Snow and routine.

Published on 23.03.2009 - Victorinox North Pole 09 Expedition

John Huston talks about the different types of ice and then tells us something of the day-to-day routine out on the sea ice.

A few days ago we were saying that some expeditions seem to find it easy to write about themselves and how enjoyable it was to get behind the scenes of some of the adventures through the jottings of the various people involved.

Now, as things progress, we are seeing that the educational side of these treks is often just as well prepared and presented. Not only through the various educational projects the teams are running, which seem to be de rigueur with just about every expedition these days and which are also used for selling the purpose and funding of the trip. But more especially via the daily updates sent back to us by the expeditions from the pack-ice. A good example of this came on 16th March when John Huston told us about the various ways of finding your way through this white desert, while the following day he held forth on the different types of ice the teams are encountering and have yet to come across along their way. " On the Arctic Ocean we live on sea ice and it's a very dynamic environment. And sea ice is normally classified into a few different categories and today I'll talk about multi-year ice, which is called old sea ice, and new sea ice, which is just one year old. Up until recently the Arctic Ocean was, by and large, multi-year sea ice. Then starting in 2005 and continuing, there's been more and more first-year sea ice. First-year sea ice is a lot less resilient due to climate change and increases in temperature. It melts a lot faster. However, it also has less snow on it most of the time which makes it better for skiing."

About half of our trip is expected to be on new sea ice, and that's the second half of the trip, from about 86 degrees north onward through the North Pole. And if you look at the National Snow and Ice Data Center graphics, which are taken off a NASA satellite, there are a few on our website and a few on the NSIDC homepage that are just fantastic, you'll see that over the past few years the old sea ice has decreased and the young sea ice, one year old, has increased by a large proportion. 2008 was the second lowest sea ice area coverage on record for the summer and that was taken in September. The previous low was last year 2007 and the previous low before that was 2005. How that impacts our expedition, we will find out. ... "

Now a few words about their daily routine:

John writes: « The alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. and we wake up, pull the sleeping bags out of the tent, start the stoves, and then take a few hours sometimes doing little projects, journaling or just relaxing a little bit, have breakfast. Tyler cooks breakfast. Out of the tent around 8:15 or so and then depart on our nine-hour travel day at 9:00am. We travel in 90-minute to 120-minute sessions or marches. And then after 90 minutes or about two hours passes, we stop for a short 10 or 15 minute break to drink a whole bunch of water and eat as much food as possible in that short time before we start to freeze.
So during the ski day, John thinks about his girlfriend, thinks about avocados, and he thinks about how much he loves to ski, and his family, of course. Tyler, he thinks about a lot of things, but primarily Ethan, his lovely wife Sarah, he thinks about conversations he's had in the past, and he skies along singing, which is nice to hear coming down the trail.
We end the travel day around 6:00pm or 6:15pm or so depending on how long it takes to select a nice spot to set the tent. Then it takes us about 45 minutes to put up the tent, empty our sleds, cut snow for snow blocks to melt into water, and organize everything inside the tent. We get in the tent, light up the stoves, and then we have some heat, and we start to take off our boots, take off all our layers, and relax for a few minutes before cooking dinner. And then it's pretty much quickly off to bed after that with a few hot water bottles in our sleeping bags and about 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night. So we're normally in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 in the evening. Then the next day it's up at 5:00am. »

Here are their progression table :

  • March 02, D 01, N 83° 08 096' / W 74°005.863', 2,3 hours walk, 1.7 NM, -37°C
  • March 03, D 02, N 83° 08.900' / W 74° 04', 5,5 hours walk, 0.87 NM, -41°C
  • March 04, D 03, N 83° 10.321' / W 74° 02.344', 6 hours walk, 1.4 NM, -41°C
  • March 05, D 04, N 83° 12.927' / W 74° 4.66', 7 hours walk, 2.63 NM, -41°C
  • March 06, D 05, N 83° 14.665' / W 74° 03.906', 7 hours walk, 1.7 NM, -51°C
  • March 07, D 06, N 83° 15.629' / W 74° 03.727', 7,5 hours walk, 0.97 NM, -50°C
  • March 08, D 07, N 83° 19.526' / W 74° 02.124', 7 hours walk, 3.9 NM, -39°C
  • March 09, D 08, N 83° 23.071' / W 74° 05.560', 8 hours walk, 3.6 NM, -37°C
  • March 10, D 09, N 83° 26.482' / W 74° 07.548', 8 hours walk, 3.4 NM, -37°C
  • March 11, D 10, N 83° 31.109' / W 74° 12.118', 8,3 hours walk, 4.7 NM, -33°C
  • March 12, D 11, N 83° 34.625' / W 74° 16.487', 8,3 hours walk, 3.6 NM, -37°C
  • March 13, D 12, N 83° 39.210' / W 74° 18.240', 8,7 hours walk, 4.6 NM, -39°C
  • March 14, D 13, N 83° 42.946' / W 74° 16.704', 8,5 hours walk, 3.7 NM, -41°C
  • March 15, D 14, N 83° 46.166' / W 74° 18.091', 8,5 hours walk, 3.2 NM, -38°C
  • March 16, D 15, N 83° 50.895' / W 74° 13.882', .8.5 hours walk, 4.8 NM, -41°C
  • March 17, D 16, N 83° 56.895' / W 74° 10.629', 8.5 hours walk, 6 NM, -38°C
  • March 18, D 17, no data
  • March 19, D 18, N 84° 09.479' / W 74° 21.600', 9 hours walk, 5.8 NM, -31°C
  • March 20, D 19,N 84° 14.691' / W 74° 34.747', 9 heures de marche, 5.4 NM, - 38°C
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