Posts Tagged ‘south pole’

Around the world… the hard way…

Now that we are back from Bolivia, we have a good nine months or so before our next major training project: three or four weeks up in the Arctic Circle doing polar training with Northwinds – a Canadia firm specialised in organizing training for people about to go on expeditions to the North / South Poles.

Northwinds Arctic – consultancy, polar guides and trainers

During the training we will be working on aspects such as back country skiing; more about layering; tents in the arctic; dealing with factors such as frostbite and common injuries… navigation at the poles… (crossing 2000km of white wilderness where you want to go to the geographic north pole rather the magnetic north pole isn’t quite so easy…!)… communications… dealing with polar bears… kite skiing… and much more! It looks like it will be a lot of fun, but it will be hard work and essential. Our expedition is going to take us to environments which will be completely alien and hostile to us: environments where success is not guaranteed though only can be possible with thorough and complete preparation. So this training there will most likely not be our last!

In the next nine months or, however, we need to work more on our physical fitness and also with… considering we will be cycling the vast majority of the journey, through the Americas and through Asia… cycling…!

Surly Long Haul Trucker – minus the front and back baggage racks

Paulo has a massive amount of experience cycling – he is regularly cycling 200-300 kilometre rides, which is one of the reasons why it is great that he is on board with us. We, however, have limited, more casual experience. The Yungas Road was a great ride, though it was all down-hill and it was without any serious weight. With out project we will need hybrid expedition bikes – The Surly Long Haul Trucker looks to be a great bike for our purposes so we will most likely acquire ourselves these next year when we are in the United States. In the next week or two, we will get ourselves slightly less expensive bikes just for training and getting used to long rides here in São Paulo (and hopefully avoiding any accidents with the crazy drivers on the roads here… a challenge in its own right). Hopefully we will be riding the 300km journeys with Paulo quite soon…

All this as well as continuing our climbing, hiking, physical training (pulling heavy tires along beaches will be included in this as we get into shape for pulling heavy 60kg sleds across ice)… more mountaineering projects (we are planning for Aconcagua next year as well as returning to Bolivia)… wilderness survival and medical training…

Plenty to do…

For the first eight years of my life, my family lived on the Orkney Islands, on a small island called Stronsay and then on the “mainland” in the fishing village of Stromness. It could probably be considered a pretty idyllic place for kids to grow up as we could wander around everywhere and always be able to get back home, and there were plenty of things to keep curious and adventurous children quite active. One day, my sister Lesley and I went to the beach with one of our elder brothers, Mark. When we got there, somehow we got separated from Mark near a grave-yard – Lesley and I thought that ghosts or something got him and made our worried way back home to tell mum what had happened. Mark came back hours later even more worried about how he would tell mum about how he had lost us!

Being the youngest of seven children, I would often wander off and get myself into bits of bother here and there (though I wasn’t the only one). I think it was Mark (I can’t remember, this is only what I was told) who had to wade into the sea after me when I had gone in and got a bit out of my depth with the sea dragging me away from the land. At another time, my parents had taken their eyes off of me and before they knew it, I was half way up a six foot wall (which had a ten foot drop on the other side). Apparently when my dad saw me, he almost panicked, but my mum stopped him from shouting at me for fear that startling me would make me lose my confidence and fall. So he rushed to get a camera and take a couple of photographs instead… Not sure as to exactly how I got down, but I survived to tell the tale.

These formative years of my life were when I started to be told tales of Scott of the Antarctic (watching the 1948 film on our old black and white TV), and the ascent of Everest by Hillary and Tenzing, and though we can be quick to dismiss childhood dreams of wanting to be explorers and the like (afterall, I imagine that so many children have these dreams), I remember distinctly saying I that I wanted to reach the South Pole and I wanted to climb Mount Everest. These dreams faded as we went away from the islands to England and the larger towns and cities, though I guess always lingered, and for me it’s great to have finally re-discovered them and to be in a position to work to make them happen. Hopefully it will all work out!

Have you any forgotten dreams that would love to make happen? Just curious to know…!!

A little about the hardest challenges on this expedition and the preparations that are going in for them.

The 360 Extremes Expedition will pass through 30 different countries and will take over three years to complete. In every country we will face different challenges, meet new and interesting people and see a massive array of different types of plant and animal life.

At this current planning phase where we are ironing out all of the details, we can certainly say that whilst we are aware of the major challenges that we will face, we don’t know everything. Indeed, to coin a Bushism (sorry – a Rumsfeldism…)… there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

I remember I laughed when I first heard this quote, but it actually rings true: we know we don’t know lots of things though at the same time, there are many things that can happen which we cannot really predict – all we can do is try our best to prepare our best for what might face us, and every eventuality.

So over the next few weeks or so, we will be writing posts about the different countries and major stopping points and routes in these countries: show a little of what we (think we) know and a little bit about what we think will happen. We would love to speak with people who know about or live along the different aspects of the route, and indeed we would love to have your advice about how to progress through the various stages of this adventure.

We shall start this series at the beginning (and end) of it all, with the city of São Paulo in Brazil, from where we shall embark in March 2014.

<—- The Journey – Part 1: Going North

So after crossing the North Pole, we have to start our journey down south. The main highlights of this journey are:

May-Mid June 2015: South from Longyearbyen to mainland Norway at the city of Tromso and then cycling south, we go through Finland and into Russia at St. Petersburg, before reaching Moscow a few days later.

From Moscow we will begin the trans-Siberian part of the journey, going overland by hybrid/electric car to Irkutsk on the shores of Lake Baikal, the deepest and oldest freshwater lake in the world – which contains roughly 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water. We will then get on our bikes and go south, across the Gobi Desert of Mongolia into China.

Mid-June-August 2015: Entering into northern China, we will go down to Hohot before cycling along a segment of the Great Wall of China, we go the five Sacred Taoist Mountains, (Bei) Heng Shan in the north, Tai Shan, Song Shan, Hua Shan and (Nan) Heng Shan in the south. From there we travel to Chengdu and take the 2,413-kilometer-long Sichuan-Tibet Highway to Lhasa – a road that traverses 14 mountains that are around 4,000-5,000 metres in height and can be considered to be one of the more treacherous highways one can travel. From Lhasa we will travel through the Himalayas into Nepal and Kathmandu

August-October 2015: Kathmandu will be the base from where we will start our journey to Everest in an attempt to reach the summit in what would be the first team to reach the summit, and traverse both the Poles in one larger expedition. Climbing Everest is one of the more dangerous aspects of this expedition as whilst there is a climbing window in September-October, weather on the mountain can change at the blink of an eye and when the weather there is against you, no expedition would be able to reach the top as the dangers are so great – especially in the Death Zone after 8,000metres. Occasionally the ascent can be finished by mid-October, though this is entirely dependent upon conditions and many expeditions do indeed have to turn back, even when they are within touching distant of the summit.

November 2015-June 2016: After the attempt at Everest, we will go back to Kathmandu and travel through a couple of nearby national parks, before first going east by bike via northern India and Bhutan to the Paro Takstang monastery. After spending time at the monastery and continuing cycling through Bhutan to the eastern border with India, we will make our way south, through Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore into Indonesia… before crossing to Australia.

July-October 2016: From Darwin we will cross central Australia through the deserts to Adelaide on a journey that covers over 3,000 kilometres. From there we will sail to New Zealand, from where we will go to the Antarctic.

November 2016-February 2017: The Antarctic Expedition: Whilst we are approaching the end of our global circle around the Poles, this will again be another massively demanding challenge – crossing the South Pole by foot – over 1000 miles in the coldest and harshest conditions on this planet. The challenges will be different from the North Pole, with crevasses posing threats of opening up beneath us, and high altitudes also making this an exhausting journey few have completed.

February-March 2017: And so our journey will come to an end as we return to South America via southern Chile and Argentina, with one more major climb at Mount Aconcagua – the highest mountain in South America – before crossing into Brazil at the Iguacu falls and completing the circle in Sao Paulo in March 2017.

From then on… who knows…!?

It has been a nice three weeks for me here in London – catching up with friends and family over Christmas and New Year. Will be flying back to São Paulo later tonight so I will enjoy the last day – off to see the Wildlife Photography exhibition at the Natural History Museum and will find a couple of galleries.

It has also been quite productive as well. Saw the Scott-Shackleton & Antarctic exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace and one cannot fail to be inspired by either of these two great adventurers. Went to the Royal Geographical Society and read a couple of expedition reports there – one regarding Michael McGrath’s Pole2Pole expedition in 2002 and 2004, and one regarding the Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Expedition. Both projects were incredibly inspirational and further reinforced my desire to do this project.

The Pole2Pole project was conducted by Michael McGrath, a chap who has the rare muscle disorder, Muscular Dystrophy when, in 2002 and 2004 he became the first disabled person to reach the North Pole and the South Pole respectively. After having had Muscular Dystrophy for over 20 years by the time he completed his expeditions, Michael had very little physical strength and suffered from the cold much more than any able-bodied person due to a less efficient circulatory system – though he and his team managed to make it.

The Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Expedition saw eight women from the Commonwealth countries of Cyprus, Ghana, India, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Jamaica and the United Kingdom brave blizzards, crevasses and temperatures below -30C as they ski over 900 kilometres across Antarctica to the Geographic South Pole. Many of these women had never experienced anything like snow or sub-zero temperatures before!

Certainly, both projects inspire people to really reach beyond the expectations of others and I hope that the 360Extremes expedition can help reinforce this message – with hard work and determination, we can achieve so much; we just have to really push ourselves and try!!!