. Human Progress in all fields be it Scientific, Cultural, or Exploration is spectacularly good when we accept to stand on the shoulders of Giants.
Turn your outer mitts hole down when you take them off, like a hot air balloon, this will make them less cold when you put them back on.
Do not remove the heel plate on your snowshoes to save weight, they are there for a reason, to stop your heel overextending.
Wear insoles with arch support.
Campsite choice is important - old ice to avoid cracking and salt, horizontal snow, leeside of old ridge, good snow for making a snow wall and melting, after 41 days you will start to agree as a team on what constitutes a good spot.
Learn to ski before you go.
Choose your team mates carefully.
Don't expect exhilaration at the end, it just looks the same as the day before, and the day before that...
Don't have a knee operation just before leaving, or need one just after getting home.
Avoid dislocations of knees and shoulders, but don't worry too much, somehow you don't feel pain anywhere near as much as you should.
Rehab during expedition is not ideal; your thighs will only be large and strong enough to keep up speed the second half of the Expedition.
Take cask strength whisky, it freezes less easily, is 60% carbohydrate, so not inefficient (carrying that particular 400g of water is the least wasted effort I ever made) it is a great vasodilator, and not exactly bad for morale, most especially mixed with hot powdered milk and Maple butter, the famous "Weber Cocktail"!
Use caffeine tablets.
Use enzyme pills lipase.
Never sweat, just don't. It'll freeze and then you'll be in trouble.
Two layers of underwear under your windsuit are enough even at -55.
Take a pair of White gloves for toilet duty - better than frostbite or contaminated inner gloves... Practice at home.
Take two foam pads, your thermarest may well break. Also my teammate Howard had a great idea how to use their buoyancy as bridges.
VBL sleeping bag liners are horrible, but use them anyway.
Same for VBL socks, they're great for keeping sweat in, even better for keeping seawater out if you just put your foot in, which you will.
Don't take mountaineering tents
Do cook inside your (porous shelled) tent.
Fleece clothes good, down clothes bad.
Take spare poles, bindings, not having spares and repairs is not a valid excuse to bail.
Take candles to start stoves.
Leave your food outside at night.
Only bring your sleeping bags inside last thing, after you have turned stoves off and had last pee.
Never roll or stuff your sleeping bags, you will crush the "snow" inside the down into ice, just gently fold them and place them in the top of your sledbag.
Don't tow skis, they're a real pain; strap them on top of your sled.
Don't deflate or roll your thermarest, in fact try not to even open the valve during the expedition, you will ice it up. Just let it cool down and shrink, then fold it, and put it in your sled bag. It will deflate with your body warmth the next night.
Don't use South Pole sleds.
Use a rucksack, not a harness; you can distribute weight better, which helps when leaning forward to pull a load, and when transferring gear across leads.
Strap your foam pads across your backpack horizontally at waist level, they float, which can be useful.
Minimize your rest days, but do take them.
Eat fat, not carbs.
Get warm at least once a day.
Don't let your pee bottle freeze.
Have treats in your resupply, anything, steak, cheesecake, wine, you won't have to carry it!
Do not face the wind, except when crappng.
Don't get a Urinary infection; each time you stop to pee costs you 100-200 meters, 19 times a day is 3km behind your team mates.... If I went again I would take (non-Cipro) antibiotics prophylactically.
Take some thin fleece layers, thick ones are too annoying, except at day’s end, when they are great as an "evening jacket"
Watch out for long clouds, they mark huge open leads, which you want to avoid, trust me...
Be careful of new and full moons, especially at perigee, you are travelling on an ocean, and it has tides, which cause horrible cracking, moving and rubble.
The Weather will change significantly at Equinox 21/22 March when the Pole gets 24h sunlight, and April 1st when you do.
Take the time to say goodbye to everyone you love before you go, especially the older generation, some of them may die while you're away, and you will miss their funeral.
Don't just fly in at the last minute. Spend time in Yellowknife and Resolute Bay acclimatizing to the cold and testing gear.
Every day, think hard about what you can throw away - fleece trousers, head torch, inner sleeping bag, you will be so happy for every gram...
Don't call for an Emergency Rescue unless you've actually had an Emergency and need a Rescue.
Make sure the Group Gear is actually split equally, and keep it that way.
Don't take on extra group gear to make sure you "pull your weight" and another team member doesn't.
The first three days are the hardest, it is the coldest, darkest, heaviest; the sleds don't slide when it's really cold, and there's a lot of ice rubble piled up against Canada.
If you make it to day four, then you can make it.
[Check here for Part 2 with more from David and additions by Amelia and Tessum]
David stated, “These are my thoughts based on my experience. Anyone is free to use my ideas, and repost as much as he/she likes, as long as credit is given to me. Three quarters of the tips are mine alone, and the other quarter I learned from Richard, who has approved their publication.”
Richard Weber, Howard Fairbank, Tessum Weber and David Pierce Jones reached the North Pole from Cape Discovery on April 14th, 2010 in 41 and a half days. They got one resupply and used no kites or dogs.
Dan Darley and Amelia Russell did not receive resupplies or use kites or dogs. They reached 90°N on April 25, 2010 after 59 days on the ice. In the past six years only 4 people have reached the North Pole without help.
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