Skiing to the North Pole

expeditionmap2

The frigid winter is not something I seek, though admittedly I choose to live in the Midwest. So when I heard that John Huston and Tyler Fish are choosing to ski unassisted to the North Pole my interest was piqued. While they have been training for many months, the official start is today, March 1 (though there has been a 24 hour delay due to weather).

How did I first learn about this expedition? One of the two is a Chicago area guy who over the summer was seen running in Lincoln Park. Not unusual.  Except for the chains attached to the 4 tires he was pulling. This part of his training caught the attention of the local radio stations and the Chicago Tribune.

Their website amazes me. Here are some things I learned.

They list six challenges to a successful expedition:

  1. Polar bears. Over ten feet tall, 1400 pounds and oh btw they are hard to see during a white out.
  2. Cold, Wet and Wind. Average cold temp will be -35 degrees with low lows as low as -76 degrees. It is very humid so moisture control is a problem–especially when you are pulling a friggin’ sled while skiing. Sweat much?
  3. Drifting ice. There will be times when the ice is drifting backward faster than they are skiing forward.
  4. Rubble and pressure ridges. There will be times that they will use energy going around stuff instead of being able to follow the most direct route.
  5. Dark and Light. Darkness slows everything down (duh). But by the end of the trip they will have 24 hours of sunlight each day.
  6. Open water. Get this. This one would stop me well before my fear of polar bears–which is already off the fear scale. At times they will don wet suits and swim, pulling their sleds through arctic water. I may never warm up completely just thinking about that.

Other factoids:

  • The good news is they get to consume 7000 calories a day
  • The trip is planned from March 1 through April 26
  • They will cover 525 miles by ski or snowshoe
  • If successful they will be the first from the USA to complete this voyage. Only 22 people have done this before them–ever

So why are these two skiing unassisted to the North Pole? Sure they may get a moment or two of fame but not the Paris Hilton type that can be turned into a paid career of doing nothing other than being famous.

According to them this is a trip of Optimism, Humility and Responsible action. They want to inspire people to take on great things, to challenge themselves.

I am inspired. To what I am not yet sure. I do plan to check their blog everyday to find out how they are doing. If you want to as well they are now added to my blogroll.

If nothing else I commit to stop complaining about the weather in Chicago–at least for 2009.

5 Seconds Under Curaçao

Thanks to the cinematographic genius of Da Man, I can share with you the greatest underwater adventure since Sea Hunt (or Flipper).

Thursday Has Become Adventure Day

I am working on how to keep the Adventure Thursday theme alive when I return to the U.S. and my regular life. I will let you know when this conundrum has been solved. For now I have the first Adventure Thursday to share.

Thursday April 10 in Curacao was definitely Adventure Day. It began with a drive to Christofel National Park on the NW side of the island, home to the highest peak on the island. The woman at the visitors center told us the climb would take an hour each way and that it was easy except for the last 15 minutes. She was right about the time but not about the easy part. It was a challenging grade for most of the way, at least for someone as not in shape as I am. (There were some middle school kids going up as we were going down. Three of the boys finished the uphill part and made it down only minutes after we did. Oh to be young again.) The trail was rocky and had some places where you had to navigate where your feet would go. Several times me and my 30 inch inseam had to conquer high steps from on rock to the next.  And then there was the final section. As tough as advertised.

First we had to scramble over some rocks using hands as well as feet. Then there was a vertical section involving finding footholds and rocks or tree limbs for my hands so I could pull myself up. The last 20 yards required squeezing through a very narrow passage, barely wide enough for me to get through, that had a very steep grade. My feet were on the walls to either side of me.

A few cuts and bruises but we made the summit. The views were stunning. I will post pictures when I return. I was admiring my stamina and fortitude just when I realized I would have to go back the way I came. Crap.

The climb down, at least for this first section, was harder than the uphill climb. Face forward going down. Finding places for hands and feet. Needing to jump or drop where you had reached and pulled on the way up. Complicating things were the people coming up sharing the same path. After surviving this first section the downhill was doable. Strenuous but doable. Amazingly it took about the same time down as up. We had thought that given the way gravity works the downhill would have been faster.

Thigh muscles ached by the time I finished. I expect that they may be worse tomorrow. However, Chistofel Mountain was just the beginning of this 4 part adventure day.

Part Two was the dive at Playa Kalki not far from the mountain. We made time to find a nice lunch and spend time on the beach. But then on to diving. We had rented equipment the day before. Unfortunately the entire dive set including air tanks had to be carried down 22 steps. (Also meaning 22 steps up on the way back.) We geared up, did buddy checks, got information about the reef and then jumped off the peer. This was to be only our second unguided dive. Ever.

Nice dive, good coral, interesting fish. Best of all was the freedom. When you go with a dive master and group, you all go where the dive master goes. Too often people bunch up. I have been kicked in the head many times on such a dive. But when you and your buddy are on your own you go where the whim takes you. See something interesting to the right, go check it out. Want to just play in the water like a fish…do it. We made it there and back on our own contributing to my SCUBA confidence level and adding to the legend.

Number Three was only a little bit adventurous but it all counts on Adventure Thursday. We had found a very nice restaurant on our way to Playa Kalki and decided to have an early dinner on our return home. The owner was a card. He came to our table and recited the day’s menu. I wanted to try something I had never eaten but decided against goat brains though they came highly recommended. I opted for the barracuda. It turns out to be a meaty white fish. The food was quite good and the atmosphere outstanding. There are bird feeders on the other side of a half wall next to our table. The birds there were beautiful. Orange and black, yellow and green, small and large. Then as we got up to pay the bill the owner tells us that life is to short to rush and that if we sat in the rocking chairs we could get a surprise. Ice Cream. That was a very pleasant surprise.

Last but not least was the Night Dive. I have done this a few times before. There is an extra bit of adventure, and for me trepidation, in diving when darkness surrounds you. All you have that allows you to see is a flashlight. The beauty of night dives are twofold. You see a few things that you may see during the day but all the colors are different. Even better, the nocturnal hunters are out. We did not encounter as much as I had hoped but we did see some lobster and a baby barracuda. For this journey in the deep we wisely chose to take a guide along.

Four adventures in a single day. Lets see to what extent I can keep up the new tradition of Adventure Thursday.