news from the guys:
Extremesteps wins final leg to reach the Mag North Pole first - 50 miles covered on foot in 27.5 hours without rest - Click here to read!
Extreme Steps Diary: Check Point 4 - The Finish
Temp - minus as always but sunny / clear vis.
50 miles travelled in just 27.5 hours, including going over a mountain range.
This unlike the other diary entries has been written after the event so - only now do I appreciate what we have learnt and achieved since we took on this challenge.
As this was the very first race of it' kind both the organisers and competitors were really testing the boundaries of an adventure that no-one thought was possible, with all the inherirant dangers involved.
be let loose in one of the world' true wildernesses when we are so far from
any physical outside assistance, although if we manage to keep the required
warm by taking them out of the machines and literary have them next to our skin whilst being underneath the three layers of underclothes and our windproof suits then we do have the luxury of an epirb - personal location beacon - which if we pull the switch will generate a military presence like you will have never seen - comforting to know but not a bill I would wish to be landed with, secondly we have the use of a team Iridium telephone, linked on a good day to the satellites in the sky - so words of advice within the race rules could be sought.
When we arrived at CP3 - both the ISE Mission boys (Chris, Phil, Manley) and Tony & Richard from the Polar Team were keen to get going so they decided to leave for the final short leg a day earlier than had been agreed. We had suggested whilst we all waited for the VIP' to reach CP3 that we could all leave together as a mass start again, but that was not to be.
saw the ISE & Polar Team off at 09.00am and I secretly wished we were
as proficient as they were at cross-country skiing and therefore give them
a good run for their money on skis, rather than our marching pace across anything
that came in our way!
As we waved them off, we retired back to the checkpoint tent to finish off the important "games" that allowed us to take our mind off the fact we would not see the two leading teams until they had reached the Magnetic Pole and in fact because the cost of hiring the Deh Twin Otter airplanes from Borek Air was so great (a captive audience?) they would probley be picked up before we had reached the MN pole ourselves - then we might be playing "catch up" all the way back to the UK - had we got delayed - say in a blizzard for a few days - it seemed to me to get more windy and I felt a buzzing in my ears the nearer we got to the MN Pole.
Obviously we had all planned to return to the UK as a triumphant crew of explorers.
we had witnessed Tony "Mr Fixit", Dr Ian and Mark Harris*,
(*Fellow competitor who had to drop out in the last few weeks prior to the race start due to a hernia- but as the flights had been booked he kindly agreed to join us all for the last half of the race and offered to attempt to gain an entry in the Guinness book of records by playing the most Northerly "Gig" in the High Artic.),
finish our games that consisted of a perpetual game of golf - the same 3 holes played 6 times! - but as you will see from the photos a gun was required both during the race and at each checkpoint because of the real threat of hungry polar bears - at this point of the race my 7,000 calories per day were not sufficient and I might have been tempted to join the polar bears looking for the real taste of meat!
A firing range was also set up so we could test that our pump action (three shot 2.3/4) shotguns were coping with the metal barrels and firing mechanisms being left outside in the average minus 31 degree temperatures over the last three weeks - not a situation the manufacture would have anticipated!
the VIPs team of Babs - the only brave lady to stick out all the intensive
training, Casper and Richard (who also resides in Barnes SW13) reached CP3
- they rightly looked pleased at having completed one of the longer legs -
all out to sea across the frozen ice.
Because the support crew were going to be needed at the finish line ahead, we of www.extremesteps.com and the VIP' got their tent up quickly so they could prepare for the final departure the very next morning (24 hours after the leading two teams).
at 09.00am the Vip' set off ready and packed for the final shorter (43 miles
plus all the dead ground) race leg.
We left at 09.30am, as I wanted a physical reference point that we could aim for and overtake (with luck). The first few miles were straight into a rubble field and then across the open ice until we reached another rubble field as we got closer to the land and then the mountain that we would need to aim for and cross.
We caught the Vip' at their first rest point in the rubble and enjoyed the old routine of walking with them picking a safe route through the ice rubble. After a few miles we then brought our speed up to 2 miles per hour and proceeded on our own.
The sea crossing happened without any real problems although we could not find the leading teams tracks unlike on some previous days. We hit a bank of ice rubble earlier than we wished and came out again within a mile as we were not making sufficient progress to warrant the energy dragging the pulks up and over the rubble. Luckily the Vip' appeared to have followed our tracks so that might have delayed them as they had suddenly appeared to look like they were catching up with us once they had hit the open flat sea ice after the first main band of rubble (rubble (sea waves really!) is mainly caused by ice hitting land / other obstacles).
had only really planned to follow Mike' excellent passive plan to the other
side of the sea basin and aimed to be there around early evening in time for
our telephone call to say we were safe - put our inner tent up and cook a
quick evening meal - usually Cuscus rice with the dehighdrated bag. As we
finished our meal and looked up at the continual sun light, we looked ahead
ready for the path finding to find a way either through or up and over the
mountain ahead of us with the Magnetic North Pole over the other side and
out to sea again a few miles once we had crossed this finger of land.
We could not decide on which valley to choose despite having a pair of binoculars so we aimed for the middle and true to the previous Extremesteps navigational plans started to go up and over the mountain.
Once we had started to notice that we were starting to see and hear stones scraping the bottom of our pulks we realised that we really were going over land again and were looking forward to see the view from the top of the small mountain. As we reached each summit, I had planned on stopping and taking a photograph from the top but as the evening turned into the night we realised that in fact there was lots of summits (7 in total - all with a 300 m drop down into a huge natural bowl and then the same
300 m steep climb up to the next summit) we decided that dragging our pulks up near 65 degree slopes was preferable than to walk around the whole valleys and so the night' entertainment was set - 6 hours of non stop dragging pulks up sheer faces and then us being dragged down the faces on the other side whilst gravity was allowing the pulks to overtake us on the way down and whipping our legs from underneath us!
we reached the final summit and we then had to make a decision whether to
follow the valley below us or to go over another summit to cut off another
corner - Mike had the final say and we headed down the valley noticing the
GPS said the Magnetic North Pole was only around 7 miles away - but as the
crow flies of course!
We did try to utilise our skis at this point being the lowest point of the valley but having not used my ski' for such a long time all my co-ordination had gone so I resulted to walking again.
After only a couple of miles ahead - I felt very lightheaded and could not keep up with Mike' naturally longer stride.
One hour later I actually fell asleep on my feet whilst still walking (Mike and I discovered during our many night walks that we both felt very down / tired at two separate times of the night so we each took the lead and offered each other encouragement during these low points).
realising my predicament called a halt and made us both a brew and a quick
breakfast as by now it was early in the morning and we had only stopped once
since the previous day' departure at 09.30am.
Apparently after this impromptu stop, I was back to walking the 2 miles per hour routine - much to Mike' delight.
I started to see the valley open up and could see some mountain ranges ahead,
I was convinced that The Magnetic North Pole must be one of these mountainous
As we took another short cut across some more land, apparently we passed the spot within the valleys where both the two leading teams had camped all night as I think they had expected us to take more than One day to complete the last leg of over 43 miles (the real distance with all the summits must have been nearer to 50 miles).
As it was nearing to 09.00am we knew we had nearly reached our final destination after nearly a month on the ice and we had only 30 mins left if we wished to complete this leg within a 24 hour period but the GPS we still saying we were over 5 miles from the finish - The GPS measures as the crow flies - so straight, but does not take into account any valleys / dead ground / summits to conquer / open water leads - mountains that need to be circumvented!
we got to within 3 miles of the actual Lat / Long position of the MNPole,
we started to worry as my eye sight is pretty good and yet there was no natural
finishing area we could distinqunch / no tracks left by the two leading teams
that had left 24 hours prior to our actual departure and no finishing line
/ tents to see - in fact, all we could see was an open frozen sea mass.
After awhile, of each of us convincing each other that the tiny darker coloured ice formations up ahead was a tent encampment, we decided that in fact in must be our mistake and as we were using my GPS this morning as Mike' GPS screen had frozen and the batteries were dead, then perhaps I had failed to up date my GPS with any change in co- ordinates as per our satellite calls to Gary at the Comms desk every night at 20.45pm.
So we decided for the very first time to use our telephone outside our allocated schedule time and request advice - Jock answered the call and I heard Mike requesting confirmation of the finishing co-ordinates - Jock confirmed that we had the correct details in the GPS and said "proceed as planned", so we re housed the telephone battery back down our underclothes as this keeps the battery warm and walked another mile towards the moving GPS arrow. Whilst doing this we were both saying out aloud to each other that we were concerned and Jock did not seem to understand that if the two leading teams had left and skied off a full 24 hours ahead of us then - where were they and their tents?
We called twice more as we closed in the final couple of miles and expressed our real concerns for the well fare of our racing colleagues that we had bonded with and grown to admire their professional attitude to taking on the race and all the extreme conditions that the High Artic can throw at you as you dare to cross its territory.
Finally all Jock said was please take photographic evidence on our arrival using both the GPS and our watches.
at 13.00pm lunchtime you had the comical sight of two very weary team mates
- smelly as we had not had a shower since April 8th - both with various personal
injuries including bleeding leg sores / sole of my right foot coming away
from my foot leaving me with a huge 3 inch burst water blister - on their
hands and knees trying to see who could get the GPS to record the nearest
position to the 1996 recorded location - Mike won with a position within under
3 feet of the actual site - my reading was 5.8 feet !.
We duly took the photo attached and it was only then we realised we had walked for nearly 50 miles in 27.5 hours and We were the very First team to reach our objective!
felt we had managed to have a great sense of humour throughout the experience
despite one or two ordeals and I felt we really enjoyed each other's company
so continuing in that vain we set up the inner part of our tent right on the
Mag North Pole and thought about making a sign to charge admission!
Very quickly the MSR cooker was installed in our tent and a brew was on.
After a few hours, and having up dated our diaries - Mike' diary has the most amazing scale maps drawn along with a detailed diary account written into the bound book his wife had organised as a present, I noticed a long way off - 5 tiny dots coming from the same direction we had just travelled in.
each 15 mins past, the figures got bigger and then we noticed that it looked
like they had the pulks dragging behind them.
Eventually we could see it must be the two leading teams with their pulks and Mike re iterated the fact they must have been returning from a walk having reached our spot the previous day.
As they got nearer they appeared to be skiing rather fast and did not look too pleased to see us drinking our brew!
It turns out due to a misunderstanding? - The two leading teams had been told that the booked plane was not due to land till the afternoon of our arrival on the 1st May and so had chosen for some reason to ski together as a leading group for the very first time with both the ISE (they had won the previous three legs) and Polar Team keeping a close eye on one another incase either team changed the plan and made a push for it.
and I assumed that they had reached this spot the day before - planted a ski
stick or something as proof of completing the exercise over the last nearly
380 miles with the average temperature being around minus 34 degrees and then
gone for a walk with all their safely equipment in their pulks.
It appeared our growing confidence and artic abilities were underestimated !
would like to thank both Patrons of the Wedgwood Blue Polar Race 2003, David
Hempleman Adams and Jock Wishart for organising the race and the fact out
of all the other explorers we saw departing from our base camp - we were the
only group that year not to either be evacuated off the ice due to injuries/
took the right equipment / completed the distance in the quickest time - a
different group, took apparently a month and a half to do the same distance
(although their' was not a race admittedly).
The Artic survival training with Paul and Matty was the best and it was a pleasure seeing them both in what is now their home environment.
We could not have done without the support of any sponsors (financially / donation of equipment) - some competitors raised very little money - not through, not trying very hard and ended up taking out huge loans as I had to - so a big thank you to Sesame, our suffering partners back at home and also to the continual support from both Paul / Gary Walker back at the Comms desk at Base camp (Ozzie @ South Camp Inn) in Resolute Bay and Richard Bull / Burgess, Dr Ian Davis, Tony Woodford for sitting at each check Point CP awaiting our arrival at all hours of the day having completed each long leg of the race.
Lastly to my team mate, Mike Krimholtz - thank you for helping making this such an amazing experience and for sharing all the highs and lows - would I do it again - definitely!
Extreme Steps Diary : Check Point 3.
As I sit here writing this whilst awaiting the MSR stove to finish melting ice - the twice daily chore of making water from snow, my eyelids have frozen together again as it is so cold.
daily routine out here in the Polar Race high artic (nearly 280 miles north
of everywhere!), is finishing walking around 01.30am, put up tent - snow placed
around valances to anchor us down - make warm drink, bed at 02.30am.
Wake up before 06.00am (I am an evening person, luckily Mike is not! )
Break camp, after re-boiling 4 flasks of drinking water - note (currently by lunchtime the metal thermo flasks have lost all properties and contain slushy ice!).
Depart by 08.30am (so 5 hours sleep max), walk & navigate using the sun, till the required
schedule call at 20.45pm, as this is one of the first unguided trips, we need to confirm our position and well being to Gary at the Comms desk @ Resolute Bay- no response by second day or activation of our personal "EPIRBs" - personal location beacon - then air and rescue will be despatched. These EPIRBs cost £850- each and link into the GPS navigational tool.
My own mini handheld Alba weather station tells us the current temp, wind-chill, baro readings & wind speed - minus 49 is current favourite minus 32 seems quite normal now !
Food during the day consists of a dry "day" bag carried in a pocket - a 0.5 kilo bag of every thing "weight watchers" have put on their "banned" list - so sweets / jelly babies/ nuts/ dried fruit and lots of chocolate - thank you Cadburys Schweppes - do check out their educational website - its great fun.
Do bare in mind that this bag is frozen solid at minus 30 and if you take a glove off for more than just 2.5 minutes then you start to get frostnip and it will take till the next break in 1.5 hours in which to get any feeling back into the exposed flesh.
Breaks here are very short max 4 mins in which to eat a handful of snacks - find @ drink the slushy "hot water" and go for a pee or a number two! (a "Manley waypoint" ).
Due to the extreme temperatures we wear basically three layers/ pairs of everything - socks, underclothes, leggings, wicking tops and then our windproof "all in one" boiler suit with fur hood with the excellent RAB down jacket.
Hands & Feet are also protected with 3 layers of socks and gloves. Our head is covered in a balaclava, fleece neck warmer - extremities hat and the windproof hood.
The fur around the hood is used as a directional tool - you keep the wind blowing on your face constant so very useful for navigation as the wind does not often change direction quickly.
The one hot meal is a combined effort of the race supplied dehydrated food & Mike' spice rack - I am pleased he takes it as a personal challenge to make it all edible when eaten at around 21.00pm whilst making our schedule radio call - we sit in the tent, but only put up the first of two layers to the "Terra Nova" tents from Cotswold in London. Once we have eaten and drank we then decamp and carry on walking till around 01.30am.
have seen so many sunsets and amazing polar sunrises now - some show 3 suns
and a rainbow halo.
The ever shifting polar ice creaks and groans all the time and either sounds like a wine bottle being un popped by a twisting action or a gun shot - very unnerving and therefore reminds us we are just walking on an ever moving frozen sea.
The sunrise catches each snowflake in a different crystal like way.
Every footstep is unique and virginal to my movement. We have not seen and birds / trees - other animals since 8 April - 3 weeks.
Being a race we also have not had a bath or a change of kit since the 9 April - not a savoury thought!
Daily tasks are done outside "very quickly" at minus 30!
each check point (a simple grid reference over 3 locations spread over nearly
400 miles) The Wedgwood Blue Polar Race crew -Richard, Tony "Mr fix it",
and Dr Ian, keep our spirits up - not bad when you consider they too stay
in a tent on the ice.
Yesterday it was a 19-hour day walking directly into a headwind of minus 41c - the artic wind wants to find and freeze any exposed flesh.
Thinking of life at home reminds me "Do it now rather than put things off" - like refilling all fuel cylinders whilst the weather allows.
Minor irritations at home now seem trivial compared to today' efforts in the artic.
Out of interest the numbers of times, just today that I had to haul the 102-pound in weight pulk (sled) over an obstacle was "38", lifted and upturned the pulk "42" - all in one normal day out on the ice. Being on foot I "find" and fall into or place a whole leg down a hidden snow bridge (gap between the ice plates) "11" times - danger of an injury is great out here - best Doctor' secret guess estimate for getting us off the ice with say a fractured ankle / broken leg would be between 2.5 hours to 4 days depending on flight / weather availability.
One USA male hunter died this week out here due to a heart attack - apparently it took a few days to retrieve his cold body - good news he died doing his sport - bad news he died before his time, "Life is not a dress rehearsal".
So far as teams, we have had most of the other competitors over "for dinner" in our tent during the check point periods - a great experience out here - the ingredients are very varied and we have all swapped / shared any spare food - a real treat!
the non issue equipment, I have chosen to carry: the top three awards go to
www.pacerpole.com, they have lessened any back & arm aches and helped
haul a combined weight of 250lb over nearly 340 miles of obstacles and out
of deep holes. They should be available to be purchased now.
The most painful and avoidable injury out here is "eye burn" caused by exposure to either the glare from the snow or the continual daylight, my eyes were protected by my Bertoni skydiving antifog sunglasses - see my sponsor pages (scroll down for second page).
My wife, Lorraine bought me a Fuji A303 digital 3.2 mega pixel camera as a surprise leaving present and it worked amazingly given the temperatures we endured - importantly it takes normal "AA" batteries - a rechargeable set would be of no use unless you tried to harness a solar panel (I did approach the likes of Sony in Surrey but despite there marvellous work with the ocean yachting - artic exploration seems to be an unexplored territory for them - a "cleo" palm- useful in that we could have typed up our report and handed over just the memory stick rather that the hand written notes that then get radioed into base camp and then we rely on them having the time to type this up and then email it back to email@example.com who looks after my web site and the Sony compact Mini DV PC9 camcorders (which we took out and are using to great effect - Tony "Mr Fixit" manages to keep all the required batteries/ tapes, warm in a self-built box).
Thank you to my brother, Jon & Sue Bester, Daniel and Nathan Bennett, Clare Thorburn for their messages of support that I received via both the pilots VFR radio and on email - a welcome moral boast.
to all friends & clients of www.ifa.us.com.
Well done to my sister for giving birth to her first child - lets hope her baby' name search, can spur MISYS (sponsor) to find a suitable name re-brand.
I look forward to giving a short talk to both "Born too Soon" and the "Walton 137 round table", charities upon my return.
The Mission performance (Initial style and Polar Team) have both shown great competitiveness and we will still try to make this a great World first race to the Magnetic North Pole.
Yours Steven @ CP3
PS on a medical note, we are all still taking part to the agreed "longest full time" study on the effects of continual daylight, using spit samples / light detectors (attached to the inside of our tent and to Mike' pulk) and movement sensor watches that we all wear.
This will help advance the "SAD" syndrome - "Melatonin" properties - not something available to the UK market place - organised by my team colleague, Dr Mike Krimholtz.
Steps from Steve East at CP2
Safely arrived at checkpoint 2 - now covered just under 200 miles, dragging all our supplies in the pulk behind us - they weighed 102 pounds - includes shotgun, tent, food and fuel for our MSR cookers - Thanks to Cotswold Camping (London Branch).
We have stuck with our plan of direct line navigating using GPS and sundial - compasses do not work up here. Mike (Club sailor navigating) passive map planning has been excellent, as has his cooking skills (His extra item was a spicy mixture of different herbs) have greatly enhanced the supplied dehydrated ex-army food bags.
Sadly Norman did not continue with us, and therefore we had to carry all his food as well on our pulks as they were heat sealed in portions of three per meal. In order to finish this last leg of 130 miles, we finished the last 27 in one push - our longest distance so far in one day, all on foot - but it meant walking all day, through the night and partly all the next morning to reach CP2 - 23 hours without sleep!
The previous two days were our worst - we had to walk along the right hand topside of Bathurst Island past Airstrip Point to Cape Kitson - we had a very strong headwind blowing at 27 mph straight into our faces with a temperature of -24°C and getting colder - we could not stop to eat or drink as we were hypothermic and getting frostnip while just moving through the blizzard, so to stop and take on food would be dangerous to our health. Prior to Airstrip Point, we had chosen to stay out to sea (4 miles offshore) and had covered 14.8 miles through 5 bands of rough ice rubble and icebergs (which are blue in colour by the way!). Everyone else had travelled along the coastline, which was a greater distance but easier effort. Just to amuse ourselves we then climbed to over the top of Airstrip Point and saw all the spare aviation fuel drums, unfortunately it was a sheer drop on the other side:- gravity, weight of pulks meant we both landed in a pile at the bottom!
We tried to put up our tent but it blew around like a giant kite, even with our pulk rope leads tied to the tent. At one stage because of the wind it was floating three feet in the air off the ground! We moved on a few miles to shelter behind a giant iceberg.
The other teams, Initial Style and Polar Team, have proved themselves with their speed on skis and sheer endurance with the distance they cover per day, which since yesterday is now in continual daylight - very strange to sleep patterns. The welcome we got from them when we arrived was really appreciated. Since finishing this second leg whilst waiting for the ViP3 team, we as teams have all had a big "Cook in" where we had a great meal together using a great mixture of the race food.
Gary/Jock keep our spirits up when we call in every night to confirm our current positions using GPS and satellite phone. The high arctic is a true world of contrasts - beauty and total quietness and yet living danger.
off - Steve
24 April 2003
From: Steve East
North 74° 49
West 095° 54
Race started on 9th April 03. Had excellent specialist training in Arctic survival with Paul and Matty. Comms support staff have been working hard on our behalf to make sure we have a safe race. They checked our equipment and counted our fingers and toes - skin freezes out here very quickly - minutes!
Very sadly, team member Norman left us prior to the race start, so mike and I had to relearn Norman's skills - navigation and comms. We were up at 3.30am prior to the race resizing all the food portions as we are now a team of two.
The whole 'town' came to watch the race start. David Hempleman-Adams shook our hands and we in turn congratulated him on his return to our base camp, having just successfully completed an arctic trip lasting twenty days he reached the Geomagnetic North Pole.
We have kept the other teams in sight - but have already had two white-outs due to the weather.
Tomorrow we are expecting temperatures of -25°c, with a wind chill making it -37°c. The wind speed is around 20kph - so looking at walking into the wind with nor clear visability!
Have seen first ice berg that was taller than my house and lots of animal tracks but n o polar bears. Our equipment works well in the extreme temperatures, but it's still cold to sleep out in.
Thank you to 'Misys' for their financial support and a special mention to Pauline Woods who is hoping people will follow our progress and donate some money to the amazing charities at Kinston Hospital 'Born Too Soon' and 'In Safe Hands'.
I think Westwood school might like to make a 'sundial', which is how we navigate as compasses do not work around this area.
Love to my family - Lorraine, Joshua, Ellie and the rest of the gang.
5th April 03
safely from our three flights going to Ottawa - Inaluit - Resolute
Bay. The planes got smaller with each trip further north.
has been around minus 23 today but was minus 40 the other day
when we had some more ski practice in the bay area.
The whole area of sea gets frozen for most of the year but the ice still
rises with the tide - for about 6 meters !
All you can hear is the wind and the creaking of the ice.
town here has a population of around 600 with the average age is just
Most people are either local / outside workers for the mines / Army base at
Alert - they do a six month tour ! / explorers.
must give full credit to any explorer of the old days who must have
travelled so far north with no idea of what to expect and had to cope with
My eye lashes freeze together most days making walking in a straight line a
new experience then add in the wind chill and you really have to remember
that skin freezes within 2 minutes - first frost nip then frost bite - that'
when the skin changes colour from pink to white then it just looks like
white wax and numb to feel.
locals are very friendly people and love to assist in anyway - answer
The support crew did a great job getting us all here in one piece and we
mostly managed to get most of our equipment through customs on way over.
Some nights when we sleep out in our tents you can here the dogs howling -
they toget to sleep out all year around ready for their next trip out
dragging a sled.
to Lorraine, Joshua, Ellie - Audrey & Vernon / Miles & Catherine -
the Westward school - Pauline at Born too Soon / Misys and a big hug to my
sister who is expecting her first baby this month and to Rebecca. My
climbing gang - Chicken in the corner !
Walton Round table 137 - need more membership application forms !
Thank you for supporting me.
to post another note soon.