Location N 76 24.64 W 055 11.44
Distance (day/total) 30/709 miles
Weather Cloudy to start the back to whiteout, moderate winds
Some time for reflection.
STOP, STOP, STOP – we need to have a talk” came Bruce’s voice over the radio.
Following yesterday’s triumphant 120 miles we began today enthusiastically with the renewed prospect of reaching our end point on the sea ice and dog sled pick up, some 240 miles hence, just in time to catch the weekly Wednesday flight home, a week earlier than anticipated.
However after about 30 miles of kiting in terrible visibility and light wind we questioned
“why the rush?”
The novelty of kiting into absolute whiteout has somewhat worn off and the gentle breeze in a down wind heading combined with high drag pulks reduced pace to a crawl.
“This isn’t that much fun” said Bruce
On a journey such as this, a set distance with a defined end point it is easy to adopt a “push hard, make miles whenever possible, attain objective and head home” attitude
However this comes at the cost of enjoying the ride. Certainly today we could have covered another 40 miles and could possibly have made the early flight, however after some debate we decided that we should savour this once in lifetime opportunity and given that we always anticipated getting the later flight we should just chill and hope for better conditions.
Truth be told the conditions thus far have been a little disappointing. Our dreams of flying across the icecap under the midnight sun, at high speed on a kind surface, covering hundreds of miles a day have been somewhat dashed, of the 700 miles we’ve covered thus far less than 70 has been of this euphoric nature. Not to say that it hadn’t been enjoyable, like a ski holiday where you don’t score any powder days, not bad but not quite what could have been.
First class Snow kiting requires the elusive hat trick of snow (and a relatively smooth surface), wind (of appropriate strength and direction) and visibility (ideally clear sun). In our 15 days of travel we have mostly had 2 out of 3.
So we’ve decided to pace ourselves a little, accept that we’ll be away from loved ones and content ourselves with each other’s smelly company for another week and cross fingers, toes and all other appendages in hope of the elements aligning for our riding pleasure.
We are super well equipped, comfortable and warm, and have copious amounts of food and fuel. Why rush through this adventure we’ve planned all year and will no doubt recall for a lifetime? A week at home with family, though currently craved, flashes by in the blink of an eye with little definition. A week out here extends our memorable expedition and may or may not lead to that perfect session of which we have dreamed.
Another benefit our newly relaxed schedule is that we may have the chance to attempt to shoot some half decent photos and video of our endeavour. It is desperately difficult to create worthwhile images of kiting whilst also chasing daily mileage targets.
Even in kind conditions you really must keep both hands on the control bar most of the time. GoPro on helmet has produced hours of shaky footage of a tiny subject in a vast,wide angle vision of white. When I’ve tried to shoot hand held on the move its resulted in a few seconds of gold at the expense of one broken GoPro, one dropped (though recovered with considerable time and inconvenience) many kite crashes and a couple of too close for comfort “near miss” incidents.
With the luxury of time we may have the opportunity to put some effort in to trying to capture some quality material of what it’s really like to be out here in this Arctic wilderness, totally self sufficient, riding the wind in the midnight sun.
Or more likely we’ll spend the next week as we have the last two, either sat in the tent in a blizzard / no wind or pushing on into flat white bleakness in renewed urgency of a deadline.
Such is the nature of expeditions and where would be the adventure if the conclusion were forgone? Our hopes and dreams rest with the wind (and snow and visibility…)