Location N 71 27.89 W 046 52.50
Distance (day/total) 0/329 miles
Weather Snow, wind and and poor visibility for most of the day
Wind 15-25mph Temp -5c
Leo has spent a total of 4 minutes out of the tent today and I have spent a complete 24 hours inside – not quite the rip-roaring adventure we thought we had signed up to. But all was not lost as we settled in to an hour of Ricky Gervais on the big screen suspended from the roof.
Yesterday was a big day for us and this morning the fact that kiting conditions were poor was maybe not such a bad thing as we both felt fatigued. It was a good fatigued though and we felt quite elated at having put in a respectable distance of 200km yesterday. Neither of us had done that distance in one non-stop session before and although it wasn’t easy with the 125km of sastrugi, we were blessed with what we both think is the best equipment for the job. And yesterday it was our choice of skis that saved our legs.
When we were researching the trip we spent a lot of time, actually, probably too much time, trying to select the best ski to take with us on our journey. Did we go for a wide ski that would float on the surface of any soft snow, or should we look at long narrow skis that the snowkiters from North America use for their high speed cruising on the frozen lakes? We looked at the skis that other polar snowkiters had used in the past and tried hard to look for a reliable, effective and flexible solution. In the end we could not find such a ski that met all the requirements we thought were necessary, so instead of compromising, we ended up with two pairs of quite different skis each
We were a bit perplexed by the sight of what seems to be a mini computer embedded into the ski – all wires and chips. It turns out that this “KERS” system generates some electrical charge under high speed vibration which is then stored and subsequently released at the end of a turn in the form of stiffening some fibres in the tail of the ski to make it have more pop and be more responsive. Now, Vonn and Svindal will no doubt really feel the difference, but for us mere mortals it is less about feeling the difference and more about how cool it looks having a bunch of electronics on the top of the ski – our one and only bit of “techy bling”
Initially we assumed that we would encounter conditions that nearly always suited the Head GS skis but we were still worried about having to ski them through a deep covering of fresh powder. Their narrow width would mean that they would have a tendency to dive under the surface of the snow rather than ride on the top so our second choice of ski was more conventional. A 95mm twin-tip freeride ski which we would normally use for our snowkiting trips in the UK, Alps or Norway. In fresh powder snow the extra width causes the ski to float on the surface and this not only enables better control but should result in faster speeds in this snow type. The advantage of having twin tips is that when launching the kite or having to negotiate sastrugi we can move the skis backwards without the tails digging into any soft snow surface. The additional advantage is that if we break the tip of a ski we could, in theory, re-drill and turn the binding around 180 degrees and still use the ski – something we are hoping not to test out.
Our experience so far though means, in our opinion, the narrow GS ski will become the norm for long distance polar snowkiting trips. Head, who helped us get the latest skis will be delighted as this could open up a whole new market to them, maybe worth sales of 10 to 20 pairs a year.
It is 5pm and still a whiteout, and if we had to we could make the effort to kite, but it wouldn’t be much fun and add additional unnecessary risks, anyway Kevin Bridges is up at 6 o’clock.