What to take? Well, you could take the proverbial kitchen sink to ensure you cover all eventualities, but then you’ll likely end up hauling around a bunch of stuff that you don’t use – seriously inhibiting you’re pace and adaptability. Travelling in the British mountains, whether summer or winter, I have always tried to stick to the fast and light maxim as regards kit – you can generally get away with that unless caught in the most dire of Scottish hooleys. However a stark and sad reminder of the potential for arctic/polar environments to pull no punches was the death of British explorer Henry Worsley in Antarctica on Monday. Whilst not quite Antarctica, Norway might not be as forgiving as the conditions found on our fair isle. Clearly to stave off the cold and ensure the requisite items are carried to fuel our trip, some serious high quality kit is required. Namely, footwear, clothing, headgear, gloves, skiing kit, sleeping gear, sledges and harnesses, camping gear, cooking gear, medical essentials, and various personal and miscellaneous items. In this post I’ll focus on the sledge, footwear and outer clothing. If I get the time before we head off I’ll go over the clothing system, which is also pretty interesting if you’re a gear geek.
So, first up, in the picture below is the Paris sledge I will be hauling (to be pulled via a waist harness). This is a fairly inexpensive and lightweight pulks designed for shorter trips and smaller loads. We’ll only be carrying around 35-40 kg’s. On the top of the pulk shell is a sled bag in which we’ll carry everything we need for the expedition.
The clothing in the picture below is some pretty hefty stuff (also note the awesome rug). On the right we have the Rab wind suit, with fur ruff, which will act as a shell to hold the wind at bay. This particular suit is designed for high altitude mountaineering e.g. Everest. Under this we’ll have base layers and mid layers (the key is to ensure that the wind is kept out and warmth is retained- waterproof clothing is not the order of the day here…). On the top of this windsuit, if it’s really cold when skiing we can put on a shelled fleece, shown in the bottom left. When we stop to make camp we can go for the more heavy duty down jacket you see in the top left. Our hands will be protected by a three layer glove system, culminating in the outer mitt as the top layer which you see in the centre of the picture. As for the feet, we’ll have various sock layers including vapour barrier liners, which will be housed by the weighty looking Baffin expedition boots, which provide some serious warmth. They’re not traditional cross-country skiing boots, but with cable bindings to attach to the skis, they will allow us to ski with little risk of getting frostbite.
This kit is of course on loan from Mike and his polar exped company. The neat thing about that, as well as reducing our costs, is that some of it has been to the South/North pole on a number of occasions (see the expedition logos below). For an enthusiast of expedition history it’s exciting stuff.
That’s all for now. Time to hop on my stationary bike for some last minute fitness. I leave you with the final words of Henry Worsley a man who really pushed the envelope of human endurance – listen to his words here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35398552
When my hero Ernest Shackleton stood 97 miles from the South Pole on the morning of January 9 1909 he said he’d shot his bolt. Well, today I have to inform you with some sadness that I too have shot my bolt. My journey is at an end. I have run out of time, physical endurance and the simple sheer inability to slide one ski in front of the other to travel the distance required to reach my goal.
Many mountaineers battle away and fail to reach the summit. My summit was just out of reach. But I spent 70 days all alone in a place I love, covered 900 statute miles, and just missed the final 1% of the goal I set out on. No matter. I’ll lick my wounds, they will heal over time and I’ll come to terms with the disappointment.
Henry Worsley, 22 January 2016