Expedition Day 5: Another beautiful day here with a northerly drift, ample (cold) sunshine and no wind. Finally, it feels like all systems are dialled, including me eating more and more frequently. Despite having to cross huge pressure ridges and sidestep open leads, today’s 10.5 miles felt like a breeze, not least because of strong teamwork. 36 miles done with just 14 miles to go! 75% done and it looks like we will reach the North Pole midday on Tuesday, April 19th. Stoked with our progress though remain vigilant – things in the Arctic could change very fast. Read on the art of camping on the North Pole
The Art of Arctic Camping
6:00am – an alarm goes off. We are barely awake in our -40 sleeping bags. The day starts abruptly with an order to brush off the snow from the inside walls of the tent and to pack away our sleeping bags into the vestibule. We have five minutes to complete the task in a frozen tent – not the army style but not far from that. Stoves go in and a great ice cook out begins. Inside the tent.
In the Arctic out goes the rule that cooking on jet-boil stoves has to be done in the vestibule.
In this hostile, both freezing and humid environment, any source of heat is precious and has to be used. It is your only chance to dry ice frosted clothes. During the day a combination of breathing and extreme cold creates an ice marzipan layer on clothing. At the end of the day the tent looks like a Christmas tree with stuff pinned to a drying line. You can barely see each other in this Arctic laundromat. Socks, fur ruffs, gloves, googles with sewn on nose beaks, boot inserts, you name it… All above the roaring MSR stove. Last night I added my down sleeping bag wet from spilled thermos. Had it not been for the stove, my night would have been miserable.
Back to to the morning – Eric’s departure routine is meticulously choreographed. It has to be as everything here takes time. The water melt, breakfast and packing takes some 2 hours.
The routine is precise at the end of the day as well: 2 minutes to erect the tent, shovel snow to create ice barriers, set up the bear security barrier from skis, find some fresh snow blocks and cut them into smaller pieces. And another great ice cookout begins to prepare water for the next day. For the next 3 hours we are occupied with drying, melting and eating. Basic but hugely satisfying.
A tent that we use on both poles is Swedish made Hilleberd. It is a long half dome. It folds as a harmonica and can be packed on top of a sled. It takes just 1 minute to pitch it up – an indispensable quality in -40* weather. Inside the tent the comforts are sparse – two thin thermarest resin mats, a tent bag stuffed with a change of clothes, thermoses and two stoves. A tatami room with minimalist camping twist. On the 9th hour of skiing the thought of being inside a warm dry space is tantalising. It is a luxury room, albeit without a view.