Back to square one.

Published on 13.04.2010 - One Man Epic Mission North Pole

The most frustrating thing about this type of adventure is that one day things seem to be going well, hopefully heralding even better days ahead, and the next day you can forget all about it and it's back to square one.

Which is exactly what is happening to Tom Smitheringale and Dan & Amelia. With an asterisk for Tom, because he feels that in terms of difficulties, he has regressed to the early days of his trek when everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It's the same for the Darley/Russell duo, who are having to cope with an incredible number of channels of water running through the ice. Of course, there's no such thing as the 'right' width for these leads to enable solo travellers to take them in their stride. No, the width of any channels in the ice is always more than a simple hop, skip and a jump that can be done easily, even with skis on. They tend to be a bit wider -2.50 metres, for example, or more. So much so that you have to stop in your tracks each time, weigh up the pros and cons, then get into the water. That means pulling on your waterproofs, which is not easy task in itself. Or trying to use your sledge as a sort of gangplank over the water. All of which is enough to drive the weary traveller mad, not to mention sap his morale and stress him out for the rest of the day...

On one of these precarious crossings, Tom took to the water in his wetsuit as the ice broke under his weight. But once he started practising his freestyle to try and get ahead, he realised that the ice around him in the water was too thick to allow the sort of body movements required for swimming. He managed to get out of this predicament by hauling his upper body up on to the ice in front of him with immense difficulty and in the end he finally succeeded in reaching the other side.

At the end of the day, though, Tom and his webmaster Jim Pizzey are wondering whether they should call in the logistics team from Resolute Bay, because they now think the solo adventurer will not reach his goal in time for Viktor Boyarski's helicopters to fly in and pick him up. "Trouble is, the cost of doing that is more than prohibitive," states Jim. And obviously, if the money required is not paid into Ken Borek's account, there won't be any pick-up happening with one the company's Twin Otters.

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