A HUGE congratulations (!!) to our North Pole Last Degree Ski Expedition for reaching the North Pole today despite very challenging conditions. They reached the North Pole at 8:53 PM local time after spending 12 hours on the go and covering a total of 15-16 miles. The team (Abdullah Alsaeed, Peter Cardwell, Abdulla Al Alahbabi, Zdenek Chvoj, Harvey Oyer and Keith Heger) are thrilled to have reached their goal. Here's a quick update of their day:
The Last Degree Expedition (Peter Cardwell, Zdenek Chvoj, Abdulla Al Alahbabi, Harvey Oyer, Abdullah Alaeed and Keith Heger) had a great day. They gained 2 nautical miles overnight (we can't emphasize how nice that is!!!) and they made an additional 10 miles during the day. Their current position is N89.48.335, E127.46. Team Fioretti Mountaineers are back in Longyearbyen enjoying the civilized life! Here's a recap of each of their days:
A huge congratulations to Peter, Bob and Eric for arriving at the Pole yesterday after a long push on their last day. Because of their early arrival they were able to get a helicopter transfer back to the basecamp and fly back to Longyearbyen several days ahead of their scheduled return. The helicopter picked them up at 11 AM local time this morning and brought them back to the Barneo Basecamp. They spent 45 minutes in Barneo before flying back to Longyearbyen (ah, civilization!). Now they are the comfort of their hotels, with plans for a nice dinner this evening. Well done! Here are some pictures from the last day.
It was a whirlwind of a day, especially for our North Pole Fliers who made a mad dash to the North Pole (and back) all in one day - not much sleep for them! Our skiers, on the other hand, got a good night's rest and had the added bonus of waking up a little farther north than where they had fallen asleep. Here's an update from each team:
The top of the world is a dynamic place. Ice is drifting and shifting, temperatures fluctuate, visibility comes and goes, and logistics change. We had a little of each of these today with our three North Pole teams. Here's a recap of each team:
With blue skies and no wind today was a beautiful day on the pack ice at the top of the world. Cold, yes, (-25 F, -30 C) but not as cold as yesterday, and the temperatures seem to be warming. Here are updates from our teams:
Last Degree Update:
Our last degree ski expedition had their first full day of travel today. It's always nice to put that first day behind you. All things being equal (ice conditions, weather, mood...) everyday gets easier as the sled gets lighter and YOU get smarter and more experienced! The team covered 7 nautical miles from their drop off point last night, ending at N89.08.72, E 138. That's a good first day, especially considering they didn't get to bed until 2 AM last night! They had a cold day with temperatures remaining steady at -30F / -34 C. In temperatures like these it can be a struggle to keep your hands warm, especially right after breaks when your body is slightly chilled. The key is to stay well fed, well hydrated and to move, move, move! It's also critical to pay close attention to your body and take action to warm up those parts of your body that are cold. There was a slight headwind on their faces as they skied. No doubt they all had their face masks on, or layers pulled up and over their noses and cheeks.
They are all cozy in their tents, after a filling meal of appetizers, soups and a hearty dehydrated dinner. A few well placed hot water bottles will make their sleeping bags feel extra cozy tonight. Not that they need the help falling asleep, they are probably tired enough from all the hard work.
Click here to listen to Keith's audio dispatch and check back again tomorrow for another update from the team.
Half Degree Update:
We have another team heading to the ice soon! Team Fioretti Mountaineers with Peter and Bob Fioretti and guide Eric Lillstrom have been training in Longyearben and they will be departing for the Barneo Basecamp tomorrow (Monday) morning. So far on their journey they have explored Longyearbyen and the surrounding valleys during their overnight Shakedown training. They practiced camp routines, traveling with their sleds in tow, and many of the systems that they will use to stay safe and comfortable (at least as comfortable as possible!) during their expedition.
They are looking forward flying to Barneo and starting their journey! Click here to listen to Eric's audio dispatch and check back again tomorrow for another update from their team.
Below: Heading North!
Below: Peter, Bob and guide Eric Lillstrom (sorry... for some reason this blog software insists that this photo be sideways)
The team reported in again at 2 AM local time. They had a relatively short stopover at the Barneo Basecamp before heading off by helicopter for their starting point at N 89.01.1, E 140. They skied a short distance before making camp at N 89.1.58, E 140. The weather was clear with a blue sky and a breeze of around 6 knots. The temperature was a brisk - 30 F / -34 C. That's cold! But cold temperatures are preferred over warm temperatures, because they tend to come with stable weather. Warm temperatures tend to bring low visibility, wind and generally deteriorating weather.
The cold weather will require that everyone is vigilant about keeping their extremities and core warm, while also not overheating from the hard work of pulling a sled. Temperature and moisture management are two of the hardest parts of the expedition, along with maintaining a high level of energy throughout the day. That may sound easy if you are reading this from the comfort of a warm house, with water flowing from a tap and a variety of food at the ready. At the North Pole it is something that you have to constantly work at to maintain. Simple but difficult. Like so many things when it's -30F/-34C outside!
We are happy to report that our team has departed on schedule. Woot woot! This may not seem like a big deal, but it is! (This season has been fraught with delays and our team is one of the only teams not to be delayed by 10 days).
As they drove to the airport the team was nearly giddy with excitement. They were chanting BARNEO! BARNEO! The flight to the Barneo Basecamp takes roughly 2.5 hours. Because there are only a handful of windows on the plane most people don't get to see the pack ice before they land. When the plane's door opens they emerge into a landscape (actually a frozen seascape) that's unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.
It's likely to be a late night for the team. The word "night" describes the time of day but not how light or dark it is because they have 24 hour sunlight. Upon arrival the team will meet with the basecamp manager, review their communication schedule, get a weather update, learn as much as they can about ice conditions, select the best departure point, load the helicopters with kit and people and take off for what may be an hour flight to their starting point. But as soon as the helicopter drops them off all the noise and hectic moments melt away and everything becomes much more focused and simple. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Ski. North.
Click here to listen to today's audio dispatch sent by Keith and Abdulla Al Alahbabi just prior to the flight to Barneo. Also click here to check out what landing at Barneo looks like from the pilot's eye - it's pretty awesome!
If we receive a second dispatch we will update the blog, so check back again soon.
Below: Ready to go!
The team spent the day in Longyearbyen prepping for their departure and making sure everything is in order. They practiced setting up tents, they organized their food supplies and they readied their sleds and brought everything to the airport. At present, it looks like they will be flying to the ice tomorrow, sometime in the afternoon. That's great news (!!) and everyone is excited.
What's it like the night before departure? Usually your mind is darting wildly, crossing "things to do" off imaginary or real checklists. "Did I remember to pack my second pair of gloves? What about my bowl and spoon? Extra batteries?" Then there is the unknown to contend with... "How cold will it be? Will we see lots of open water? Will we have drift? And in what direction?" But just as strong, if not stronger, are the many positive feelings of embarking on a grand adventure. The anticipation is almost over, the planning and preparations will be put to use (!!!) - and it is a wonderful way to fall asleep.
Click here to listen to today's audio dispatch from Keith and check back again tomorrow for another update, hopefully from the ice!
(Below: a team selfie)
Below: Our team at the airport - sleds are delivered and they are ready to go!
The PolarExplorers 2018 North Pole Last Degree Ski team officially kicked off their expedition tonight in Longyearbyen, Norway. The team gathered for a pre-flight briefing followed by welcome reception and dinner at a lively pub in Longyearbyen.
At the pre-flight briefing they learned that their flight to the ice is scheduled for April 14. That means they will spend tomorrow reviewing expedition procedures, making final preparations with their kit and transferring their packed sleds to the airport by early afternoon. If all goes as planned they will fly to the Barneo basecamp the following day (Saturday). From there they will get transferred to their starting point on the ice.
We are happy to report that everyone is doing well. The level of excitement is high. Our finger's are crossed that there won't be any delays. The team wanted to share this link to a video of the plane dropping the tractor and supplies, by parachute, to build the Barneo runway and basecamp. They should be putting the finishing touches on it tomorrow.
That's most of the team below (Harvey, Abdulla Alahbabi, Zdenek and Abdullah) in Longyearbyen. Make sure to listen to today's audio dispatch from Keith and check back for another update from the team tomorrow!
It's our favorite time of year - North Pole season! Our guides have arrived in Longyearbyen and are busy preparing for the arrival of our various North Pole teams. This season we have a team flying to the North Pole and spending a night at the Barneo Basecamp, a team skiing the last half degree and a team skiing the last degree. Everyone has been busy with final preparations for their expeditions and they are looking forward to meeting up soon in Longyearbyen, Norway.
We are excited to share the progress and daily goings-on of our teams. Check back to this site regularly for updates, images and audio dispatches from the ice.
The North Pole Last Degree updates will begin on April 12 (meet the team here).
The North Pole Half Degree updates will begin on April 15, and the North Pole Flight updates will begin on April 16.
Do you have questions or messages for our teams? Send them to Annie (email@example.com) and she will make sure to pass them along and post any responses.
Check back again soon!
We are thrilled to be sharing the North Pole with a wonderful team of North Pole Last Degree Skiers. These team members will be posting daily audio dispatches from the expedition starting on April 12. Make sure to check back regularly to follow their progress!