Antarctica season is always a special time of the year for Polar aficionados, like me. In a span of not even three months, dozens of explorers are out there working towards the goals they trained and planned for – often for many years. The 2018/19 season gave us an exciting struggle for the – supposedly – last real first out there, with Louis Rudd and Colin O’Brady both going for an unsupported and completely human powered traverse. In comparison to the media buzz created especially by O’Brady last year, this season may appear kind of slow. This perception may have been reinforced by the fact that due to weather delays, a lot of this year’s explorers only got on the ice at the end of November, which means it took till well after Christmas to hear of the first arrivals at the Pole. But the 2019/20 season stands out for another reason as well: for the first time in my memory, it’s the women dominating the headlines. Here’s a list of some of the amazing women who just wrapped up their expeditions.
Early February this year, Lauren and I found ourselves on the slopes of a mountain pass leading from the Mogen tourist hut up to the Hardanger plateau. We were 46km into our 120km crossing of the Hardangervidda and were already a day ahead of our schedule, so we weren’t too worried by the slow progress. As long as we’d clear the mountain and get onto the flat plateau by the end of the day, we’d be fine. We were worried about one thing, however, and that was avalanches. It had snowed quite a bit near Mogen in the days before we arrived there, and all morning we observed worrisome signs of unstable snow conditions: creaking noises under the fresh snow and snowdrifts sliding downhill even on the moderate slopes covered by trees as soon as we stepped into them. Finally, we reached a small cluster of huts at the edge of the tree cover. We decided to take a rest and regroup. The wind had picked up by now and we were wearing our goggles and face masks to protect ourselves from the elements. While we had been able to see the top of the pass, our goal, for the entire morning, now a thick cloud cover was rolling in and soon we weren’t able to make out our path up the mountain any longer. We had to make a decision. Was it safe to go on?
As I’m writing this, Polar explorers Børge Ousland and Mike Horn are out on the Arctic ocean, struggling against the elements in what seems from the outside to be one of their hardest expeditions, yet. I am following the expedition with great interest. In a recent post, Børge explains how Mike broke off a chunk of a tooth on a frozen chocolate bar, which reminded me of my own experience with this issue and one of my favourite lifesavers.
It has been quite a while since you’ve heard from us on our blog. For the past few months, we have been working behind the scenes on our next big thing. We are going to cross Greenland without resupplies and using only human power, following the original Nansen route in 2020. You can find all the details of that expedition at nansen2020.org. Now where our Hardangervidda trip was basically just Lauren and me flying to Norway to ski for a bit, this one is going to be a proper big expedition. We are putting a team together, working with various research partners, and raising money for charity with the trip. In other words, this is going to be a lot more organising work than our Norway expedition. But how do you get something like this off the ground?
Staying warm is one of the most important things to look for when you’re out in the snow and ice. Your extremities are generally most at risk of suffering cold injuries since they are farthest away from the warm core of your body. Additionally, your hands and fingers are exposed to wind and weather almost always, which is why great gloves are one of the smartest investments you can make when planning to be out in the cold for a prolonged time. Today, I am reviewing several gloves provided to us by our partner, The Heat Company. Note that they offered some of them to us for free, but I will give my honest opinion regardless. When on an expedition, your kit is your life insurance, and I would never settle for anything I consider sub-par.
The Arctic ocean is, and always has been, one of the most challenging terrains for expeditions. The drifting sea ice creates a labyrinth of open water, frozen leads, and pressure ridges, where the straight line is rarely the fastest way ahead. With the fading ice, modern explorers have to use dry suits to swim across open leads, dragging their floating sledges behind them. On thin ice, one wrong step can mean almost death, plunging an explorer into the freezing water. If that’s not enough, polar bears are roaming the ice cap, ready to hunt any prey, including humans.
When I first learned about Fridtjof Nansen, it was because of his groundbreaking achievements in Polar exploration. He was the first to achieve an overland traverse of Greenland and set a record for farthest North during his Fram expedition. His unique approach to expeditions and inventive talents would serve as an example for other great explorers, such as Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, and Peary. Apart from his Polar achievements, Nansen was also a dedicated Scientist and became a respected diplomat and humanitarian later in his life. His achievements in both these fields are just as remarkable as his Polar exploits and well deserving of a blog post on their own.
In honour of International Women’s Day, and International Book Day, I thought I’d pull together a short list of the “adventure” books which have moved and inspired me the most over the last couple of years.
Back in January, the lovely people at Intrepid Magazine selected me to be one of their gear testers and sent me a Black Diamond First Light Hoody. The idea was that I’d take it with me to Norway and put it through its paces in the airport, the city and the snow. You can read my detailed review in issue 8, but the short version is, I loved it!
The best thing after a long day of skiing is getting out of your skiing boots and into warm and dry wool socks. Unfortunately, throughout the evening and night, you will have to get out of your sleeping bag and back into the snow at times: to go to the loo, to check the tent, to get something from your pulk, or whatever reason. Enter the Expedition Down Booties.