The North Pole
12th April 2011 // Arrived back in Longyearbyen in Svalbard today after reaching the Geographic North Pole yesterday. Check out all the details below on our day reaching the pole. Had Pizza and burger for dinner tonight, and Steve had about 6 pints of coca cola!! It's going to be nice to get in to a warm bed tonight!
11th April 2011 // Richard and Steve reach the Geographical North Pole at 2.20pm UK time after 6 days skiing across the ice. Click below on "View News" for all the details and Rich and Steve's thoughts.
10th April 2011 // Travelled 18.4km today, -39c with windchill. Tough ice condition and lots happened today. Climbing down off a big pressure ridge I fell and my pulk landed on my head. I was dazed. Steve had a fall too. We almost got caught in 2 flows moving together. Half the team had climbed over when it started groaning and the ice just disappeared and water gushed up to form a pool. The ice has changed its drift, we now have negative drift. Since setting camp up 3hrs ago we have moved 1.5km South! Steve melted his inner boot too, it’s contagious! He duct taped it together. We are feeling good and happy.
We did top 5 meats and why, top 5 pub meals, top 5 seafoods, top 5 bread-based snacks…we were hungry as you can tell! ha! Also did top 5 favourite bits of kit out here, top 5 board games and Steve’s mum’s top 5 she posted on facebook!
10th April 2011 // Drifted 1.2km north last night and travelled 15.3km yesterday. Temperatures were -26c, with windchill -38c, it was a cold day!
A tough day in the wind and constant ridges, we made good progress though. Steve and I used our luxury food item of bacon, so last night we had a bacon feast in our sleeping bags whilst playing Top 5! top 5 is a game some of my friends know about but it’s great for passing time. Steve and I played it a lot on Cho Oyu, top 5 afternoon snacks, top 5 soft drinks, top 5 anything, mostly in the tent they end up food related!! Any suggestions for top 5 welcome via Twitter and Facebook!
8th April 2011 // We have travelled 17.3km today. Drifted 2.2km north last night. Making very good progress. We have a really strong team. Our lead Alan Hubert is absolutely awesome and he’s navigating using the sun and wind, assisted by gps. It’s great to learn from the best. Steve and I been using our handheld Garmin GPSMAP 62s and 62 which are awesome.
We are about 40km from the pole but conditions can change quickly so one day at a time. It’s been -23c, -36c with windchill. A tough place to survive. We have had good ice conditions today, no open leads. I am writing this huddled in the tent by the stove! Fingers crossed for another good day tomorrow.
7th April 2011 // Hi Guys. We skied for 9 hours today and travelled 20.51km.
We went to bed last night and when woke up this morning we had drifted 6.6km east and a little bit north but it didn’t make a big difference in terms of the pole and we’ve not drifted backwards which is a positive thing.
Today has been a really cool day, a tough day. It started off really great visibility, clear, about -20c and about half way through the day the clouds came in and the visibility dropped so we had really flat light which was difficult to navigate and even see what obstacles were in front of us. We had the full bag of tricks thrown at us, we had pressure ridges, which were 2 metres high, which we had to pull our pulks over and clamber over. We had to cross an open lead so we clipped together our pulks to make a raft to get over quite a short lead and we also had a big lead which was pretty new ice which we had to cross gingerly as it was moving underneath us but we have an awesome guide and a really strong team and we are making really good progress. Fingers crossed we keep this up as we will make good time.
Also I put my foot through some ice today, nothing serious and all is well, it got my heart racing. A lapse in concentration and just goes to show we have to be totally on it at all times, it’s unforgiving out here.
Steve spilled his noodles all over the tent! We are getting on great, working really well together and have adapted to tent life together again pretty well.
There’s just no let up, its really cold and just keeping warm around the stove in our tent is about all we can do.
Speak tomorrow, Rich and Steve.
6th April 2011 // Plane to Barneo camp and then helicopter to drop off on to ice at 89 degrees. It’s minus 24 with moderate winds. Skied 11.1km for about 4 hours today. Drift East and a little North today. Weather worsening and we have current white out, glad I am in the tent! Rich.
5th April 2011 // The runway was completed on Sunday and Vicaar flew two cargo flights out yesterday to begin building Barneo camp on the ice. Steve and I spent yesterday putting the final tweaks to our gear and packing our pulks ready to be weighed and loaded onto the plane today.
The gear we've rented is top class. The pulks are state of the art - floatable pulks designed by Alan Hubert who's leading our trip. We spent a while yesterday packing them as weight distribution, and the ability to easily and quickly get to certain items is crucial for negotiating through/over the ice and in the changeable weather conditions.
Also I spent a lot of time adapting my gear for the cold conditions again; putting extra long and big pull toggles on all my zips so I can use them without taking my mitts off. Sticking matches with duct tape to my flasks, so I have more grip with my mitts on opening them as the lids are prone to freezing tight. Insulating all my electrical equipment with foam. Taping our tent poles so we only have one break in it so we can collapse and erect it super fast should the conditions be bad etc.
The feedback from the pilots - as nobody has been on the ice yet this year, is that it looks in good condition, with lots of single year ice frozen by a cold winter. This means that hopefully it's well frozen but without lots of pressure ridges and sastrugi. Only when we get on the ice though will we find out.
Last night Steve and I had our last meal - so to speak. We had a pizza off! We both designed our own pizza by adding toppings and tried to figure out whose was best! I had beef, pepperoni, jalapenos, mushrooms, onions and garlic dip. Steve went for bacon, mushrooms, beef and pineapple with garlic dip! We concluded that it was a draw!
We have sorted our personal gear for the flight in our rucksacks as the conditions on the ice are about -30c with a mild wind.
I've opted to use my podsac rucksack as my harness, rigging it with climbing cord to my pulk's trace (The rope from the pulk to the harness). The reason is that as I'm lighter than I used to be, the extra weight on me will allow me to pull my pulk (generally and over obstacles) easier when I lean forward. And more importantly, I can keep survival gear - insulating jacket, trousers, throw line, sat phone etc on me should I loose my pulk through the ice.
It's a little like pre-game feelings today! Everything that we can control is dialled and we're ready (The rest here has made a new man out of me!), but this leg more than the others is in the hands of Mother Nature, so I'm a little apprehensive about what we're going to find out there! The drift is my main concern but fingers crossed!
Thank you to everyone for your support so far. Please donate anything you can to help me raise funds in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care and thank you to everyone who has donated so far. I’ll be in touch every day but updates will be shorter now as I don't have the ability to charge my sat phone and I’ll have to watch the battery life but we’ll be in touch. Rich and Steve.
2nd April 2011 // We've had news through - We are on the first passenger flight, but it looks like this will be on Tuesday the 5th as the runway is still not finished. The group has been reduced in size as we were adamant to ski the full degree. The good news is we are still to be led by Alan Hubert who's awesome and gives us the best chance of moving fast through the ice as he has had loads of experience in reading it. Our flight off the ice and back to Longyearbyen looks like it has been pushed back. I'm not stressed as the main thing is we are on the first passenger flight, we have the best leader, a strong team and we are definitely skiing the full degree. Last night, Steve and I met Prince Harry and the soldiers trekking to the Pole. They were great guys. Steve and I have been putting the final tweaks and additions to our gear and food. Can’t wait to get going.
1st April 2011 // The guys in charge here think they have found a suitable flow of ice and today they are going to drop skydivers out of the plane and snow ploughs in big parachutes on to the ice to start building the runway which could take anything up to 1-3 days.
Then they send the big plane in with suppliers to build the Barneo camp, which will be the exped hub to launch all expeditions from.
It’s an amazing set up, they need an ice thickness of 1 metre 30 to build a runway, that’s not actually that thick but that is apparently what they need! That’s pretty phenomenal!
Today there is a storm system coming in to Longyearbyen and it has been skirting around -30c. Today we are using Russian tents and stoves and taking them out in the cold testing all our kit thoroughly.
Because there is a lot of moisture around, a lot of people do not use down kit. I have the choice to use a synthetic sleeping bag, a Russian brand but I am still choosing to my Rab Andes 800 sleeping bag which is down but made using a fabric called pertex endurance which is light, breathable and water resistant. I have chosen to use that still above the recommendations of the Russian crew as I have so much confidence in my Rab gear. It’s equally as warm, a third of the size and a third of the weight. I will protect it against moisture with my Rab pertex bivi bag as a vapour barrier. That is a system I used in Greenland and I have spoke at length with team and designers at Rab and that’s what I am sticking with.
Steve is excited and looking forward to getting started too. Leading in to this leg I was starting to feel the effects and a little jaded and run down and it’s been a real boost to my morale to be joined by Steve and we are bouncing ideas, systems and energy off each other and it is really cool to have him here with me.
31st March 2011 // They’re flying over the ice today, weather permuting to try and find a suitable ice flow to open Barneo logistics camp. So fingers crossed! The delay, although scary, is good to get some more rest, tighten my systems and mind to the cold environment (-27c here in Spitsbergen and about -40c on the ice, from +35 in the jungle ha!
We have also had a chance to trial our rented gear (stoves, tent, skis etc) and teamwork with Steve. We will be moving as a group of about 8 but made up of smaller totally self-sufficient groups. Us as a team of 2. No group gear. Seen loads of guys from Antarctica here already, which is cool. Feeling confident having spent time in Greenland preparing for this and obviously I'm pretty comfortable in these environments, but having spent time with the Russian crew last night I was reminded just how hostile and unpredictable this leg is and will be, which raises the stakes.
We've just bumped into Ben Fogle in a cafe, he's reporting for an American channel here. What a really nice guy! He knew who I was and all about the challenge and he took a photo of Steve, him and I, which you can see on Facebook and Twitter.
Oh, we are using specially made buoyant pulks to use as rafts to cross the open leads. The immersion suits were too expensive and heavy to use. On this leg I won’t have my dog Super Ben picture on the side like I did on the South Pole! We haven't packed everything yet so don't know weight but will keep you updated.
30th March 2011 // Just landed in Longyearbyen, it's great to be back in cold, fresh air, but the cold is a little shock to the system after the last few hotter legs.
The initial forecast having met with the Vicaar team (our team leading this expedition) is that there is a storm and bad weather on the ice clearing at the moment, which might delay us 2 days as we wait for it to pass. We have no ice update as nobody has been on the ice by the pole yet. Very early season. In fact the expeds leaving from the Canadian side have also had to cancel and wait the weather out. Also, in the Spitsbergen area, where we are, there are more polar bears than humans!
30th March 2011 // We are in Oslo now, but without bags as they got left behind in Copenhagen! They're going to be forwarded on to Longyearbyen, Shocking! It’s really good to hang out with Steve again. It's -10c in Oslo this morning, but colder up north in Longyearbyen, it's toasty in the airport though!
Just bumped in to Christian Eide who I met in Antarctica (Norwegian Christian broke the South Pole solo and unsupported speed record which was previously set by American Todd Carmichael in 1998. His solo, unsupported time was 24 days, 1 hour, 13 minutes and he set off in December like me!)
I was at union glacier base camp when he set the solo unsupported and unaided speed record to the pole so it was awesome to see him again. I also bumped in to a guy called Ivan who Steve and I trained with in Greenland.
It's -22c in Longyearbyen! That's over 50 degrees difference from West Papua! Ha! Rich.
29th March 2011 // Hi Guys. Thank you for all your suggestions on Facebook and Twitter for my luxury items for the North Pole, they were awesome as always. I particularly liked bubble wrap by Charline on Facebook and arctic roll by Simon, very funny and old skool! Anthony Hanley as per normal came up with a corker, however someone had to tell me about the Take me out reference as I had no idea as I have been away too long! Siobhan’s hovercraft Tweet would also be handy but I am thinking it might not make my strict weight allowance!
The truth is after all that I am now not taking any luxury item to the North Pole as I have more camera equipment to carry on this leg so I don’t have any spare room or weight for anything else!
I have spent the last couple of days sorting my gear for the North Pole, Everest and Denali as they are all back-to-back and I am all packed. Now it’s time to head to Heathrow Airport to set off, I am looking forward to meeting up with Steve and getting underway.
Speak to you all from Norway!