Location N 77 35.46 W 062 12.00
Distance (day/total) 72/846 miles
Weather Sunny with light to moderate winds
Another fine day here on the ice cap. Following our pulk audit this morning it transpires that all the pies had indeed vanished explaining Bruce’s trailing performance yesterday… Actually we think it was the weight distribution in his pulks, too front heavy causing them to drag nose first so redistributed accordingly and seemed much better.
Decent wind, surface and sun made for most enjoyable morning session. Certainly starting to feel more at home in this alien environment. It occurred to me today how utterly self reliant and relaxed we’ve become. We are still very far from any civilisation or help but with our trusty blue anchors (pulks) weighing behind us we want for nothing and nobody. Like a pair of bag men, Arctic vagabonds we carry our possessions of this world with us at all times and as such are never away from home.
One of the benefits to polar travel is the abundance of snow i.e. Water not to mention quality flat camp sites where ever you choose to stop. We are so well supplied supplied and equipped we have been struggling to find floor or potential improvements to any of the kit. Pleased to say all systems are working swimmingly.
After our first snack break the wind had dropped and we spent a couple of hours looping the kites incessantly to gain meagre progress. When it started to require maximum skill just to keep them aloft we stopped for another break.
As so often seems to be the case half an hour later we relaunched into a completely different experience. The wind had picked up and we slightly adjusted our heading on a more cross wind tack finding ourselves fully powered and travelling at 25 mph. Quite suddenly the surface quality deteriorated markedly, not the wind blown sastrugi like before, a complex mix of icy mounds, hard plateaus and sculpted snow drifts making for some exciting riding, catching air off the mounds and skating across the plateaus. Soon we realised we were probably having a bit too much fun and our kit was probably paying the price inside the pulks as they got pounded and smashed across the glacier. We adjusted our heading and de-powered the kites to a more appropriate but still rapid pace. Knees took a knocking and now with the luxury of time we called it a day at another nondescript, perfect camp site.
Our spacious 4-man tunnel tent with massive porch is like a mobile hut with kitchenette. We are getting pretty slick with our camp system. Here’s a few polar specific but also general winter camping tricks we’ve picked up thus far…..
• a long pulk bag for the tent meaning you can leave the poles in place and pop it up really quickly
• Zipped begging bags resembling mattresses strapped to the top of our pulks contain sleeping bags, therm-a-rest’s and carry mats that can be very quickly thrown in and outbid the tent.
• don’t skimp on comfort, sleep is important and being tent bound for days is much worse if cold / uncomfortable. An overly warm sleeping bag is better than an underly one! A liner is also good. Use a quality sleeping mat AND inflatable mattress. Finally a 3mm foam floor fitted to the tent is a winner on snow.
• a light, large hold all containing all personal clothes etc inside pulk for quick and expedient transfer into / out of tent. Subdivide items into stuff colour coded sacks / net backs for easy organisation
• Have a strict routine for making and breaking camp – things go wrong very quickly in high winds and low temperatures.
• In fresh snow (>=10cm) stamp out the tent platform with skis – don’t subsequently walk on it before putting the tent up.
• Check wear on the tent fabric if leaving the poles in the tent when travelling. A few days of being bounced around in the pulks could cause a lot of damage
• Concentrate on TENT and STOVE as these are showstoppers. Take a spare tent and spare stove unless you are very experienced or feel lucky.
• Be careful of carbon monoxide poisoning from the stove – easily forgotten on calm days, keep the tent well ventilated when cooking.
• if fuel quality is questionable consider a fuel filter when putting the fuel in the bottles – Fuel that has been contaminated with small particles of dirt can be hard to spot but will repeatedly clog the small burner jet on the stove as will crystals of ice /water.
• Dig out a pit near the door area in the tent – It is great for the older team members to sit next to and put their boots and socks on as they find it more difficult to bend. It also collects harmful carbon monoxide, if present, as it is heavier than air.
• a 30L plastic box (10 gallon rubber maid rough neck tote specifically) works a treat as a cook box
• a stove board is essential for cooking on snow. We have two, a 60 cm x 30 cm and 20cm x 30cm made out of 0.7mm titanium backed with insulative foam mat although plywood works almost as well
• Keep your pee bottle in your sleeping bag to prevent it freezing. If it does freeze before you have a chance of disposing of it outside then the only remedy is to place the bottle in your hot water for your morning cuppa to thaw it out!
• damp socks, gloves, boot liners and anything else can be hung in drying line in tent and then put inside sleeping bag whilst sleeping for effective drying. Also any electrical devices / batteries can be stored inside the bag too to keep warm and hold charge
• Have a knife ready in the back of the tent, then, if there is a fire you can quickly cut an escape route.
So there you have it winter camping directions from a pair of arctic vagabonds. Loving these kind kiting conditions that are forecast to remain for the last couple of days of our trip but must admit news from home of BBQ’s and summery weather is starting to sound quite appealing after an excellent but some what extended winter season. Oh and a shower, that’s going to be gooooood.