We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2006. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.
And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in the year of 2006.
Today number 3: Rune Gjeldnes - Antarctic crossing
Rune is not a man of big words, the reason perhaps why this Norwegian has been such a dark horse in the Polar Hall of Fame.
In addition he is not, well, your typical athlete.
A few years back, before heading out on our own SP/NP unsupported expeditions, we asked polar explorers for their single, most important rule of success.
The skiers replied according to their personalities. "Preparation" said Borge Ousland. "Discipline," said Lars Ebbesen. "Eat lots of chocolate," said a Brit. Rune Gjeldnes was different: "Say only positive things to each other," he told us, and lit another cigarette.
Dead men walking
Well, we listened closely. Not only was Rune smoking the same brand we did, in 2000, he had crossed the entire Arctic Ocean unsupported with his friend Torry - a feat without precedents in polar history. The two men almost lost their lives and the odyssey was later described in the book 'Dead men walking'.
Pain, doubt and hunger your only companions
Turned out, Rune's simple advice would become the most valuable to us - especially towards the end of our trip.
One of the hardest parts of any expedition (as in life) is to keep focus on positive thoughts when the going gets tough. On unsupported Polar trips, where uninterrupted loneliness and monotony of the landscape can get really depressing, this rule becomes crucial.
For hours, days, and months at length - in the confined solitude of the polar ice - pain, doubt, fear, cold and hunger are your only companions. That's when what you say to yourself becomes truly important.
The Longest March
Last year, Rune himself returned to the ice - to follow his own advice. He had never even been to the South Pole, yet his plan was grand. He would cross the entire continent sea to sea, and try to beat all previous unsupported ski-kiting distance records there. He dubbed his expedition The longest March.
Rune set off from northern Antarctica (Novolazarevskaya base, Queen Mauds Land) on November 5, 2005 and headed south. Contrary to his North Pole expedition, at Antarctica Rune used kites for pulling, covering daily distances up to 200km on some days.
The initial area was much steeper than it looked in the photos, he reported. 10 days later, his sledge slid down into a crevasse and the weight of the sledge almost pulled Rune with it. A few crevasses were so huge that he had to ski over whatever thin snow bridges he could find.
Yet somehow, Rune made the trip seem easy. In his tent, he did daily dispatches and published drawings on the farm he hoped to buy with his girlfriend when he returned home from Antarctica.
The winner takes it all
After 45 days, on December 20 2005, Rune reached the Geographical South Pole at 12.46 GMT. He had covered 2200 km alone and without resupplies. Ahead - 2400 km more to the coast.
He celebrated Christmas decorating his tent, lighting a lone cigar and listening to the only song he had brought along - 'White Christmas'.
The polar cross-continent ski trip continued. Rune turned east towards Terra Nova Bay, looking to avoid the Trans Antarctic Mountains, where winds were less stable and the risk of crevasses was greater. His sled was knocked over by tall sastrugi, the kite handle was torn off - but Rune kept his eyes firm on two records:
In 1996, Borge Ousland skied 2845 km across Antarctica alone and without resupplies (from Berkner Island to McMurdo). In 200/2001 Eirik Sønneland and Rolf Bae beat the distance by skiing 3800 Km across Antarctica without resupplies.
Rune hoped to beat both the solo and the total distances.
At 10.39 GMT on January 3rd, Rune first grabbed Børge Ousland's solo record and on January 10, he broke the world record for the longest kite-trek without resupplies at Antarctica.
Last man on the ice
In fact, Rune began breaking world records on a weekly basis but now increasing moisture in the air announced that he was getting closer to the coast - with its glaciers and crevasses.
January 24, Rune was literally walking on the edge, reported his home team. The area is nothing but snow-covered crevasses. He had to cross a snow river in the middle of the Priestley Glacier to get away from all the crevasses. He only covered 16 km, but each of them was nerve-wrecking," they reported.
On January 28th, the last Ilyushin plane left the airstrip at Patriot Hills bound for Punta Arenas, Chile - marking the end of the Antarctic expedition season.
The Norwegian was still on the ice. The solo explorer hoped to leave the continent from Terra Nova Bay in Southern Antarctica. However, the last few stages of his traverse were proving the most difficult. Proceeding down the Priestley glacier towards the coast Rune was fighting every step of the way, controlling his sled over hard, blue ice patches while avoiding deep crevasses hidden under weak snow bridges. Day 89 proved the worst yet - Rune inched his way balancing on thin edges between crevasses.
The only person in the world to have traversed both polar ice caps without resupplies
Fighting the last steps of his grand solo traverse of Antarctica, Rune could almost touch success. To reach the finish line at Terra Nova Base however, first he had to find a pass across a mountain - a last minute challenge for the exhausted explorer.
On February 03, 2006 - the message came:
"It's a new page in Polar History: Norwegian Rune Gjeldnes has reached Terra Nova Base today at 2:00 CET. The longest Antarctic polar march ever without resupplies!"
Rune had finished The longest March - a 4804 km (2988 miles) solo kite ride across Antarctica. The distance (Los Angeles to New York plus 200 miles), was done in 90 days, without resupplies.
Rune beat the previous record of the longest Antarctic trek without resupplies by more than 1000 km (600 miles) - or the distance between Detroit and New York. And he also beat his own schedule, completing the crossing 20 days sooner than he expected.
With his victory, Rune Gjeldnes became the only person to have traversed both polar ice caps without resupplies.
Rune's 2005/2006 Antarctica crossing stays in our memory for his courage, determination, self reliance, pioneering, idealism and honesty.
By their performance, the awarded expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:
- Self reliance
- Respect towards competition
Previous in the countdown:
4. Denis Urubko & Serguey Samoilov - new route on Manaslu
5. Nives and Romano, K2
6. Kazakh young guns Maxut & Vassiliy, Dhaulagiri/Annapurna
7. Alex Bellini, Atlantic Ocean crossing
8. Iñaki Ochoa, Shisha Pangma climb
An additional 4 expeditions have received a special mention award:
Japanese K2 kids Yuka and Tatsuya
Serap Jangbu - 14 x 8000ers, the Sherpas' way
Colin Angus and Julie Wafaei: Human-powered circumnavigation
Borge Ousland, Mike Horn: North Pole unsupported through the Arctic night
More about Rune:
In full Arctic winter of February 2000, Rune and Torry Larsen set out from Severnaya Zemlya in Russia, to cross the entire Arctic Ocean via the North Pole. Through the darkness, they pulled twice the weight of regular unsupported North Pole expeditions. On the way, the two men lost their sleds, and most of their gear. When they finally reached Cape Discovery in Canada, they were picked up wearing only a backpack. Doctors of a small research station that examined them on arrival said that Rune and Torry were only 48 hours from death. They had been out for 109 days, covering 2100 km.
Rune kited across Greenland lengthways from Cap Farewell to Cap Morris Jessup in 1996.
In 2005/2006, Rune Gjeldnes crossed the Antarctic continent from Queen Mauds Land via the South Pole to Victoria Land. He went kite-assisted, solo and without resupplies. He covered 4808km in 90 days. Rune arrived at Terra Nova base at 02.00 CET, on February 3, 2006, becoming the first person to traverse both polar ice caps without resupplies.
Amundsen about Peary; Rune about Scott
But there is more to Rune. Not a man of big words to describe himself, Rune is a straight-shooter when it comes to speaking his mind. Something he has in common with Amundsen, who - in his politically incorrect defense of Cook vs. Peary - lost an important lecture tour in US.
Before Antarctica, in 2005 Rune took part in a BBC documentary about Scott and Amundsens race to be the first humans to reach the South Pole. Although Captain Robert Falcon Scott is generally considered a hero in the UK, and the BBC series defends the hypothesis of bad luck as the main cause for his failure, when ExplorersWeb asked, Rune Gjeldnes feared not to honestly voice his opinion - an uncomfortable view shared secretly by many polar explorers.
In my opinion, the unlucky ones were Scotts men I feel very sorry for those good men who got involved in a deadly trip lacking good leadership and preparation. Scott had lots of really good people in his team, but he did not listen to them, blinded by his wish to be a hero."
#Mountaineering #Polar #Space #Mountaineering #Oceans
Visit our new website