(By Correne Coetzer, edited Dec. 4, 2014 01:34 EST, to reflect caption correction) Several teams have already planned to ski from Canada to the Geographic North Pole in the 2015 and 2016 Arctic seasons. Since the Canadian logistics operator, Kenn Borek Air, has announced that they stop supporting North Pole skiers starting from Canada in the foreseeable future, the adventurers have a "serious problem”, as one of them put it to Explorersweb. What now, the skiers want to know.
Exweb checked it with Victor Boyarsky in Moscow, the owner of VICAAR, who specializes in organizing logistical support services for adventurers in the Polar regions, and in particular for full route North Pole skiers, who are in the crisis at the moment.
Boyarsky gives a pre-history of the Russian start. He also explains what support VICAAR offers to skiers from the Canadian side, what logistic support they offer from the Russian side, how to get to the Russian start point(s) and what medical and rescue insurance are required.
Prehistory of the Russian Start
"For your better understanding of situation I will tell you shortly a prehistory of the Russian Start to the Geographic North Pole (from Cape Arkticheskiy 81.2 N and 095.5 E approximately)."
"This point was used for fuel storage to supply helicopters flying up North. (We had a tank there for fuel and a little wooden cabin.) In 1992 (before Barneo station was launched for the first time) we made the first commercial flight to the Pole with 3 helicopters and 12 tourists. Since the first season of Barneo (1993), we usually delivery certain amount of fuel to Arcticheskiy and made a stopover there for refueling the helicopters on the way to Barneo and back.”
"In 1995 three teams started from there to the North Pole with the intention of crossing the ocean (Messner, Steger, myself and South Korean team), then my company was involved with providing logistics for all skiing expeditions starting from his cape.”
"We based a meteorological station, located about 200 km south from Arkticheskiy, and then delivered teams to the start point, keeping helicopters on stand by at the base at least for two full days - just in case of emergency.”
"During 2000-2007 we had about 10 expeditions started from there. Then, due to rapidly increasing costs for charter helicopters and worsening ice conditions near the Cape, this place was not in use. Now, it seams that we can have comeback."
”I plan to move the start point to Cape Lokot (about 70 km south east from Cape Arkticheskiy, since ice conditions are much better for start from there and our new base will be at a recently reopened Russian scientific base on Cape Baranov (180 km south from Cape Lokot.)"
"We expect that logistics for such an option will be easier and cheaper. We hope to get updated quotations for an air company soon and then will be ready to make certain commercial proposals, hopefully using also effective resources of Explorersweb!”
Vicaar’s logistic support to skiers from Canada
Explorersweb has made inquiries at airlines flying in the Canadian/Greenland Arctic regions, asking if they would step in for Kenn Borek, but this far no one plans to. As for VICAAR, the logistic support they offer for skiers from the Canadian side Boyarsky explains, "only what we can and will do is to provide evacuation for them from the Geographic North Pole to Longyearbyen and possible rescue operations in the area from the Pole to 86 North (Canadian) within the time frame of April 1-25 while Barneo camp is on duty."
Vicaar’s logistic support from Russia
As for skiers from the Russian side, historically it is VICAAR who provided full logistic services. Since 2007 starting from Russia, no one has completed a full route or partial ski route (i.e. airlifted across x-number of kilometres at the start). "Such a long break was caused by much higher costs of logistics for delivering teams to Cape Arkticheskiy, compared to the Canadian option,” explains Boyarsky.
"Nowadays it seems that costs could be lowered. I have purchased and stored fuel for the helicopters and have it in place (at the key point of the entire logistic chain) and am ready for the coming season."
The two basic ski start points that VICAAR offers are Cape Lokot and Cape Arkticheskiy (as explained above, preferably Cape Lokot). To get there, skiers have to fly by regular passenger airplane to Saint Petersburg (Moscow) from where it is a 9-hour flight to Khatanga. From Khatanga it is a 6-hour helicopter flight to Cape Baranov, which serves as a base for the drop off at Cape Lokot.
Boyarsky explains that there is a stay-over in a hotel in Khatanga for two or three days before heading to Cape Baranov for one to two days [as usual, all weather permitting].
A reasonable period of start would be between February 25 and March 3, he states.
Medical and rescue insurance
As was required from Kenn Borek, insurance cover is also very important from the Russian side.
The deadline for anyone to get the Geographic North Pole is April 25 or 26, when Barneo is usually shutting down. In case a client will not be able to reach the Pole before this date, he/she will be obligatory evacuated by helicopter from Barneo and further by plane to Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, says Boyarsky. "Such an operation must be considered as emergency evacuation and must be covered by Insurance - so a client must have such possibility in mind while signing the contract with insurance company."
"Medevac insurance has to cover 250,000 Euros to pay for possible rescue as from Russian coast in the area up to 84 North and from Barneo if emergency situation occurs higher then 84 North. Every client has to have such policy - we are not providing that."
Barneo Ice Camp is a temporary base camp that is build at approximately 89ºN every Spring under the auspices of the Russian Geographic Society to support the skiers doing partial expeditions (e.g. last degree) and full route skiers departing from or arriving at the Geographic North Pole.
[Edit Dec. 4, 2014 01:34 EST, caption correction: Previously ExWeb wrongly reported that in 2005 VICAAR managed to get the permits for a Frans Josef Land (FJL) expedition, commemorating an 1874 expedition. Christoph Höbenreich sent word to ExWeb that he, as initiator and leader of the 2005 Payer-Weyprecht-Memorial FJL expedition, had managed to organize and get the permits. Hoebenreich involved his Austrian president and contacted Russia’s President Putin in a 5 year struggle to get the permits. Boyarsky was invited to participate and VICAAR was the logistics provider. Read more about this expedition here.
Höbenreich added that the first commercial ski-last-degree trip of VICAAR was their “Austropol“, which they organized together in 1997. Victor managed the permit and logistics and was lead guide, Christoph brought the team.]
The North Pole is over: all teams to be evacuated (Canada 2014)
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