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.
This will be the last gear highlight for our Hardangervidda crossing. Navigating the unknown terrain safely and limiting risks as far as possible is a priority for us. Much like Amundsen, we want to plan the adventure out of our expedition. Here’s what we are bringing for navigation, personal safety, risk mitigation and some other tools and gadgets.
Polar exploration isn’t all about skiing for hours on end. We will spend the majority of our time inside or around our tent. Getting our camp routine and equipment right is just as important as being a capable skier. This gear highlight is going to be a big one. We are going to go over the majority of kit we need when we’re not on the move: the tent and tent equipment, sleeping gear, cooking equipment and food and drink.
Taking on extreme challenges like Greenland or Antarctica doesn’t only require extensive planning and physical training, it also involves a lot of kit and money. Partnerships with and sponsorships from companies or organisations can go a long way in helping to overcome the logistical challenges and can make the difference between a dream expedition happening or remaining just a dream. We are already peeking past our upcoming Hardangervidda traverse, and are eyeing Greenland for 2020 and Antarctica later. To keep our adventure going, we are looking to build lasting mutually beneficial relationships with organisations sharing our beliefs and values and manufacturers whose products we trust to be the very best for our expeditions. Today, we are excited to announce our partnership with The Heat Company.
We’re done with our clothing now, and we are moving on to our primary means of transportation: skiing and man-hauling. It’s much easier to use a sled to carry our gear than putting it in a rucksack, as we’ll likely have around 35kg of equipment. This gear highlight will tell you what skiing and pulk equipment we have.
Following the layer principle, this time we are going to talk about our outer layers. There are two types of layers to add above the mid-layers: windproof shells, and warmth layers. The shells protect us from the elements and help to stop wind and snow, basically like a rain jacket. They are usually lightweight and don’t add any insulation themselves. While we are on the move, we will usually not wear any additional layers, but once we stop, we need to at least add a down jacket to prevent us from cooling down too fast. The head and hands are our body parts requiring the most additional protection from the elements. Our head, because you lose a lot of heat if you don’t cover it, and of course because our eyes, mouth, and nose sit there. And our hands, because they are exposed to the wind and snow a lot and thus freeze most easily.