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Messages from the Field

Whilst we are in the field, we will endeavor to update this page daily so that friends and family can follow our progress as intimately as modern technology will currently allow.

Images Added but More Text to Follow
A selection of Pasi's images have been inserted into the blog to provide a quick insight into our journey and experiences. More will follow as they start to filter through from other team members but I hope these keep you going in the meantime!



Press duties call over the next few days but then I will try, next weekend, to add some more information (e.g. about the fascinating Radar Station we visited in Kangerlussuaq, through Tomaz and Sylvia, Polish friends of Lou and Mark, from Camp Raven). Eventually, we will also have an image gallery up and running and a link through to the expedition report itself.

Hence, it might be worth holding off on going through the text with a fine toothcomb for now, but feel free to get in touch if you would like a higher res. copy of any of the images or if you have any specific questions about the expedition, since we are aware that we have only skimmed the surface of what we have learned through this blog.
0 Comments
Posted on 14 Jun 2006 by Anna
Back in Old Blighty
'This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning'. Winston Churchill (talking about the battle of Egypt, 1942).

We are all back, safe and sound and have been reading through the blogs on both this and our school-targeted website, (http://www.hie.co.uk/expedition-updates.html), which is complete with images, audio clips and video footage from some of the TV reports. If you haven't checked that one out yet, it is definitely worth doing so!

Patricia (mom) was receiving most of our updates verbally and then passing the messages on to Ken, so we were wondering what kind of Chinese Whisper misunderstandings would be being reported. All in all, however, (bar a few basic hearing errors!) the sites provide a good basic insight into the journey and we will add some more insights over the next few days.

Ken also managed to find out a lot of 'behind the scenes' information about the Icecap so the team is now learning retrospectively about the area we travelled through which is very interesting.

Thanks so much to Pat and Ken for helping us out and doing such an amazing job. Given the broken connections and hearing aid troubles, (A wink) I can't believe what you guys managed for us.

We will try to add image galleries to both of the sites over the next few days. Pasi has over a 1000 digital images that need backing up, sorting, turning, enhancing etc and then everyone else also has slide film that needs to be developed, digitised and distributed. That alone will be a big job but we also have all the video footage to play with at some point over the next few weeks and all the press and sponsor follow-up to do over the next few days. (Basically, bear with us in our aim to get a basic overview selection up by the start of next week).

As an insight into the more mundane side of post expedition life, Pasi and I arrived back in Cannock with 22 North Face-type duffle bags of team kit and 3 pulks - all somehow crammed into our small Rover Hatchback. Hence we have tonnes of unpacking, of dirty clothes washing, of tent and sleeping bag airing and team kit maintenance to add our ever-growing task-list for the next few days. Next time we are going to aim to be the people in the team who just turn up with their own clothes and return home with the same, or with a few new ones we have provided!

Watch out for some more general comments on learnings, kit, individual thoughts etc whilst we are still submerged in post expedition life over the next week or two and as we try to round-out the website to give as detailed as possible an overview of our life on the Icecap and what it has meant to us to succeed in developing the kit and clothing technology that made Karen's journey possible - the long-term goal of this whole project.
3 Comments
Posted on 09 Jun 2006 by Anna
On our way Home
Hi,

We are about to take off from Kangerlussuaq en route to Kulusuk on the east coast and thence to Reykjavik.

Pat has finally managed to change our bookings to the 8th to fly to London. All six of us are booked on the 0740 ex Reykjavik due to arrive in London Heathrow at 1145 tomorrow morning. Karen and Jacek have onward connections to catch then, so there will be a lot of provisional team kit sorting to be done at the airport. Somehow, I have the feeling that Pasi will end up alone there for hours surrounded by all the team bags full of dirty kit whilst I head into the city to pick up the car. Fingers crossed it won't be like that!
1 Comments
Posted on 07 Jun 2006 by Anna
Dramatic Ending


We are now sitting outside our hostel in Kangerlussuaq, struggling with the satellite phone that is behaving erratically.

Normally, the annual rainfall here is only 25mm but sods law, it is raining now, just when we need to dry all our gear (we have been asked not to take it inside the hostel since it is too smelly!). Mind you, considering the relative run of luck we had, weather-wise, on the ice, we can't really complain. But mosquitoes are another matter and there are now millions of them buzzing around. Their bites are not pleasant!

To say that the past three days have been horrendous is an understatement. The day before yesterday we probably covered 10kms as the crow flies but, in reality, it was a lot more. Likewise, our final 4kms was probably the most challenging of the lot. Imagine ice-walls bigger than a tall house and you crawling along balconies between interlocking buildings! It was fun!



The terrain was really rough, with rivers in between and, given that Karen's ski means that she is really low to the ground, it is not surprising that she was scared as she approached the larger ponds of water, anxious about falling in the wrong direction.



During most of the two days, Andy provided forward momentum and I tried to steady her ski, but from time to time everything would come unravelled and either I would find myself with a leg down a crevasse / face down in a pond, having pushed Karen across some obstacle, or Karen and I would both fall and the impact on the pulk in front would also take Andy off his feet. It must have been funny to watch but the others were working so hard with heavier pulks (and in the end with shuttle-running our pulks back and forth as well as their own, when we had to concentrate on working solely with Karen), that they didn't even have time to take many images in the most stunning area in our whole journey!



As a small insight, when you pull pulks in that kind of gigantic moghul (for want of a better description) terrain, the pulks often come hurtling down on you at inoportune moments, crashing into your already delicate funny bones, if not literally lifting you off your feet. Othertimes they simply roll over, sometimes 360 and by the time this has happened for the zillionth time and you have patiently unclipped and reclipped yourself back in, having turned it back over, it becomes a little frustrating. To say the least. Covered in bruises, however, we made it through.

Almost immediately after we had arrived at the road-head, a four-wheel vehicle drove up full of international tourists, (including a Pakistani couple who worried us slightly by unfavourably comparing the road back to Kangerlusuak with mountain roads in Pakistan!) and so on. They saw us with our pulks and Karen’s ski-chair and some asked if we had been in an accident! They had great value for their money with all the extra excitement thrown in free.

One hour after we reached 'land' we saw the Foxy Ladies, sponsored by the Sun, who had gone from west to east and back again on a more northerly latitude but who were hampered in their attempt to kite by a general lack of wind. They had to fly back to London today. Andy and I went back up the glacier aways to greet them and see if they needed help keeping their Snowsled Pulks upright over the final few 100 metres.

These four ladies had very different equipment from ours - three kites each, kiting skis and boots as well as back country skis and boots etc. Incidently, their 'drop bag' (resupply bag - used to reduce the weight of food etc they had to carry on each leg) had been dropped off for them by the same helicopter taking Ben Saunders and Partner out for a training session in the lead-up to their Antarctic Expeditionary Plans for later in the year. See www.bensaunders.com and see his name on our www.byhandsandfeet.co.uk site.

Jens, from Kangerlussuaq tourism, picked all of us up (having fielded phonecalls of despair from the girls earlier in the day, lost admist the maze) and raised all spirits with his materialisation of a crate of beer, coke and chocolate.



It was great to be finished and good to know that you were back in experienced hands, with someone who had seen it all before. Years of experience had obviously told him it was safest for his nose to be separated from us on the journey home so he sat up in his cab and communicated with us by intercom, whilst the Foxy Ladies called home and gulped down every ounce of spare food (peanuts!) we found from our pockets!



We are now staying in an old military base, sparse and spread out. We will be spending the next two days sorting out our kit before flying out to Reykjavik on Wednesday, and then hopefully on to London on Thursday. It was good to have a wash last night but the town is unbelievably spread out, and seemingly full of raided loot from Dye 11. Very bizarre place!



I guess, all in all, this has been a big achievement. We know, now, that there is no longer a barrier stopping paraplegics from revelling in the Arctic Wilderness so, whilst our minds no doubt drift towards our next challenges, our actions will be dedicated over the coming weeks to ensuring that as many people as possible hear this message and are inspired to venture out on their own life adventures.

Images will follow once we have time to work on the blog ourselves upon return so keep posted!

9 Comments
Posted on 05 Jun 2006 by Anna
Home and d-Dry!
Hi, everyone,

It's 9pm here in Kangerlussuaq and we are all on our way out for pizzas.

Will be in touch tomorrow to tell you about our last 4km today and our journey to here.

This is just to let you know we're back safe and sound. I know it is already Monday with you.

By the way, we finally found the iceroad. This is what it looks like - although even this is pretty intermittant and the girls who followed us down, didn't manage to distinguish it at all!



Mind you, when we got up onto it, it wasn't all plain sailing. It definitely speeded up our general progress since we could at least go more or less in a straight line for a few hundred metres at a time but the drop-offs meant that Andy and I had to start working exclusively with Karen, leaving our pulks behind for the boys to piggy-back forward, since the repercussions of a fall would have been reasonably severe.



Karen muttered something about it being a good job there was no health and safety inspector around at that point but said that she felt perfectly safe in our hands, if a little helpless. Andy later surprised me by saying that he thought it was right at the limit of what was feasible 7 safe and might not have attempted the whole crossing had he realised what it would be like. However, having seen images from many other expeditions, (and given the situations we often end up in, racing), we felt that it wasn't too bad at all and just gave a different dimension to the challenge of the last few days. At least you had a constantly changing surroundings to look at and to stimulate decision making, even if it was only as much as deciding whether to go left or right...



With a few hundred metres to go, we got into real end-zone glacial terrain, rocks and pebbles cutting into Karen's skis and into the base of the pulks. But we were focused on our final goal - a road that we could occassionally see when on higher points, winding its way down to the glacial edge. Maybe not particularly inspiring as scenery goes, but it definitely looked good to us.

15 Comments
Posted on 04 Jun 2006 by Anna
Final Hours on the Ice
Final Hours on the Glacier

Good morning from the glacier, this Sunday, 4th June, 2006. It is 9am here as I speak from my tent, 4km from Point 660. We have lots of water around us now - melting snow for cooking and drinking no longer such an issue - so we are finally getting more sleep, and it is a good job, since this is putting quite a strain on our bodies.



We can see the land ahead through out tent flaps. We have to get ourselves off the ice and on to the land where we have arranged for a car to pick us up at 5pm our time and transport us to Kangerlussuaq. We will stay there tonight in a hotel or hostel. Before the car arrives we hope to have time to take photographs.

Zestco sponsored last night’s “final camp” on the ice. Zestco is an innovative young company inspiring tomorrow’s TODAY. They explore new frontiers in the expansion of human capabilities through programmes, products, and services for the environment in business and personal development. They were delighted to hear about our project and to contribute to moving forward the boundaries of exploration. Thank you, Zestco. Last night’s has turned out to be the most challenging camp of all. We celebrated our final night on the glacier with our remaining miniature bottles of Bailey’s.

The tents were just put up using 4 ice-screws and the pulks so fortunately, there is no wind or things would be a lot more challenging.



These final 4km are going to take us 4/5 hours of tough going. There are lots of crevasses, lots of wet ground underfoot.

Yesterday Pasi and Harvey were ahead, striking a route through, while Andy did most of the towing of Karen and I stabalised her ski.



The four men were mostly skiing, a question of staying on their feet, balancing and manoeuvring along the bumpy ground. I have been wearing crampons so my feet are getting very wet and I often end up with legs down crevasses or, indeed, face down in the water, ensuring that Karen gets through the tricky sections without falling in. Progress is so slow in these conditions.



There have even been times when Andy has been pulling Karen quickly over a particular obstacle, often a high snow bank with a fall - off to water on one side and I have been pushing hard from behind and it looks like we are going to emerge unscathed. However, then I myself will get over the obstacle only to be lifted off my feet by my pulk on its downward trajectory. If I let go of Karen and she falls, the momentum sometimes then lifts Andy off his feet and we all end up in a mess on ground with the pulks often upside down around us. Jacek often walks behind me, trying to keep my pulk upright so as to keep progress with Karen as smooth as possible. I have given most of my weight to the boys so that I have fewer forces pulling me in different directions whilst also working with Karen but all of us are battling with the frustration of constantly having to right the pulks, time and time again.



Communications-wise, we have been using the batteries from Ski’s phone in our old phone. It is a matter of holding the battery as we talk so we have been fairly careful about call time these past few days, anxious to preserve it for the vital pick-up call from the edge of the ice.

I shall be in touch again once we are safely off the ice.



Thanks for all your messages of encouragement.

Anna
laughing laughing laughing laughing laughing laughing
8 Comments
Posted on 04 Jun 2006 by Anna
Slow Progress
Hi,

It is approaching mid-night here but with you it is already Saturday, 3rd June, 2006.

We did only 18.34 km today. Conditions were really hard, with lots of water, rivers and crevasses, so, therefore, progress was slow.



All of us were wearing harnesses through the day, although the crevasses proved to be of the type that were unlikely to swallow us. One more bit of kit for Karen to manipulate onto herself each morning and to be cautious about pressure sores because of.



We kept sinking knee-deep while testing the ground ahead and those in the lead occassionally went through the ice, but rarely over their thighs. Whilst some were concerned, Pasi and I remembered the last Explore Sweden race in which competitors half swam / walked / canoed across a vast semi-frozen lake and this didn't seem too difficult for the able-bodied amongst us, by comparison.



For Karen, however, low to the ground, we have to keep every precaution to keep her dry. Half way through the day, she got into an enormous canoeing dry bag that comes up to her chest so now she has changed from being the green to the red mermaid. She is feeling good in spite of her frequent crashes, sometimes into the icy melt water.



We tried a new technique towards the end of the day with Andy, then a pulk and then Karen on a tow, with me steading her chair, wearing crampons and pulling my pulk behind. Wet feet but glorious camp site with ice-screws now replacing our skis as our tent anchors and running water in rivulets all around us. We suddenly cottened on to the fact that we didn't need to be carrying so much water around in our pulks anymore since it was finally at hand again! Our evening boiling sessions are now much shorter and we get to bed before midnight which is just great!



We will be glad when we reach Point 660.

I hope you are all sleeping soundly in your warm beds at home...think of us out here in the melting glacial zone...

8 Comments
Posted on 03 Jun 2006 by Anna
Of Mountains and Crevasses
Hi, everyone,

It is 9.05pm here, 1st June 2006, and we are having difficulties charging our phone. We did 32.5km today and have only about 33 km in total to go to Point 660.



After days of thinking we could see mountains in the distance - only to have them always dissolve into clouds - we finally saw real peaks for the first time in over three weeks. This was an event worth celebrating so out came the Marks & Spencer Percy Pigs! I hope you all know what they are. They are the highlight of every adventure race for Pasi and I and have featured on numerous TV documentaries, world-wide as a result! All natural ingredients, cute and pink and very delicious! Well recommended!



I ended up having to walk / run the last two laps, rather than skiing, since I haven't been able to kick at all since my boots broke and with the grip tape we had applied just after Dye 11 skinned off by the hard ice layers during the last few days, the lack of potential to use technique made it almost impossible to ski. Andy was on skins but the rest of us were kind of committed to the grip tape and suffering to various degrees. Luckily, the snow was hard.

We have started traversing down the glacier so Karen's right deltoid muscle was hurting from having to continually correct from one direction. However, we are all tremendously excited to be entering the area of crevasses for a change and a new challenge in place of the relentless, monotonous plod across the never-ending white expanse.

One thing making Karen giggle away at the moment, is Andy's skiing and the number of times - now that the terrain is getting more tricky and the glide faster - that he is ending up flat on his face. Given the general speed of this journey for this group and the various abilities of the people within it, his lack of skiing ability hasn't been a big issue at all since he is so strong. However, he is having to expend far more energy than the others because of lack of technique and he is probably wishing he had had a few more days of practise under his belt since if so, he may have ended up with a few fewer bruises!

5 Comments
Posted on 02 Jun 2006 by Anna
Problems with Phone
Hi,
This is just a short postscript to last night's short report. Our satellite phone is damaged. Fortunately, we will be down within five days and meanwhile, we have our radio and beacon, so no worries.

6 Comments
Posted on 01 Jun 2006 by Anna
Still Moving Fast
This is just a quick note to say we did 34.9 km today, leaving only 65km to go. It is strange because even though we know (from the distance we are covering and from our speed) that we are going downhill), it still doesn't look like that and the land stretches out before us, much as it has for most of the previous four weeks.



Patricia managed to sort out two of the three stages of our flights. All six of us are booked from Kangerlussuaq to Kusuluk for the 7th June, less than a week away, and then on to Reykjavik leaving Kusuluk at 14.30 on the 7th.

7.45 pm here on Wednesday, 31st May, 2006

1 Comments
Posted on 31 May 2006 by Anna
Mounting Excitement
Yesterday we covered a further 37.16 km and completed a 238m descent. We now have only 100km to go to the pick-up point.

Today, like yesterday, the weather promises to be good with the wind behind us to carry us forward. It would be perfect weather for kiting. We have a kite with us but are afraid to use it in view of the trouble we have had with the boots in general, even before thinking about the additional stresses involved with adding a kite into the equation! My boots are still a drawback, causing me to fall quite a few times during the day when they literally skim away from my feet.



We saw the first indication that we are nearing the finish when the white snow gave way in patches to a few bumps and ice formations. It may indicate the start of crevasses but it is something different from the monotonous landscape we have been looking at. We also spotted some low-lying clouds on the horizon and we guess these may be over the mountains on the coast.



We now have to arrange our flights in three stages, through Patricia, so it looks likely that we will all make it back in time for the 8th.

We all send our love.

Patricia passed on the message from the Finns to us so we have given up our hopes of finding an easily-passable old VW ice road to lead us through the technically difficult areas at the end. It will be good to be able to offer Paul Walker and Tangent Expeditions some up-to-date info on the state of the Western Edge of the Icecap in return for all the advice he gave us during our preparations. It seems like crossing is now far harder than it was back in the few years immediately following the roads construction. We are looking forward to the challenge to come. Anything different from the endless norm is good.
4 Comments
Posted on 31 May 2006 by Anna
The End in Sight
Yesterday, we covered 34.6 km. For the last 9 km of that, my boots were not attached to my skis. It was a matter of holding them together by sheer force and plodding on.



Conditions were favourable with a wind behind us as we travelled downhill. Karen was doing well apart from a few bumpy bits and a few falls and it became more a case of some within the group having trouble keeping up with her, rather than the other way round!



We are not missing our countries as much as our families and we are missing them very much. Fortunately, we have no signs of frostbite so far. Karen wears footpads on her feet Andy does have some white spots on his nose but they are from the sun rather than from frost. As for drying clothes, the only washing we do is the girls’ underwear. I washed my whole under layer once.

Are we craving any particular food? Well. Pasi is craving for rye bread, a Finnish speciality, while the boys would love fish and chips. Karen is longing for some fresh fruit. I am not craving for anything in the way of food.

It is now looking hopeful for the 7th June. I have asked Patricia to try to contact the Air Greenland marketing people as I can’t get through to them to inquire about availability of seats on the plane from Kangerlussuaq to Heathrow for the 7th rather than the 14th. I shall try to ring Mom tonight to see if she has been able to get through.

Thanks, everyone, for your messages.

Anna, 9.35 am here on Tuesday, 30th May, 2006
3 Comments
Posted on 30 May 2006 by Anna
Continuing Boot Problems
Yesterday, we set out from Camp Raven at 2.30 pm our time and finished at 6.30, having travelled 15.9 km. We had intended going on till 7 pm but both of my boots had gone. The first one broke within minutes of setting off.



This morning we spent another few hours attempting to fix them. The boys drilled into the ski. Now the ski is gone. We even used the back of a rucksack in a desperate attempt to find a fix. We have lost about £1000 worth of equipment in trying to find a solution. We are not feeling too happy about this…Our goal today is to reach the 400km mark zone. As we approached Camp Raven on Saturday we saw another group of Norwegians from the boot manufacturers in the distance but they were too far away for us to approach them. Perhaps that was just as well.

Incidentally, we each have a nickname.

• Karen: The Skiing Mermaid - because of her legs being trapped together within her special skiing bags. When transferring her from tent to chair and back, the bag containing her legs gets lifted and moved to and fro by its inbuilt velcro straps and her legs therefore get moved around as if they were a single entity mermaid's tail.

• Pasi: The Terminator Puppet - because his voice sounds like The Terminator when he speaks, because he constantly tells stories of fighting and battles and because he looks like a puppet on a string whilst skiing, with his arms wide (letting sweat evaporate through his vapour-rise top), his movement, like an automaton.

• Andy: The Gay Blue Smurf - because he has a blue nose, lips, hat and mitts. When he 'skis', he walks, his arms and legs asunder, pointing outwards. His hands mince in a flamboyant fashion as he kind of waddles along and it reduces us to laughter when behind him.

• Jacek: The Flaming Sleeping Matador - because of the problems he has with our stoves, the frequency with which he can be found in a prone position whilst work goes on around him and since he flames Karen's down jacket as an enticement to encourage her onwards to the 50 minute breaks.

• Harvey: The Human Dustbin.

• Anna: The Bootless Brigadier.

10.30 am Monday, 29th May, 2006

2 Comments
Posted on 29 May 2006 by Anna
Challenges and Motivation
We have had time to think and chat over the past twenty-four days. Normally, all we can manage is to keep going, plodding away, growing weary, melting snow, dropping in to bed, exhausted.

Before coming on this journey, we planned and tested equipment and prepared for what we thought would be the demands facing us. We thought we had covered all possibilities but look at my boots! This is what our latest 'fix' attempt looks like!



When Karen first contemplated staying outside in temperatures of -30C, it hardly seemed possible yet little by little she prepared and tested herself and she has achieved what was merely a dream two years ago. If you challenge and test yourself in small things you will find you can do almost anything you set yourself.

We have all faced challenges. Karen has her toileting tent but when the rest of us have to go outside the tent and bare our bottoms at -30C or -35C and then wipe ourselves clean with freezing snow in our bare hands, it takes some courage.

We are now facing another challenge, working out when to make the phone call to arrange our flights. If we call for the airlift too early and don’t make it, that would be disastrous. Again if we leave it too late, there may not be enough seats available. Life is full of such decisions needing to be made.

Motivation is important. The goal of reaching this camp kept us going through the darkest periods. More immediate goals were to make it to the next break after 50 minutes of skiing. We took it in small attainable steps.

I regret we didn’t spend enough time together to establish firm team relationships before setting out. There is no socialising in the evenings, no time to listen to one another’s grievances and resentments. Time or the lack of it has been a real challenge. Evenings are taken up with melting snow for water, in our separate tents, a time-consuming, tedious chore while worn out from the day’s exertions. One lesson we all learned is that you need to have confidence in yourself before you set out on a challenge like this. Karen, being more mobile now, can pull up or go forward to ski beside each team member in turn and chat with everyone. I daren’t move out of the tracks left by the others because of the broken boots and the terrible state of my feet.

I think we are all on a learning course here. I hope the school children are coping well with their personal challenges. Just remember that what you need is to have faith in yourselves and set yourself achievable tasks and move on from there to greater things. Look after yourselves and thanks for all your encouraging messages.

Anna and Pasi, Karen, Andy, Harvey and Jacek send their love. We don’t have a half-term break.

wink
5 Comments
Posted on 28 May 2006 by Anna
Camp Raven and Dye 11


Yesterday, Saturday, we covered the 12.2km to Camp Raven and a glorious break for us all. However, with about half way still to go, my left ski-boot also gave up the ghost and, although Andy tried to double pulk it for a few minutes, I soon concluded that it was easiest for me to just pull the pulk and shuffle-run to keep up.

Here at Camp Raven we have been enjoying the hospitality of Lou and Mark who have established a magnificent camp not far from DYE-2. They inhabit it for about four months of the year and look after the Hercules planes landing and taking off on training missions. It was bizarre crossing huge plane tracks criss-crossing the 'desert' in many directions during our approach.



Lou and Mark live in a long tunnel tent with three portholes either side. At one end is a computer and they have telephone and oven and sauna while all around are gloves, boots, socks and hats and so on. It is tiny but really well organised, with all the essentials of modern life (well, apart from running water, etc).

Life became one culinary delight after another, starting with a 'snack' of tofu and spinach soup, then (post Dye 11 exploration) a dinner of wild mushroom tortellini, green beans, fresh garlic and olives and chocolate brownies for desert (oh and packets of chocolate hobnobs, caramel digestives etc. i.e. the cream of UK biscuits!!!).

She found out that we had been dreaming of pizza and blueberry muffins ever since our encounter with the Greenlandic girls so, even though we were totally happy already, we awoke to a serving of freshly steaming muffins, chai and fruit teas. Sheer heaven.

We exchanged some of our nuts, fruit, porridge, oatcakes and Ovaltine. I am not entirely sure that they came out of the deal very well!

Lou and Mark come from Montana and have been coming here for the past ten years, roughly every other year. We all talked so much that we had no time to wash even though they showed us their amazingly neat little sauna type wash cabin (which would fit two at a push)! They let us know, too, that we stank to high heaven! Patricia McCormack's reaction was,
‘Surely a wash would have been more urgent than food and chat.’ It wasn’t.



Exploring DYE-2 was also a revelation. Karen thought she wouldn’t be able to get up the ladders to explore the upstairs since Harvey and co had gone up ahead, and concluded that access for her was impossible. Pasi came to the rescue and gave her a piggy back up, with Anna acting as balast in case of a slip on the ice / through the snow bridges on the approach. At the top of the exposed metal stairs, he belly/flopped onto a platform, allowing Karen to shimmy sideways and chimney through an ice tunnel in the entrance passageway. All very exciting compared to our norm!



We found an old meat trolley that Karen could sit in and be wheeled around the first floor in. The old buildings were filthly, complete with hunks of meat left lying around amidst more modern human refuse and shit. However, but we took pictures of the switches and dead generators and found they had been made by General Electric - exciting, given that eVent, one of our main sponsors, is a subsidiary company of GE.



We picked up an old Newsweek from 1988 with stories of Gorbachov Summit talks and warnings about Global Warming. It was as if we were caught in a time-warp, weird.



Upstairs, the bedrooms held ashtrays complete with cigarette butts and personal pictures of parrots etc -all left behind in a mad rush to evacuate in a 24 hour period. It was like going on to the Titanic or being in Pompeii when it was first excavated.

That evening, Lou very generously offered me her ski-boots but they were for NNS rather than SNS bindings and therefore didn't work. Harvey and Pasi picked up bolts and screws and nuts and put metal pieces into the boots and a big screw across the bar. It may work on one boot but we had to cut the other one so it may not work with it. It will be easier now that Karen is moving on her own but my feet are the big handicap at the moment. As we prepare to leave this amazing place, we now have to focus on a new point in the distance towards which we are motivated to strive.



We have been thinking about the challenges and our responses to them so we will try to share these thoughts with you in a separate bulletin.
laughing

This morning Andy, Pasi and I headed back over to Dye 11. Andy thought it was one of the most fascinating places he had seen and we had yet to explore the upper floors.

We found everything from personal collages of a favoured parrot (complete with plucked feather), to cardboard boxes filled with shit, to cigarette butts and unfinished drinks on bedside tables and vacation charts in the offices. All very bizarre.



On the top floors, crates of food lay rusting in the darkness. Everything from chopped clams to hearts of palm, HP sauce to toilet roll. Mark and Lou say that they never worry about loo roll, since they know there will always be an ample supply available 'next door' but they are probably a little more hesitant about availing of the food stuffs.



Finally the radar itself. A rotating, rust-free dish that the boys spun, and a dome leading to an outside balcony with a never-ending white view (apart from for camp raven). Acoustics were great. Too bad we can't sing. But it didn't stop Andy climbing...



We left quietly, absorbed in our thoughts. How on earth can the US justify abandoning such a monstrosity in such a wild, pristine landscape? How can Denmark let them get away with it? Thank goodness Lou and Mark were good (great!) examples of their countrymen or we might have left doing more than shaking our head at the direction the US seems to continue to think it is acceptable to head in! Long live America.

1 Comments
Posted on 28 May 2006 by Anna
Agony and Ecstasy
It is 1.30pm here on Sunday, 28th May, as I prepare my bulletin for you to cover the past two days.

On Friday we covered 25.89 km. That was slower than we intended because my feet were playing up all day. However, the big news was that - 21 days into the expedition itself - Karen finally managed a whole day of skiing on her own!



We celebrated with Baileys and whisky since we had also passed another 'milestone' - the 300km mark. We are over half way!

As we camped that night, we spotted six figures in the distance and we knew they were six Norwegians from the firm who recommended and sold our ski-boots to us. The guy who actually sold them was one of the six so it is as well we didn’t meet them or there may have been more than a few choice words exchanged! Whilst skiing along, we kept imagining things that we would say to / do to him upon return (although in reality, we are all probably too 'British' to do anything at all!).

One popular suggestion from Andy was a voodoo ceremony in which we would dress up the gnome and stick needles in his feet, (e.g. the same needles that it looked like I would soon be needing to open the blisters forming on my squashed feet). We basically just hoped he would admit responsibility for bad advice since he had advised us away from stronger boot binding options that we had even sourced for free from elsewhere. Umm. Maybe just a bad batch!?

More anon.

angry angry

1 Comments
Posted on 28 May 2006 by Anna
Quickening the Pace
Hi, everyone.

I hope you are all comfortably tucked up in your warm beds. It is 8.20pm here on Thursday, 25th May, as I think back from my tent over the day just passed.

Karen is beginning to move on her own and today she did so for half a day. Yesterday, she attempted to set off ahead of us on a few legs whilst Anna's boot / binding combination was being played with and she realised that she could keep up. Today, with stronger arms and more confidence, this was even more the case so that is a big bonus for everyone.



All along, we have been aiming to finish in time to catch a plane on the 7th vs 14th of June, but since there are only planes once a week and since our tickets are only flexible if there is availability, we booked on the 14th to be safe. Now, however, the 7th looks increasingly likely so our major dilemna is when to make the call to try to make the alteration. If we make it too soon and then have more kit problems / a storm come in to delay progress, we may loose our slots on the 14th and be delayed until the 21st. If we wait too long, there may be no seats left on the 7th. Small dilemnas keep us entertained.

Spirits are higher than for some time. We will be back with more news tomorrow.
10 Comments
Posted on 26 May 2006 by Anna
Facing Challenges
Here we are again at 10.15 am on Thursday, 25th May, preparing to set out on yet another tough day of relentless skiing.



Yesterday we covered 23.88 km in spite of my broken ski boot. The lowest temperature we recorded last night was -33C but the instruments stop working when the temperature falls below that so actually, it was far colder than -33C. On one thermometer inside the tents it was -27C. It has risen to -13C this morning and with bright skies, it looks promising for the rest of today.



This expedition took two years of planning and preparation, yet here we are more than half-way through and facing oh! so many challenges.

The journey challenges the current limits of belief as to what is possible for disabled people to achieve. It also pushes back the frontiers of readily available clothing and kit technology within the outdoor industry. Karen’s inability to regulate her temperature below her chest is a major problem and in the extreme cold we are experiencing we have reached about the limit of what is possible.

As Karen’s special sit-ski is ‘high-friction’ in comparison to the other skis, team members have had immense difficulty in dragging her along in deep snow during the long, 20 day, uphill haul. This has also been straining on her, physically and mentally. As we move towards a time when we will start going downhill, everyone is crossing their fingers that this will change, more for the sake of her overall enjoyment of the experience than anything else.



One thing we feared was being constipated from the diet of reconstituted meals but when we were struck down by the opposite complaint, it hasn't been helpful either! Washing soiled clothes with no washing facilities other than to melt snow is an added challenge.

Major problems have arisen with our communication equipment. Our computer has stopped working so we have not been able to receive much information or read comments or questions from the schools or from the media and sponsors who have been asking to speak with us. The only way people can contact us is through text messages to our satellite phones via iridium. We have so far been able to send our bulletins out but the batteries run down very quickly and there is a limit on how many messages we can receive. Obviously, we need to have some reserve in case of emergency. We would like to send our love and greetings to all our friends and family.
Anna
4 Comments
Posted on 25 May 2006 by Anna
Hard Times


Life right now is just ski-ing, ski-ing and ski-ing. Eight hours per day, stopping late afternoon to heat up water for cooking and eating, to set up camp - and to get inside before the temperature drops too much. Melting the snow for cooking is as never-ending a process as navigating through an endless landscape of continuous white snow.



Even our attempts to keep an expedition diary sometimes go by the wayside because we're so busy / tired. Fifty minutes of ski-ing at a time, followed by five minutes for rest and snacks. Then we're off again. We've very little energy left at the end of the day and, although we're usually in the tents at 6 or 7 o'clock, we don't usually get to bed until midnight.

Yesterday we made it over the highest section of our journey and just over the half-way mark. We managed 19.86km. But it is cold. very, very cold. It was -27.2C inside the tents last night! Outside the temperature dropped as low as -32C but rose to -20C by morning.

Usually, during the day, the temperature varies between -8 and -14C. However, the lack of wind today, for the first time in two weeks, made a significant difference. By mid-afternoon, some of us even felt warm enough to take our eVENT(R) jackets off and ski in our SMARTWOOL merino base layers or RAB Vapourise tops alone. Long may it last.



I am having trouble with one ski boot. A metal pin connecting the boot, via a clip, to the ski has broken - making the boot effectively obsolete in terms of usefulness. Boots are literally the only things for which we do not carry spares because of the different sizes within the group.

Yesterday I ended up having to walk on one leg while ski-ing with the other. It sounds funny, but it's not! Fortunately, the weather, terrain and conditions are good today and I am able to keep going - mainly thanks to some clever improvisation by the boys - using ski-skins, crampon parts and bits and pieces wrapped around my foot.



We reckon it will still take us some four days to get to DYE 2 where we are pinning our hopes on being able to make better repairs.



Last night's camp was dedicated to BUFF (headgear suppliers) since it was probably our coldest night and the Buffs we were given have proven crucial in helping to keep us protected from the sun when hot and insulated from the cold (most of the time). I tend to wear one around my head (as much to keep my hair from my eyes as to keep my ears and head warm) and to wear another around my neck and mouth, so as to warm the air before breathing it in.



Tonight's camp is special. It is dedicated to my mother, Patricia McCormack, who sponsored it. ("Thanks, mum! We really appreciate it!) It's also special because it's just over the half-way mark.



As for the rest of the team:
X Karen is probably 99 per cent dependent on the other team members' help during the skiing parts of the day, particularly at present, whilst the glide is awful in the cold temperatures. Fingers crossed that will change completely with both slightly warmer conditions as we drop lower as well as with the change in gradient over the next few days.
X This doesn't bother the team at all - we knew it would be difficult before we started and are prepared, if necessary, to tow the whole way. We recognise that if we all had limitless time in which to wait for ideal gliding conditions, or to simply go at a slower speed, Karen would be able to ski with less support. However, the reality is that that isn't possible and most of us have other-world commitments drawing us home ASAP. Indeed, Mandy, Andy's wife, texts almost daily, to make sure we are still on target schedule-wise to return on the 7th vs 14th June (since there is only one flight that we can take from West to East Coast Greenland each week)
X Karen contributes a lot too - especially when it comes to preparing the evening's food every other (non-toilet) evening whilst Anna generally sorts the tent out and Pasi does the colder jobs like digging the snow walls and rigging the tent
X Jacek, flying the flag for the older generation, just settles in to his own pace and we, in the eVENT(R) tent are still trying to get to know him. More evening tea sessions are needed to try and extract e.g. early childhood Eastern Europe stories!
X Pasi says that one of his main learning points so far has been that smearing shit is not so difficult. In an area with high solar insolation, smearing your shit (increasing the SA exposed to the sun) speads dessication and means that within two to three days of passing, there should be no smelly remains remaining! Buried shit, by comparison, will be there indefinitely. Some of the group think that environmental ethics are not necessary in an area without people. Others think that we should take every effort to minimise our environmental footprint, irrespective of how many people follow in our footsteps. Always an interesting debate, but one - like so many - that we are failing to find the time to have within this particular group / on this particular journey. Hence, old-school philosophies are remaining unchallenged and a general learning opportunity is being missed.



X Andy is losing quite a bit of weight both from all the exercise and his general 'unappreciation of our diet'. He wondered if his Brad Pitt (from Thelma and Louise) six-pack impressed the Greenlandic 'babes' and, more importantly, hopes his new look will impress Mandy! Mind you, he can't really see even himself to check how skinny he is getting since his contact lenses have frozen!
X Harvey is the expedition dustbin and eats everything - but even he is failing when it comes to eating the tons of extra peanuts we have with us



Toileting Issues
At present, all of us - not just Karen - have toileting issues. Some are suffering from diarrhoea (e.g. Pasi is taking antibiotics to try and help with his upset stomach) in part because the eVENT(R) tent is eating food two years out of date, since we didn't have enough money for new food for everyone and in part because our stomachs are massaged for 8 hours a day by our pulks or, in Karen's case, by her support straps. For Karen in particular, this can be a big issue since generally toilet-going has to be carefully regulated and unpredicted events can be a big pain in the neck for both her and her tent mates.

In general, however, although she doesn't have much fun crouched over her EAD-designed toilet in our Hilleberg back porch, with ice / water from the tent dripping down her back, the fact that it takes her less time than normal to 'go' means she has e.g. 20 - 40 minutes out there rather than an hour (big bonus) and at least she doesn't have to expose her bare bottom to 30 knot winds and driving snow and then to wipe it with either snowflakes or icicles, like the rest of us!

Clothes washing in itself, when needed, is challenging. I washied a pair of powerstretch bottoms and hung them out to dry last night. When I brought them into the tent porch, scarcely 30 minutes later, they were solid as rock and stood up by themselves, and had a huge lump of ice (from dripping water) hanging off their bottom end. Quite amusing.

Till tomorrow, bye, bye.
Anna, Wednesday,24th May, 2pm here.
3 Comments
Posted on 25 May 2006 by Anna
Harsh Weather
Yesterday, Monday, we got moving again and covered a respectable 21.4 km, bringing us to the top of the plateau. As we move across the top we still have the sensation of going up and down, ascending and descending.



The going is tough. It is very cold here and thus there is more friction on Karen’s skis, so the person pulling her finds the going hard and demanding. Harvey has hurt his back but he is coping stoically by taking a lot of pain-killers. Andy is looking like a Smurf at the moment!

We are worried about an emergency call that went out shortly after two Finns had left DYE-2. A helicopter flew over the terrain searching but all they could find was a pulk on the snow. We are not aware of the presence of anyone else on the ice-cap in that area just now. We are hoping Pasi’s sister will look up the expedition site for the Finns and pass on any news she can find.



The gnome has been lying quiet for a while. At the end of the day we just pile into our tents and start the long task of boiling water. The tents hardly communicate with one another as we are all so tired and so busy carrying attending to our own chores. We are going through a tough patch right now but we are moving forward again and we will endeavour to keep you all informed. We all send our love to our families. The others are waiting on me so I must go.

Anna,10am, Tuesday, 23rd May, 2006

14 Comments
Posted on 23 May 2006 by Anna
It's a Small World
It’s a Small World!

Yesterday was amazing. We set out with the aim of doing as near 8 legs as possible. A leg is where we ski for 50 minutes and then take a rest for 5 minutes. That invariably expands to 10 or 15 minutes.

Yesterday we set out late (toilet accident) but made good progress once we had gotten moving. Given the temperature constraints in the evenings, we were contemplating whether to still go for 8 legs or whether to settle for 7 at our last 'break' when Andy mentioned that he thought he could see some people in the distance.



Excitement reigned. We had been out there 20 days with only each other to talk to (and that, rarely, for whatever reason), so the thought of having different company was very attractive to many in the group. Hoping that the group we could see had also spotted us and was coming towards us, we set off again eagerly.



Karen was behind me, but for once, towing her towards the end of the day didn't seem so difficult. I could occassionally hear her voice pipe up, saying e.g., 'how exciting' but I was so focused on keeping up on Pasi and Harvey in the front that I could scarcely reply.

Half way into the leg (and after a respectable total of 18km which meant that Pasi was happy enough to stop), we came together. They were a little daunted at first by being confronted by so many people wearing strange face masks (we were skiing into the wind), but they had heard about our attempt on the Greenlandic Radio station and were very excited to meet Karen.



Of all the teams that we knew to be attempting a crossing we were very happy that it turned out to be the 4 Greenlandic women that we bumped into. Baldy had told us about them and shown us their website - their attempt was a big thing in Greenland, the first time women alone had attempted such an adventurous persuit.

They had set out from Kangerlussuaq, on the West coast, three weeks previously and had encountered a great deal of bad weather on the way (including two days in a tent within 2 hours of setting out!).

Before Karen got too cold, we managed to curtail our excitement and get the tents up and dinner cooked before all 10 of us packed into our four-person Hilleberg Keron tent to chat and exchange news.



Bizarly, Karen had been thinking about people she’d met in 1997 while cycling the length of Japan on her specially constructed bicycle. One of the people she’d met that time was a young woman and it was she who had seen the four women off two weeks ago so they rang her to tell her they were together. The boyfriend of one of the women was someone we had met earlier so we rang him, too. Our final mutually discovered friends came through adventure racing so in the end we all knew quite a few friends of each other. What a small world it is!



The women had stopped at DYE-2 and discovered that two Americans are living there semi-permanently and run a Hercules plane training site. They told us lots about them - including the fact that they cooked them pizza - something we are now salivating at the thought of. Pasi is trying hard to keep expectations down in case of disappointment, but the anticipation is almost as enjoyable as getting the pizza (especially when there is so little else to think about), so I reckon it won't matter so much if it doesn't really materialise in the end.



The weather was on our side in the morning (in a way). We got packed up and ready to go by 9.15, despite the fact that the wind was whistling past our tent like a banshee. However, when Pasi went outside for his morning dump, he said that he thought it was too strong to head into and that we should stay put and see if it died down at all.



The Greenlandic girls had had similar thoughts, so we spent a pleasant morning chatting and looking at the route they had taken onto the icecap, comparing GPS co-ordinates with ones from other friends and with previous waypoints we had marked on the map etc.



Mid afternoon, they heard from the weather station by sat phone that the weather should be changing for the better and therefore decided (given that they would be moving with the wind behind them) to make an attempt to salvage the remains of the day. We watched them breaking camp whilst the winds were still high and then went out to help them once we realised that they intended to try to use the fly sheet of their single North Face tent as a kite.



Their idea was to have two skiing and two sitting, with all the pulks tied together and the four girls holding the different guy ropes - your ultimate management training exercise. Almost impossible at the best of times, but with gusting side(ish) winds making communication and steering doubly impossible, combined with skins and the fact that it was only their second attempt at this method, we were impressed by how long they 'gave it a go'.



Pasi patiently helped unravel their fly as it went into continual knots and we saw Jacek break into a sprint from time to time as he endeavoured to help. Karen was watching from the tent and it was a great afternoon interlude but we were glad when they made the decision to simple go back to skiing since we were worried that their fly would tear. We were sad to see them disappear over the horizon, teacher, physiotherapist, fashion designer and bank manager. It is amazing the number of unique and fun friends you can make in the middle of nowhere!

8 Comments
Posted on 21 May 2006 by Anna
No escape from the cold
Yesterday, we covered 20.43km, with a 66 metres ascent to 2400 metres. The ascent at this stage is gradual so it may take us 4/5 days to reach the 2500-metre highest point along the top plateau. The weather is unlikely to get warmer whilst we maintain altitude, but at least it is clear and it should not be for much longer. In some ways it is good that it has been far colder than everyone predicted, since it has been a far better test of Karen's equipment, and so far it has proven to work well.



After today, we will be half-way, time-wise. The snow is still tough and the friction was really bad yesterday, but for some reason, Karen is not falling so heavily.

Last night was the first night she felt cold in her sleeping bag so it looks like it is going to be double nalgene hot water bottles for the girls tonight (scathe all you like, boys - they make SUCH a difference!).



In reality, though, we are about at the limit of what is possible to cope with whilst camping, able-bodied or not, so the fact that Karen is coping as well as she is, (given that paraplegics produce no heat below the level of their breaks), is totally amazing and a great testimony to the kit and clothing she is testing.

We believe that the temperature varies between -25C and -35C at night but it is hard to tell, since our Silver barometer seems to stop working at around -30C (generally before we have even gotten into bed!). The coldest temperature we have recorded inside our tent is -27C and it is becomming common for the evening cooking session to be carried out in a chilly -15 to -20C. Not much fun. As our computer is frozen we are at present unable to view the messages from the schools but we are still getting passed questions through Ken in Scotland.



I sometimes get totally bored, skiing along in a straight line, one after the other with nothing but this vast white expanse to see and no chance to relieve the monotony by chatting easily with friends. If you want to chat, you have to make a huge effort to shout into the wind or over your shoulder, so we have generally run out of conversation at this stage in the game. One day, I got so bored that I took my book out on all the legs when I was at the back (since the going is generally pretty slow in that position). Felt like I was back at home in the UK doing some orienteering training, but with pretty bad balance!

Pasi, by comparison, is enjoying not only the pretty evening light and the occassionally stunning setting sun, but the vastness and remoteness of the landscape as a whole. Karen also likes it on the whole, probably less so than Pasi but more than I.



Some days Jacek seems to have a hard time, skiing quietly on his own, at the back, or making a small protest by stopping alone, in the distance, for his break, (e.g. if he thinks the group have skiied too quickly on any of the legs). However, once more, the issue of time in which to really communicate, rears its head. People walk along having conversations they wish they had the energy to have with others (either positive or negative) but the time in which to have them for real, seldom arises so we plod along with our mis-understandings and different driving forces unspoken. It is very strange and I hope to never experience anything like it again.

Sometimes those breaking trail (or occassionally even those skiing in second place in the line) have a harder time than those towing Karen but on other legs / days, when her ski hardly glides at all, despite her maximal efforts, it feels like you are dragging a huge object through treacle and you are left gasping for breath, trying to keep up with the others. It is all just generally hard work. At least when towing Karen or leading the field, you have something other than unchanging monotony to keep your focus.

We look forward to the time when it will be downhill and hope that with that, there will also be a break-through for Karen in terms of her independence. Although no-one minds, she feels pressure from needing to be helped and it will lift her spirits tremendously once she can finally ski unaided. 9am here on Saturday, 20th May

11 Comments
Posted on 20 May 2006 by Anna
Supper Time
It is now 19.45, 18th May and we are in the middle of cooking our evening meal. We are growing tired of rice and nuts and raisins, of the monotony of our diet.

We travelled 19.1km today. It was tough in the morning with a lot of friction in the snow. It has been very cold and the temperature is likely to drop to -25 tonight.



We hope to reach the 200km mark tomorrow. Karen is well wrapped up in her thermal wear and at each break, she either wraps herself immediately in her down jacket, or takes shelter behind Pasi's enormous pulk. She appreciated all of the anniversary messages sent through to her, yesterday and today.

18th May

9 Comments
Posted on 18 May 2006 by Anna
Still Tough Going
It is 9am here and we are preparing to set out...

Yesterday we covered 16.5 km. We are moving slowly because there is lots of fresh snow and the snow comes above our knees making it so difficult to move. Karen keeps falling over and our pulks turn over and it takes a lot of energy to keep everything and everyone upright and moving forward.



Our hopes are set on reaching our highest point in 4/5 days and then, theoretically, it will be downhill in terms of height from then on. We are on our intended route, heading for an abandoned American radar base, DYE 11 which will hopefully provide an interesting interlude. After that, the route will take us north again towards a point referred to as 'point 660' - a road end at an approximate altitude of 660m - from which transport to Kangerlussuaq can easily be arranged.

The computer has stopped working because of the extreme cold so we have finally given up on attempting to get the article through / the web blog working and we are using the solar panel and battery only to charge the sat phone, camera and video batteries etc. We may try again with the latter if the temperatures rise again as we drop from the summit plateau. Anna is happy to have one less thing (computer) to keep warm / make dry in her sleeping bag each night!



Each morning we wake up in our tents to find water dripping on us from condensation. Today it was snow. The temperature fell to -35 last night but as we prepare to set out this morning it is -20. It was Karen's wedding anniversary so she got loads of messages through from family and friends (and husband!) but it was pretty difficult to celebrate properly. Similarly, the night of 'our first storm' was the night of Harvey's sister's wedding and it was pretty impossible to celebrate at all that night, but just having something specific to think about provides interest and focus for a day.

Anna, Thursday, 18th May

6 Comments
Posted on 18 May 2006 by Anna
Tough Going
Hi, everyone!



Yesterday, Tuesday, was our hardest day to date. There was fresh snow after the storm. It was very heavy going, very tough indeed, yet we covered 13.68km. We are still two days ahead of any previous commercial expedition at this stage and our main goal is to finish within a standard 30 day time-window.

Jacek is swimming along at the ripe old age of 57 but all of us are pretty tired towards the end of the skiing days. Some of the team could probably manage more than 8 hours of skiing a day but others definitely couldn't (since the speed tends to taper off dramatically towards the ends of the skiing days). Even if we all could, it wouldn't be wise. Our skiing window is pretty much dictated by both temperature and snow conditions, and by the need for as many hours as possible for both tent chores and sleeping / recovery.



The weather has generally been far colder during the nights than during the days and when colder, it is not only more dangerous for Karen to be outside waiting for us to set up or break camp but it also puts the rest of us at more risk of frostbite to exposed fingers and toes. The coefficient of friction also increases with the cold and the snow becomes like glue, making it impossible for Karen's ski to glide. For those towing her at the start and end of the days it can sometimes, therefore, feel almost impossible to progress and starting earlier than 10am or finishing later than 7pm would just be ineffective.

Even if we wanted to, we could scarcely spare more time from tent chores and sleeping. The former take up many hours of the day, and the latter, unfortunately, far too few.



Daily chores include the 8 odd hours of snow melting and cooking we carry out morning and evening, half an hour or so of shoveling snow around the tent base, building storm walls, adjusting tent cords to pulks etc, toileting (an hour or so every other evening or morning for Karen), writing diaries, talking through 'learnings' for the web updates, checking and recording weather and GPS readings, charging any batteries that need to be charged and playing with the computer for the never-ending article saga.

NB: Given that the magazine went to print today, it looks like that is one chore less we may have from here on out, so peace finally has a chance of reigning on that front and Anna and Pasi may finally get the full 7 hours that everyone else is more or less getting, sleep-wise, every night.



All in all, as in normal life, it would be great to have more hours in every day since 7 hours sleep is already pretty marginal when considering the healing and recovery we need our bodies to undergo each night. All of us crave more sleep / 'down' time and none of us wake in the mornings feeling fully refreshed and raring to go (especially when one of the first tasks of the day is to pack up the pulks, outside, in temperatures that are generally at around -20 to -25 C).



Karen says, ‘I never thought I would be so hot in the Arctic. As you know, I can’t regulate my body temperature.’

Last night the temperature was down to -25. Of yesterday’s struggle she says, ‘This is the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, physically or mentally. It was just so slow. I’ve never before voluntarily undertaken anything this hard.’

Love from us all.
Anna, 9.31 am on the ice cap
10 Comments
Posted on 17 May 2006 by Anna
Slow Progress in the Snow
It is 14.45 here on Tuesday, 16th May.

Yesterday, was perfect timing for a rest day. A storm swept in overnight and blew strongly through the day. During the second night, the snow was so extensive that the boys in the Nike ACG tent had to set alarms through the night to take it in turns to knock snow off their tent, for fear of it collapsing.



For some reason, the eVENT(R) tent's position relative to the snow wall we had built meant that snow did not build up against our tent as badly. The fact that Pasi was 'kicked out' mid afternoon, (whilst Karen and Anna spent an hour or so clearing up post a 'toilet accident') probably helped. After clearing all the snow he could away from the immediate vicinity of the tent, he finally requested to be allowed back in, since it was freezing outside. By that stage, the girls had cleared things up to the point at which they just had laundry left to do, so it was deemed a 'safe zone' again.



When Karen has to go to the toilet in the back of the tent, sometimes it looks a lot better than having to brave the storm, as the rest of us have to do. However, other times, when the inside of the tent is crusted with frost or water and it is dripping down her back as she sits there semi-shivering, waiting for things to 'happen' for up to half an hour, it doesn't look very pleasant at all. Not surprisingly, she is loath to stay on there longer than necessary and a couple of times during this trip, she mis-judged when to get off, resulting in an unexpected 'follow-up' toilet scenario. One time she managed to get her clothes down in time, so there was only her sit mat to clean (Andy happened to come into the tent and looked on in bemusement, wondering why Karen was just sitting on her mat with her trousers down in the back) but this first time, things were more of a surprise, and the repercussions greater. Generally, however, things worked pretty well and she managed without using the central 'hole' that Hilleberg had inserted specially into the tent's groundsheet.

In-between shovelling, the boys spent the day alternately sleeping (mostly Jacek), playing cards, and - inevitably - melting snow. They claimed that they were more tired at the end of their 'break' than they would have been had they simply been skiing. Jacek offered to cook and Karen would have gone over for dinner, had it not been for the weather conditions, but in the end it was probably wisest. Apparently in Poland, it is quite normal to nearly set your tent on fire in the process, so from that point on, even though he would offer, Jacek found himself off kitchen duty.



Anna spent spare time doing full-on surgery on her feet and also decided to start taking anti-biotics for them since the skin is already pretty badly infected and it isn't making things any easier for her. Hopefully the lengthy repair job and the extra rest will help them turn the recovery corner.



Today the snow is thick on the ground and Karen is falling a lot. Skiing is hard going so we are out of puff. Progress is slow. We will report in tonight, if possible, to say how far we have travelled.
6 Comments
Posted on 16 May 2006 by Anna
Another 20km in a Whiteout
We managed another 20km today in bad weather and high winds. Through most of the day, we were moving through a complete white-out in deep snow. It was almost impossible going for Karen on her low sit ski and pretty tough on those towing. However, a change is as good as a break and, once wearing the face masks, it actually wasn't too bad going and we soon got lost in our own small worlds.



Navigation was completely done using a Suunto compass on the back of the lead pulk, with the 'second' calling right and left through the wind, so as to keep us all heading on the right bearing. Checking on the GPS this evening, we did amazingly well, with hardly any deviation compared to normal so we are still on the same bearing when we next head back out.



All is well with the team and we are looking forward to our rest day tomorrow, Monday. It will be particularly good news to both the sore feet (particularly Anna's and mine) and hands / elbows within the team. In the early mornings, both Karen and Anna are having problems moving their fingers and they then suffer from pins and needles through the day. Taking a day off might just provide enough of a break to set everything on the road to recovery..



Love, Andy. Sunday, 14th May, 18.56
9 Comments
Posted on 15 May 2006 by Anna
A quarter of the Way there
During our 17km yesterday, Saturday, we passed another milestone. We moved on to the ice cap proper - off from the Isertog glacier. We are now just over a quarter of the way through, distance-wise, and our speed should increase once the uphill eases. People had told us beforehand that the conditions underfoot would get considerably better once we reached the glacier itself, but we haven't found that to be the case, yet.



The weather looks fine this morning, Sunday, so we hope to achieve a normal day’s progress. We are planning a rest day tomorrow so we will work on outstanding maintenance.

Our main exasperations so far have been losing things and breaking bits of equipment.

Firstly, Anna let fly (by accident) the first bin liner - a precious commodity - then the pole bag flew right out of Jacek's hand one evening. Hence, the gnome has been moving around quite a bit.

Dropping things off the back of pulks has also become endemic. Harvey dropped his warm mitts off the back of the line one day (luckily spotted in time, back in the distance as a strange dark blob, by Pasi) and Anna and Pasi picked up one of the two extra fleeces (above and beyond the number allocated to each of us to take with us) that Jacek had smuggled onto the Icecap with him, as they brought up the rear one day.

During the days, moments when we find things people have dropped from their pulks are highlights. Similarly, moments when we think we can see subtle changes in the landscape, snow, horizon's shape etc. In fact, anything that interupts the monotony of the endless nothingness, and routine is a highlight.



One day we found a wooden post half buried in the snow with what looked like the remains of a food bag buried alongside. We wondered if it might either have been a drop bag for a future expedition or the last camp of our UK / Namibian friends who had abandoned the ice. Although, we lacked the energy / curiosity to investigate further and plodded onwards on our seemingly never-ending expedition from nowhere, going across nowhere and heading to nowhere (a better mantra than our original one which, post talking about storms with Baldy, had been, ' We are all going to die!', the query kept our minds entertained through the whole following leg!

Kit problems
The sole had come detached from Pasi's right boot already by day 4 / 5 (not really his fault, and therefore not gnome-worthy as an incident) and is already having to be held together with duck tape (for fear of the bale then dropping). Andy's boots are similarly garnished, since he thinks the bale looks loose and the bindings have broken on one of his skis.



Karen has already broken her first ski pole (when falling heavily) and had a day in which the handles of her substitute poles get coming off. All in all, we are doing quite a bit of super-gluing and general repair work in the evenings, which is fairly dull but at least gives one person a focus other than water some evenings. The boys thrive on such difficulties.

Karen got pretty worried for a few brief minutes one day when her sit-ski looked like it might start playing up. However, a very quick re-thread put it back to rights.



All in all, it has actually proven far more robust than we could have ever hoped, considering the difficulty of the sastrugi (wind-blown snow) and the pressures of the numerous falls and 'pick-ups' it has had to withstand...



For all of us, a major theme occupying our minds has been 'what on earth to think about' whilst wondering along, solo, without anyone else to talk to or without anything more technical to do than putting one foot in front of another, for 8 hours a day.

Karen, for instance, who is in good spirits, spent the first few days worrying about what she would occupy her mind with´during the endless days ahead. She then spent a few days singing to herself, and worrying that she didn't know enough songs to take her through the whole journey. Now, though, she has settled down into a routine in which she doesn't think about anything much in particular during our 50 minute legs, and somehow, she reckons that that makes the time go more quickly, so she has stopped worrying about what to think about.

Andy, by comparison, has a whole thought strategy worked out in which he spends some legs thinking about his past life, some about 'what could have been', some about his present, some about his future etc etc.

Anna hums away at old marching songs like 'Pack up your troubles', 'Its a Long Way to Tipperary' and 'A young Austrian Went Yeodeling'. Luckily she generally mumbles quietly!

We have no idea what Jacek is thinking about during his legs and he often sits quietly on his pulk (or pulk-ey, as he calls it), during breaks. We realised that those of us in the eVENT(R) tent might end up going through the entire month never speaking to him for more than an hour or so unless we could figure out a way around the tent separation issue. Hence, we have tried to initiate tent tea parties and have also given him the job of looking after Karen's douvet jacket so that he can have it ready for her to put on immediately during every break. Occassionally in the evening, we hear him recounting stories with great gusto, (e.g. of when he crashed his plane with Anna's AR team-mate and his son, Maciek, in it with him, at one of his country houses. It would be great to encounter that side of him too. We will see how successful our strategy will be.

It is hard, though. At the end of 8 or so hours out skiing, and with the prospect of c. 5 hours of snow melting ahead of you, it takes an enormous amount of will power to venture back out into the snow to go and be social. It is far easier to wrap yourself as far as possible in your own sleeping bag and to stay in your own tent, apart from when you need to brave the 'night' to go to the toilet.

In the eVENT(R) tent, too, every spare moment morning and night is still taken up in trying to get Pasi's article written up / sent through. There dooesn't seem to be must fun involved in this whole process yet - just a lot of hard work. It is a good job we all believe it will be worth it in the end!



Food is a bit of an issue.
Harvey devised a lunch bag diet of 500g of trail mix that Anna and Pasi recommended against (in terms of lack of variety) but which we still seem to have more or less ended up with. Most people still have full packets of peanuts untouched from their first week that they are now dragging as deadweight behind them in the pulks.

Learning point. Figure out anyone other than a human dustbin who will eat anything to get involved in food selection. Otherwise everyone else's pallet will quickly become jaded and food consumption (or lack of it) will become highly inefficient in terms of calories being carried against calories being consumed. Asda peanuts eat your heart out!

6 Comments
Posted on 15 May 2006 by Anna
Day 6.
Covered 12 km today, weather very bad, high winds, all tired but well after a late start, waiting to see if the weather would ease. Gnome is fine too! Now just settling back down to 5 or 6 more hours of snow melting and kit sorting...

9 Comments
Posted on 12 May 2006 by Andy
Sunday, 7th May
We have had some difficulty getting through. Everything is fine, including the weather and Karen is still warm so that is our major concern eased.

For those of you who don't really understand why we have been referring to a 'gnome', this is a plastic toy that has accompanied Karen on some of her other ventures and has always been used as a way of making light of silly things people within the team invariably do from time to time. The idea is that whoever transgresses in any way, is given it to carry and the school children following the project have loved the concept and keep asking us who is carrying it and wy.

Hence, for instance, Karen had it for leaving a Karrimat behind in the Red House (she had been using it to bolster the thickness of the mat on her bunk); Anna had it for dropping an ice axe from her pulk on one of the first days and Harvey and Jacek have both had it for between them, somehow messing up the production of a stove box desperately required by the eVENT(R) tent (Anna, Pasi and Karen) to melt their snow efficiently morning and evening. The Nike ACG tent (Andy, Harvey and Jacek) have an efficient melting system and therefore get more sleep and more down time - a fairly major issue in a world reduced to skiing, melting snow and sleeping (in that order).



The gnome's presence is supposed to resolve team tensions that may otherwise arise - but it probably doesn't work as well as good old communication. It will be interesting to appraise its usefulness at the end. If nothing else, it is giving us a giggle.
12 Comments
Posted on 12 May 2006 by Anna
Sunshine and Storms
Sunshine and Storms

Anna phoned through at 1.15pm today, Friday, 12th May. She sounded chirpy and in high spirits.

We had a few days’ warning that a storm front was coming. However, yesterday was sunny and even though we all wore sunhats, the solar insolation is so high here, (combined with the reflection from the ice) that we were all at risk of sun-burn, blisters and heat stroke. Bizarre!



Although we set out rather late, we still covered 19kms, despite the heat (which Jacek and Anna probably found more difficult than had it been cold) and despite sore feet.



Now, however, the weather is very variable, and at the time of speaking we are still in our tents, hoping to set out shortly, although Karen has still to go to the toilet. The winds are still high enough to justify packing the pulks inside the tents so the main reason Pasi is keen on us going is probably just to test how individuals within the group cope in worsening conditions. We also hope to pass the 100km mark today, depending on the storm, so that is a good mini-goal for all.

In general, we have found that the winds get much stronger at night-time. Harvey was delivering some of the clothing he carries for Karen last night, when Andy also came across to our tent (Karen, Anna and Pasi's). (Jacek was already asleep in the tent he shares with the other boys. Indeed, the standard pattern in their tent is apparently that they get to camp, that Jacek immediately falls asleep whilst Harvey / Andy cook, that he wakes to eat and then again to drink and that he is then, generally, out for the count. We are all hoping that, as the going gets easier, we will actually get to spend some time chatting with him too, since he would no doubt have some interesting stories to relate!)



Anyway, Andy casually mentioned that Pasi might like to come outside and tell him what it was that he could see approaching on the horizon. I glanced at Karen, Polar Bears and 'Pittabread' winds immediately springing to mind, and then grabbed my video camera to go and see for myself what was coming.

On the far horizon, something similar to a desert dust storm was approaching. In the back of our minds, we remembered Baldy's warning that the winds could pounce upon us in a matter of minutes and that people had died by not being sufficiently prepared.



Suddenly everything became frantic activity. The boys shouted to Jacek to get up to help, grabbed the two team shovels and all of us set to, building a huge snow wall behind which we could hopefully survive in our Hilleberg tents regardless of whatever forces the storm would throw at us.



Pasi popped his head into the tent to tell Karen not to worry and that he had been out in a 60 knot wind in a Hilleberg Saivo tent and that we would be fine). She wasn't looking totally convinced, left alone in a billowing, cold tent in the middle of the night, hearing frantic activity noises from the outside!

By midnight we had done all we could, so with some departing photographs of the amazing light formations, we hunkered down, fully clothed in our sleeping bags, (in case the tent should somehow be lifted from us / torn in the night, so that regardless we would be as prepared to face the elements as possible) and waiting to see what the night would bring.



Although the maximum wind speeds our Silva guage recorded whilst we were building our protective screen were c. 34 knotts, we have no idea what speeds were reached in the open, in the middle of the storm.

Despite the noisy flapping tent, most of us managed to sleep, tired from the extra physical activity at the end of an already long and tiring day. Karen was keen to see the building construction from the previous evening and was impressed with our efforts. There are positive sides to every story and today, we are all still quite excited and in high spirits.

Hearing that our interactive map is now up and running was also good news. We are receiving the text messages people are sending us through the free Iridium website but are struggling to receive or send emails so the technological side of things isn't working as well as we had hoped. Pasi is still trying to send through the text from his sleeping bag test article, and every ounce of our computer battery time (charged by solar panels during the day) is going into that, at present, since if we can solve that, then we should be able to figure out pretty much everything else that we need. We are ever hopeful. However, next time, we need to find a major technology geek to come with us. Any takers!?
10.15 hours GMT, 12th May, 2006
11 Comments
Posted on 12 May 2006 by Anna
Still here
Having lots of computer problems but we're still on the ice...

5 Comments
Posted on 11 May 2006 by Andy
Day 4 Scott Face Masks
Wednesday, 10th May, 11.22 pm BST

There were high winds today but we still covered 20km so we are feeling very positive about our general progress.

This was our first day of skiing in our Scott goggles and face masks. They may make us look like martians from outer space / characters from the dark side in Star Wars but they work unbelievably well! As soon as we put them on in the morning they altered our perception of what type of weather it was feasible to ski in. Icy snow no longer cut into the sides of our faces and we no longer cringed away from the wind. Even the blue lenses that we had been so unsure of back home, made everything come sharply into focus. The distance between our faces and the mask was also enough to allow clear breathing without the wet or suffocating feeling you can sometimes get when wearing a balaclava - all in all, a great decision, Pasi, and thank-you, Scott!



Although everyone is extremely tired, we are feeling much more confident. Day 7 is the first mini-milestone we have given ourselves in an attempt to break the daunting emptiness of the desert ahead down into managable units. Not long now.
9 Comments
Posted on 10 May 2006 by Anna
23.39 Tuesday, 9th May, 2006
We skied 20km today so we are all very tired, but we are feeling stronger every day. There are no injuries and everyone is progressing well. Karen is doing amazingly well. The weather is good. We hope you received our updates yesterday and Monday. Love from us all out on the ice-cap.

Anna

9 Comments
Posted on 10 May 2006 by Anna
Tired out
Tuesday, 9th May, 2006 1.04a.m.BST

We woke to high winds at 6am yesterday (Monday) but it wasn’t too cold. We set off with Karen wearing all of her specially designed clothes (primaloft tops and bottoms, and a 'mermaid' suit which keeps her legs together within a fleece / down combination bag) since she was worried that the wind chill might cause problems to her feet.

Some of our pulks weigh over 130kg (Pasi's is totally enormous, so we have no idea how much that one weighs!) and all weigh well over the 100kg normal for standard crossing groups.

Each of us has to pull 120% of what a normal expeditioner would pull since Karen's share of team kit and clothing is split between five of us. In addition, we have all of her specialist kit (including a not-so-light carbon fibre toilet!) and a great deal more communications and media kit than most normal expeditions. For Andy, at c. 95kg, and for Pasi, at c. 85kg, this probably isn't quite as significant as for Anna, weighing in over 30kg lighter to start with. By the time you add Karen into the equation, that leaves her pulling over three times her body weight but regardless, it is a tough job for everyone.



Everyone is always ready to stop by the end of the day - especially after legs that Pasi has led, which tend to be rather fast, and in which the clock never seems to reach the 55 minute mark at which have roughly agreed to take a break. Jacek seems to look at his watch every three to four minutes from mid way through each leg, so we can tell that people are having a hard time but struggling to keep going regardless, unwilling to be the one to call an early break.

The landscape seems totally flat and barren, but there is a subtle beauty you soon notice. We covered 18kms today so we’re moving fast for the beginning of the crossing, particularly considering the weights we are pulling and the help we are having to give to Karen. We would have been happy with far less at this stage, so every extra kilometre we squeeze in each day, is a total bonus.

10 Comments
Posted on 09 May 2006 by Anna
1st Telephone Message from the Ice
The second helicopter reached the ice at about 7.30pm UK time (Greenland is -3hrs GMT) on Saturday. The expedition is now officially underway.

In the UK, we heard nothing from them directly, until I, Pat, (Anna's mother) heard her phone ring at 11.15am, Monday. It was Anna. They had been having trouble getting through to us. Everything is fine, including the weather, and they have covered 15kms so far.

Karen is keeping warm. She is carrying the badge of shame, in the shape of a little leprechaun, (later, I learned that this was a gnome but that, because of my hearing problems, Anna said leprechaun, since she had known that would reach my Irish ears!) for leaving a Karrimat behind under the mattress of her bunk at the Red House!

Anna sounded confident and she came through loud and clear.
Pat
9 Comments
Posted on 08 May 2006 by Anna
Finally on the ice!
Finally we are on the ice! It was an exciting helicopter ride into the whiteness, with us and our gear split into two different loads in order to fit us all in. The pilot looked a little bemused when he dropped us off. I think he expected to see us again very soon in a rescue!



We spent the day shuttling bags down to the heliport, and sitting on the concrete waiting for the flight – chatting to new arrivals and excited heli-skiers. Anna nearly missed the chopper as she was struggling to tear herself away from the broadband connection, and she came running down the hill at the last minute.

Now, an icy landscape stretches for miles all around us, punctuated with black streaks of cliffs and blue ice far below on the sea. The helicopter took off and left us alone on the edge of this vast wilderness, sheltering from the whirling snow and wind.



In the midst of it all, our two bright red tents look bright and cosy.

It’s not as cold as we expected. Around zero outside at the moment, but bound to get colder as the sun sets deeper. Our first dehydrated meal was surprisingly tasty, and filled everyone up, but it would be better if we were feeling stuffed, given that we’ll be burning a lot more calories in the days to come!



It will be great if we all get a chance to talk and then be ourselves whilst here since we haven't had time to get to know each other yet. Hearing Pasi break into song in Finnish was uplifting after days of him just beavering away, head-down on pre-expedition work so when Karen asked which direction we would be heading in the following day, she was greeted in return by arms thrown out in all directions, the mood looked promising for the days ahead...



So, now the silence surrounds us, or it will when Andy shuts up telling stories, and tomorrow we ski – Andy for the first time (or so he says) - and we will see how all of our gear really performs. I think Anna is feeling a little bemused, since she has had no time at all in which to think about the days to come!

Tonight it is -1C outside the tent (with a windspeed of c. 3 mps) but my legs, inside my bag, are apparently at 32C. Shivering is starting, however, so we are closing for now and will blog earlier in the day tomorrow.

Karen
10 Comments
Posted on 07 May 2006 by Andy
Our last mini crisis?
Expeditions, we have decided, are just a series of mini crisis / problem solving moments in an extreme environment. Half of the team are now down at the heli-port, I am still writing a report for eVENT(R), one of our key sponsors, and Andy and Pasi were sorting images for the web. However, we have just had a phone call asking where the bolts for the pulks are (that job must have dropped off 'someone's list, whilst we have been focused on the computers!) so the boys have now gone out to (hopefully) find some local mechanic to see what can be materialised within an hour. At the end of this, we are definitely all going to ready to head back to 9 to 5 jobs and an easier, less stressful life!
14 Comments
Posted on 06 May 2006 by Anna
Off to the ice...


Our last few hours in civilisation. We leave for the icecap this afternoon. The chopper is at 3pm so it's hectic just now, getting all the kit to the heliport, post office, and trying to shrink a few hundred cubic metres of gear into small bags! We also also appreciating our last few views of land, people and animals!



There have been some 'team tensions' for the last few days - different expectations about when we'll get to the ice, and differences of opinion about priorities. But, they feel to be dispersing a little now, with the focus of the helicopter to catch this afternoon. It's difficult for six people to find and coordinate a space in life to do a journey like this, with all the demands of work, family and personal lives....but we are nearly there at last!

I'm feeling pretty nervous about the kilometre's and weeks ahead. It all seems a bit surreal to imagine that tonight we'll be in cold whiteness, and all the days of it that lie before us. I've been intimidated by scare stories of 'Pideraq' - high winds of up to 300 km/hr that come roaring down off the icecap, and of all the expeditions who have failed before us this year. Lots of teams have abandoned the crossing already - broken tent poles, high winds, bad weather and conditions, injury....it'll definately be an interesting journey!

We can finally charge all our communications kit, thanks to help from a friendly Icelander and some locals! So, no excuses left, it's time to get onto the ice and begin the adventure for real......
Karen, Sat 6th May
9 Comments
Posted on 06 May 2006 by Anna
Last day in Town...Maybe?
Pasi and I have been up since 2am (having gone to bed at 1am) trying to finalise press releases, images, last-minute communication issues etc - all following three days of me playing the team baddie trying to ensure that no-one 'goes out to play' until all the basic logistics are covered.

Too Few Computers!
Andy has been playing leapfrog with us w.r.t. computer time, both helping with team comms (since is he by far the best of us when it comes to the web stuff) and also trying to finish some Climb Magazine article deadlines. Karen has trying to grab a few computer moments here and there, e.g. to add blogs and to help Pasi with some of the expedition background articles he has to write for the Finnish press (by drafting them for him in English to save him ‘thought time’ since ‘simple’ translation takes less time).

Whilst the others sleep, Pasi then moves on to playing with images for a Retki magazine sleeping bag test deadline that is already over-due. Given that the magazine actually goes to print when we are a week or so out on the Ice, it is all workstations go at the Red House to complete everything in time. All of this, in turn, puts even greater pressure on us to ensure that our comm system works from the Icecap and we are trying to juggle the two different worlds and their varying pressures as well as possible since those of us with the most personal work outstanding are those who have been doing most of the preparation for the expedition and most things are proving as impossible to hand over at this late stage as they have proven to be all along.

If it wasn't totally crazy, it would all be very funny - watching us bargain for internet time whilst running from job to job, juggling cooking, eating, packing, charging batteries, writing thank you postcards, recording our first video diaries etc etc…

What definitely was funny, was Andy's confusion when he realised that we were all spending a night in Iceland en route to Greenland! He claimed to have had no prior knowledge of that stage of our journey… (very typical Andy, however, so maybe he was just making it up!). Regardless, the vast gulf between the team members in terms of planning involvement and expedition overview is becoming increasingly apparent and things are slightly tense.

I guess the long and the short is that there are still tonnes of things to do before we go and I am not at all sure that it is wise for us to go at our scheduled 3pm departure today, even if most of the team will no doubt be champing at the bit by then. If the decision is forced, I worry about the repercussions for the team as an entity long-term. Waiting one extra day for the sake of clear heads and completed work pressures for those who have spent months vs days involved in the expedition planning process does not seem a big price for the others to pay.

Learning points: don't just take two laptops with you on an expedition of this nature if you are a group of six with last minute work to do. It makes it almost impossible to spread the work load, thereby leaving some people feeling ineffective and others, totally over-whelmed.

For now, however, the one thing I am looking forward to in terms of finally getting onto the icecap is the potential to sleep in!

10 Comments
Posted on 06 May 2006 by Anna
Computers + Expedition = AAAAAAAAARGH!


The sun has finally arrived to town, but we've spent most of the last two days trying to get our satellite phone, computer, ipaq, ipod, didgi camera, inverter, stabiliser and solar panels working. It seemed as soon as one thing was working OK, the other would break. It also turned out that one of the solar panels that had been lent was wired up the wrong way, and so it then fried most of our crucial electronics the first time we plugged it in...annoying when you're a long way from Dixons!!!!

Luckily we have an Icelander staying in the hostel (called 'Baldy' - we kid you not!!!!) who knows a thing or two about electronics so he and his spare wires have been a great help. With that in mind, we would now like to retract our comment about a certain Icelandic city making Grimsby look like Vienna!

Anyway, this is always the way things go at the start of a trip - although with this trip, the technology learning curve has maybe been a little too steep. The most important thing, however, is that the satellite phone can charge, so even if we don't figure out a way to send images, we will definitely be able to update the site regularly. Even if we only end up being able to call home in the end, we will figure out a way (no doubt with the help of both Anna's mother, Patricia and Ken from HIE / Careers Scotland) to get some updated news out. We just haven't mentioned to 78 year old Patricia that she may need to become web-proficient whilst we are away! Fingers crossed it won't come to that!

Anyway, apart from these minor hitches, the big news is that we have finally managed to get Karen out of our hostel, and away from the 1st floor rooms we have taken over, filled with the chaos of our kit. She hadn't been thrilled at the concept of braving the state of the roads in the spread-out ramshackle-looking town. However, although the running water, mud and steep streets proved challenging in her wheelchair, the sparkling sun and stunning mountainous backdrop enticed us all to stay out longer than we had intended and changed Karen's opinion of the town and its surroundings completely. (It is still dilapidated and nearly every house could do with a lick of paint - possibly because there is apparently almost no private property here at all and everything is owned by the state).



When Karen started to complain about the warmth of the sun, we knew that her spirits had been raised and it also felt like we had, at least, started to make the transition from the computer towards the Icecap.



Being cold is Karen's main concern, a potentially major problem for her while on the ice, so the realisation that she could even end up too hot whilst skiing was a mental break-through for her, leaving her feeling less scared about the days ahead. Just as, when sheltering inside a tent, winds sound fiercer and rainstorms heavier than they are in in reality, so too had the mountainous scenery appeared more daunting from the enclosure of the hostel rooms.



The only downside is that some of our backs are already feeling the strain. We had to help her a lot, giving her a piggy back in and out of the house (the house is on the first floor, plus you have to stagger 100 metres over open drains, running rivers and a mud obstacle course to the road), and getting her up and down the hills.

Anyway, I've just been told we've managed to blagg some more technology from Baldy and his various local friends, so fingers crossed we should be able to get some images up from the ice, which should be tomorrow if everything goes well.

Wish us luck.
9 Comments
Posted on 05 May 2006 by Andy
Greenland


Not a patch of green to be seen in Greenland! Just ice, snow, ice and snow.

As we flew in yesterday we saw icebergs punched up through the sea ice, cracked and shattered like glass. Jagged mountains rise steep from the frozen shore, and somewhere behind them the icecap hides. We flew into Kulusuk from Iceland yesterday, and then to get to Tasilaq it was a short chopper ride. The helicopter could only take eight passengers at a time, and hardly any baggage, so I had the wheelchair wrapped around my neck to fit it in, and we’ve just collected the rest of our kit from the airport this morning.



The mountains are shrouded in wet cloud today, and the thought of being dropped in the white desert that stretches west from here is quite intimidating. Tasilaq town itself makes Rekjavik look like Vienna! There is 95% unemployment here as there is no industry – not even any fishing as it can’t be exported because the town is frozen in for most of the year. The other main pastime is apparently drinking, although over dinner tonight, we concluded that illegal drugs must not be a major problem since it would be so very very difficult to get them here!

The wooden painted houses are weather-beaten, faded and with peeled remnants of red and green paint. The steep muddy roads are lined with melting ice, empty beer cans and old plastic sledges.

The supermarket sells everything you never wanted, the only green thing in sight were two soggy old lettuces, although you could get a very good selection of rifles and the bill was five times what it would cost at home. A top holiday destination!



Activities

This morning we’ve been at the police station to get our permit stamped and permission to go onto the ice and we have also been exploring the area. The police came around to ’The Red House’ where we’re staying to inspect our equipment – satellite phone, first aid kit, personal locator beacon (so they can find us in case of emergency). The rest of the morning we were buried in peanuts, raisins, malt loaves and porridge. Our diet looks set to be very boring! We’ve just given up our long list of jobs for the day, to drink tea and eat bread and jam...

Challenges

Packing - We’ve got so much food and gear it’s hard to imagine how it will fit into our pulks, let alone how we’ll move them! I might also tow a small pulk now, full of toilet rolls! (How many toilet rolls should we take with us, is our next dilemma!)

Sewing - some of the boys are trying to claim that they have never sewed in their lives before and that they cannot possibly sew on their sponsor badges from eVENT(R), Nike ACG, Buff, Rab and Smartwool. Hence the majority of even that simple job is falling to the same people as normal within the team although we did manage to get everyone to try for at least a few minutes each!



Getting to the ice - We have to get to the edge of the icecap by helicopter but it needs to be good, clear weather to fly. So, we’re hoping for some sunshine soon – it will either be tomorrow or sunday as they don’t fly on saturdays!

Communications - We’ve spent the last days constantly working with the satellite phones, IPAQ, IPOD, solar panels, computer, cables etc. trying to get a system that works. Our comms equipment has been borrowed from around the world, and so the first time we had it all in one place was the night before we left London. It would have been better if we could have bought a complete system, but without a spare $6000 that wasn’t happening! The IPAQ is proving unreliable as the battery keeps going flat and then it loses data, so we may need to take a laptop with us onto the ice (which will be heavy!). One of the solar panels and satellite phone was flown in from Oman in jiffy bags, just the week before we left, and the antenna on that phone doesn’t seem to work the same way as the other phone. And we still haven’t tested charging everything through the solar panel.
Oh fun. At least we have one satellite phone working now!

Learning
How to get a satellite phone working (yipppeee!)
That I am just the right temperature sleeping inside the house, inside my ’-40 C’ rated sleeping bag! (so a bit worried about being warm enough on the ice cap!)

How to make pancakes in a non-stick frying pan with no oil

Thanks
To all the airlines who have got us here, along with all of our gear and free excess baggage. Iceland Air, Air Iceland and Air Greenland, thank you!!!

KAREN (posted by Andy)
4 Comments
Posted on 05 May 2006 by Andy
2.30am Learning how to web blog
We arrived safely in Tasiilaq (spelling?) around mid-day, having transitioned through Iceland (1 night) and Kulusuk - a town on a different island to the one we are now on - on the way here. We will put up a brief report of the journey tomorrow now that we have internet access again.



Frantic calls to Air Greenland must have done some good and we got our baggage waived through the whole way for free. (About half of it didn't make it on the same helicopter as us for the final leg of our four aircraft journey here, but that is by the by. We should get it when the airport opens again in the morning. For now, however, it just gave us a good breather from kit repacking and enough time to sort out the communications!)

Andy and I are still up, working on the schools page (yipee, each page of the website is now populated!) and he is teaching me everything about FTP, CSS, tags, passcodes, html coding etc. Nothing like the present. I thought we were just coming here so he could learn to ski!

We will take and post some photographs in the morning. Karen is pretty much restricted to the red house because the roads are not exactly designed for wheelchairs. We are also living on the first floor so every journey requires strong muscles on behalf of the boys.

For now, though, bed calls.
7 Comments
Posted on 04 May 2006 by Karen
Greenland via Iceland - the Journey
Reykjavik makes Grimsby look like Vienna! Windy, cold, wet and gravelly - wheeling about in search of traditional Icelandic food last night, and ended up eating fish and chips, and kebabs!

We lost 30kg in packing (police interrogation by the boys in the team, last night) - goodbye to towels and spare underwear, and now we´re debating kites.

Pasi practiced skiing with a kite in Lapland a few weeks ago, crashed and broke a rib and has a giant scab on his arm - it isn´t doing much for everyone else´s confidence in trying kiting. However, the flip side of that is that our Ozone kites would give us the potential to move vast distances in relatively short spaces of time, to help weaker members out by some taking extra kit from them without slowing the general progress of the team and to also facilitate the taking of photographs and video footage. Pasi is adamanent that he is taking his. It is a shame that few of the team are not as confident on skis since if they were, they would no doubt be less anxious about the thought of introducing the relatively new discipline.

Our flight to Greenland leaves in a few hours and we have a serious weight and volume limit on it, so we´re trying to shrink as much as we can and leave gear behind in Iceland. It's causing some interesting team debates about what is important to take with us or not!



I think Anna and Pasi are superhuman, having just done their third night in a row with virtually no sleep as they´ve got so much work to do before we go to the ice (and they moved house two nights ago!)

The way things are going with the communications, this could be the last time you hear from us for a while. We´re struggling to get our satellite phone working - at the moment we can receive messages but not send any and we can't figure out why... yet.

Better go to the airport now. Greenland here we come.
6 Comments
Posted on 04 May 2006 by Anna
Crazy packing
All the team are presently packing like crazy, with Anna and Pasi getting the award for 'most inappropriate time to move house'!

As for myself, I only realised this morning that I'd left half my gear in someone else’s house following a trip to Alaska last month. Time to improvise!

4 Comments
Posted on 01 May 2006 by Andy
Last Minute Nerves
We have just had news that two of our experienced (and able-bodied) expedition friends, out attempting a traverse slightly earlier in the season, are already back in the UK! Apparently two huge low pressure areas converging on the top of the icecap resulted in relentless 30 Knott winds and temperatures seldom rising above -30 (generally -40). After days of tents being blown over and very little time actually out on their skis, half the team threw in the towel, realising that at that speed, it would take them over 55 days to cross the Icecap. One Namibian friend of mine remains out there, plugging away and we are going to do our darndest to catch up with him and cheer him up! Asked what the two who returned would have done differently, they commented that they would have just taken less camera equipment since they didn’t end up being able to use it!

Interestingly, they too had opted for eVENT® outer clothing (theirs from Montane) and they said that it was ideal, so that is a relief. (I know that the fabric generally outperforms anything else on the market, whether in the UK, jungle, desert or mountains, but I must admit, I have never been out in 30 Knott winds in it!) One thing to bear in mind, however, is that they also said that the conditions made it almost impossible to solar charge their communications equipment, so just in case you don’t hear from us for a while – that may be why! Yikes

Anna
5 Comments
Posted on 29 Apr 2006 by Andy
TRAINING REPORT
TRAINING REPORT

We met at Anna and Pasi's home in Enontekio - 300 km above the Arctic Circle – during the week of 11 – 18 March so that we could put faces to some of the names within the eclectically put-together team and thereby try to get more of the team involved in the planning. Daily temperatures varied from -10 up to +1 (Celsius ) and dropped to -21 (Celsius ) at night. Two of the days were sunny but there was moderate wind every day.



The main reasons for this training session were:

• to make a final choice between Karen’s specially designed ski options
• to check the final prototypes of the other specialist clothing and equipment systems that had been developed for her through Rab, ME, T-Tossu, Hilleberg and Equal Adventure Developments
• to check how well the rest of the team could ‘get by’ with their existing cold-weather equipment and to check other equipment design options
• to take a batch of photos and film with which to kick off the media blitz pre expedition
• to check our ability to work as a team
• to make our final decisions before starting the expedition

For the first two days we tested two different sets of skis specially prepared for Karen. We settled on the one with the more comfortable seat, but decided that the skis on that one should be changed for more a rugged, back-country pair.

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In the meantime, Harvey, Pasi and Jacek were testing other team equipment like skis, pulks etc whilst Anna carried on with logistical co-ordination and planning evening sessions to bring the rest of the group up to speed with what had been put in place to that point and with what still needed to be sorted out w.r.t.

• food supply
• insurance policy
• transportation of equipment
• sponsorship and our budget
• weight balance
• risk assessment and crisis management plans

We put Hilleberg’s specialist tents up for the first time (and discovered that they were four person ones rather than three person ones – an immediate change in our plans from 2 man tent groups to three man groups. (Less margin of safety but potentially greater warmth!).) When the temperatures dropped to – 20 C outside, we asked Karen to spend a night in the tent using her new clothes and sleeping bag.

She slept in the tent for more then ten hours and was happy to note that her urine bag didn’t freeze and neither did she! Although she claimed to have not had a very comfortable night, it was still hard to get her out of bed in the morning!



In fact, the only people who consistently made it up early were Pasi’s parents whose long-planned holiday in the North had turned into a chaotic cooking bonanza once the whole team arrived! Pasi’s mother seemed intent on making sure that all the local delicacies were sampled before the team left, and the team, of course, were happy to oblige!

When skiing, Karen found that she was generally able to move on her own, especially if the snow was compacted and the others were towing the pulks with heavy loads. (We were bummed that the pulks, when they finally turned up, had blue and green covers rather than the bright red ones that had been advertised on the website – although seemingly insignificant, such details are important when thinking about the visual implications of the film footage and photography. However, it was too late to do anything about it!)
We came to the conclusion that the snow condition is going to be the critical factor in our success. In deep or melted snow, Karen becomes unable to progress independently and, indeed, the whole team soon gets into trouble. It is going to be a long, often slow and sometimes tedious journey and we are particularly looking forward to the sastrugi we have been promised at the start!

Jacek and Karen spent the last two days on more physical training, practicing at least 4-5 hours daily outdoors.



Meanwhile, Anna was still on the computer and Pasi was again sorting out all the tedious and expensive background logistics, including driving nearly 3000km to pick up pulks and then to ensure that everyone got back to the various airports they had flown into in Norway and Finland!

In summary:
• the meeting was very useful for all team members, since it allowed them to get to know and talk to each other as well as to exchange different opinions and finally to make important decisions concerning the expedition
• The girls concluded that although they are just as experienced as the boys when it comes to ‘expeditioning’, that they probably won't have a voice once on the Icecap!
• all members had a chance to test new equipment and to share their thoughts and goals
• we got some really good images from our training sessions there and these were immediately grabbed by press, far and wide, so our media platform is now effectively up and running...





• It would have been better if Anna and Harvey could have made it for the whole time period and better still if everyone had managed to try to out their kite. There is an ironic hesitancy within the group to step outside of their own ideas of the norm and to try new technologies - and harnessing the wind seems to fit within this category (probably because it has taken so long to get everything else prepared and this is a whole new world to enter).
• There are some tensions within the group already w.r.t. relative work loads so far and no real insight into the experience of the others in a practical sense. People are still ‘testing the waters’ so, although everything should be fine, it is almost invariable that sparks will end up flying at some point
• Karen survived in extreme temperatures and she is now desperate to cross Greenland!

• The team is about as experienced as it could be. With most of the planning and preparation now behind us, all we have to do now is to learn how to work well together during the crossing itself. After all, it is just 600km. How hard can it be? ?
2 Comments
Posted on 29 Apr 2006 by Andy
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