– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Tag Archives: polar travel

Ultima Thule 2011 trip report – in pictures!

Now, about a one month after the three-week Ultima Thule skiing expedition to Svalbard I have finally scraped together a trip report!

As I wrote live updates from the ice during the expedition I didn’t feel that a traditional trip report would be necessary. I will still post a bunch of posts related to the expedition when I find the time but there will be no traditional chronological trip report. Instead you can read the six updates I wrote during the trip. You can find the updates from my blog or by clicking the links below

Post 1: Greetings from the Arctic!
Post 2: Days of storm and whiteness!
Post 3: One miss, one hit, one to go!
Post 4: Perriertoppen and Pyramiden
Post 5: Summer has arrived!
Post 6: From the arctic to the Southern spring

Click yourself to the gallery!

But the new thing is a trip report in the form of pictures! I took a big bunch of pictures during the expedition. I don’t know how many pictures I actually took but after deleting failed ones and duplicates I ended up with 1330 pictures. After some hard time with selecting pictures to be published I ended up with 256 pictures, which was clearly too much. Then after some more time I ended up with 173 pictures. It is still a bit too much but I didn’t feel that a smaller amount would have made justice for the great trip. To give some more content for the pictures I wrote short captions for each. The slide show viewer of the gallery doesn’t show captions so I recommend manual clicking instead.

So, grab of cup of coffee and try to forget the summer and enjoy the three weeks skiing on the high arctic of Svalbard. When you are mentally prepared, click yourself to the gallery.

Later on I will make a very selected edition of the pictures with only some of the technically and aesthetically most pleasing ones but there will not be too many if any new ones in that set.

Please, feel free to leave comments to the blog or straight in the gallery.

Huom! Kuvatekstit on kirjoitettu myös suomeksi! Kommentit suoraan blogiin tai galleriaan ovat tervetulleita myös suomeksi!


Post 6: From the arctic to the Southern spring

30.4.2011 – The 1st full day at home for a while

Somewhere along Lomonosovfonna

I am now back from my three-week expedition to the cold shores and jagged peaks of Svalbard. Ultima Thule 2011 is over but the aftermath has barely started.

Tent after a blizzard. Spot the pulka on the left!

On Thursday we skied a tad over one leg to the warehouse where we mended and dried our gear. We took an early start at 07:00 and had enough time to do some shopping and eat lunch in cafeteria before receiving our rooms at the hostel. We didn’t sleep much during the day but instead mostly bought souveniers, packed gear for return trip, had a long dinner in restaurant and many drinks in the bar.

Expedition closing to its end. Longyerby in the horizon.

Taxis came to pick us up at the Friday night around 01:30 and we went to airport for the lat big gear hassle. It was a nice hassle trying to squeeze 23 kilo of gear to our bags, 12 kilo to our carry on packages and as little gear as possible to our sleds (they are quite expensive to fly around). At the end the airport stuff just surrendered and put the stickers on all the packs, most un-weighted, and everything was okay. A short nap at the airport floor and the sleepy flight to Oslo, a quick change at the Oslo airport and a bit less sleepy flight to Helsinki. We where back in Helsinki around 11:00 local time and were amazed by the warmth and green grass.

An arctic fox seen from the bar window. Svalbard is wild country.

Preliminary summary

And inspired by Joe’s old post, here is a short summary in numbers:

20 continuous night in a tent in a sleeping bag, personal record
300+ kilometers of skiing, personal record
1712 meters, the peak of Perriertoppen, the highest point of the expedition
100000 calories eaten
2-3 kilo of weight loss (less than anticipated)
1 full day spent storm bound
2 day spent partially storm bound
0 the day when tents were needed as a shelter for lunch break
1 badly burned nose now covered with salve
64 GB of pictures and video shot
+ 16 Celsius, the warmest temperature in the thermometer during the trip
– 25 Celsius, the coldest temperature during the trip

79 degrees Northern latitude crossed!

What next?

Last night I had a nice 11 hours sleep in a proper bed, for the first time for over three weeks. Most of the gear is sorted out and waiting to be washed. I have almost 64 GB of pictures and video to be processed so it will take some time. There are some randomly picked teasers in this post but most of the pictures are still waiting to be uploaded on the computer. And unfortunately I have also three weeks od undone work waiting for me, starting on Monday.

The pass between Galleribreen and Tryggvebreen. Snowy slopes of Perriertoppen on the right.

Despite the minor obstacles I plan to write a punch of post-trip posts and get a nice set of pictures online. But it will take some time.

At the moment I am planning:
– an in-depth post covering my personal views on the expedition in general
– a post about the food which was plenty and worked well
– a post covering major observations on gear
– two sets of pictures (set for those with more time and a very selected batch for those with less time or interest)
– some kind of video built from all the short clips along the way, but this one will take time as I have to first learn how to edit the stuff smoothly together

If there are some things that you are especially interested and would like to know more, please leave a comment and I will try to cover the topics in the following posts!

And it seems to be almost summer here in Southern Finland so I have to put skis and winter gear in the storage and search my summer gear. Before leaving to Svalbard I already bought a neoprene wetsuit (can’t afford a proper dry suit) so there are trips being planned and when there is something coming up, I’ll let you know!

Recommended read: Modern Polar expeditions

This time the recommended read is a quick look on modern polar travel with some background information and links to trip reports and expedition homepages. With the summer getting closer, you can cool down with stories from the coldest places on Earth.

Despite the modern technology, polar travels are still very challenging endeavors, at least if you want to do them “properly”. Now days when planes and helicopters provide relatively easy access to the most remote places on Earth there are certain rules concerning what can be called a true polar expedition. But even though the technology has developed from days of the polar pioneers, the conditions are still equally or even more challenging than they were hundreds years ago. On this season all the expeditions to the North Pole had to be canceled because of bad weather making flights to the area impossible. Earlier this month three expeditions canceled their attempts and today Ben Saunders, who was trying to make a world record time to reach the Pole, announced in Twitter to cancel his attempt because of timetables stretching too thin:

“Ongoing blizzard at N coast of Ellesmere Island = no flights this year. Time to go home and have a cup of tea. Will update the site tonight” by polarben at Twitter. Ben Saunders has some cool videos of the preparations in Resolute Bay so check them out from the expedition homepage (recommended videos).

Geographic North Pole

Hauling sleds in pack ice. Image by Poppis Suomela.

The Geographic North Pole is a coordinate  point in the middle of ever-changing sea ice of the Arctic ocean and the commonly accepted rules define that a journey to the Pole should start from land (not from sea or sea ice) and of course reach the 90 degrees North. Nowadays most expeditions to the Pole start from the Canadian Arctic by flying with ski equipped charter plane from village of Resolute Bay to the Ward Hunt Island in the far North and skiing from there some 800km to the Pole. This is a challenging journey through packed ice, open water leads and extreme cold. And as a bonus the currents and winds may drive the ice floes away from the Pole adding the challenge even more. The extraction from the Pole is usually done with helicopters via temporary Russian station called Barneo. Barneo si a science and expedition camp that is annually built on drifting sea ice in a massive airborne operation. The station remains active for a month or so and is then dismantled.  This year the Russians haven’t yet been able to start building the station because of, yeah you guessed right, bad weather. The other way to get back home from the Pole would be charter flight to Canada. The only problem is that is costs six figure sum…

Crossing open water on the way to the North Pole. Image by Poppis Suomela.

In 2006 The expedition of the Airborne Ranger Club of Finland reached the North Pole after a very challenging journey. The expedition homepages are still online and include a lot of background information and diary and can be found from www.pohjoisnapa.fi (recommended read). Truly recommended read. IT is fascinating and exciting story (though I killed some of the suspense by telling that they got to the Pole…)!

Geographic South Pole

Skiing in sastrugi (rock hard snow drift formations). Image by Poppis Suomela.

The Geographic  South Pole on the other hand lies in a middle of huge ice sheet of the Antarctica. It is equally hard to reach and even getting to the starting point is extremely expensive as there are no permanent settlements (well, many research stations are manned the year round) and everything, including plane-fuel, have to be flown to the continent. Most often it is agreed that a journey to South Pole should start from the edge of the landmass of the Antarctica. This doesn’t mean the true coast as the ice sheet expands well over the underlying continent. The stricter definition says that the journey should start from the edge of the ice further away from the Pole. Vast majority of the expedition fly from Punta Arenas Chile to Patriot Hills summer vamp in Antarctica, take a short charter flight from there to the Hercules Inlet ant start the over 1000 kilometer ski over the ice plateau to the South Pole. The Amundsen-Scott base lies in the immediate proximity of the South Pole and during the summertime there are regular flights from the Pole but those aren’t cheap either as the fuel to fly out has to be first flown in to the Pole…

In 2008 Kari “Poppis” Suomela and Pasi Ikonen became the first Finnish expeditions to reach the South Pole unassisted and unsupported. At the same time Poppis became 11th person in the world to ski to the Geographic North and South Poles unassisted and unsupported. The expedition website with diary can be found from here: www.thepole.fi (recommended read).

Poppis is also a reporter and nature photographer and he has written books about both expeditions. The books are great with amazing photos. You can order them (in Finnish, Swedish or English) straight from the man himself by clicking  here. There are also some free sample pages to take a look at.

What is unsupported and unassisted?

The purest form of polar travel is considered being unassisted and unsupported. This mean using only human power (no motors, no dogs, no wind assistance) and being totally self-sufficient for duration of the journey (not receiving any outside help or supplies). Being self-sufficient is quite understandable as there are no supply points en-route and charter flights for supplies cost a truck load of money. On the other hand being self-sufficient is very challenging and many expeditions rely on resupplies on the way. Both Expeditions linked above were unassisted and unsupported, pure human-powered polar traveling.

Some might say that it is cheating to fly out from the Poles. There is a certain point in the claim but on the other hand, expeditions almost always fly to and from their starting and ending points so it is more a matter of definitions. Only a few phenomenal expeditions have done unassisted and unsupported full crossings of the Arctic Sea (Gjeldnes & larsen, 2000) and the Antarctic continent (Skog & Waters, 2010 – over 1800km and 70 days!). There  has also been one unassisted and unsupported return-trip to the North Pole  (Weber & Malakhow, 1995) but dispite attempts, no one has ever managed to ski unassisted and unsupported to the South Pole and back. That would be well over 2000km of skiing!

For more information about “the rules” of polar travel, expeditions and historical statistics, see Explorersweb.