<![CDATA[Homeward Bound]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262170 <img src='http://www.x-journal.com/member/ericlars/images/b158_732008_scale.jpg'><br />People often ask me if the transition back to civilization after an expedition is difficult. My honest answer is, 'no'.<br /> <br /> Even though I'm spend YEARS of my life in a tent on one expedition or another, I've still spent more time in a conventional house and bed. Driving in a car, going to the grocery store.... I have done these things thousands of times, if not more. The odd thing for me isn't necessarily being in 'civilization' that is so odd; rather, it is the ease at which things happen. Eating, sleeping, taking off a jacket, going to a restaurant... We have built a surprising amount of infrastructure to support comfort.<br /> <br /> Not that I'm complaining. After all, I'll never take a chair for granted ever again. But on an expedition to the North Pole every single thing that we do directly contributes to our ability to be warm an<br /> <br /> But I miss my family too. It's my daughter's second birthday today. Of course, she'll never remember if I was there or not, but I know and that's a hard burden to carry around sometimes.<br /> <br /> The helicopter landed in Barneo and we promptly headed to the dining tent to thaw out. We shed our myriad layers and were soon uncomfortably hot, our bodies now fully adjusted to the cold Arctic temperatures. Later, I would learn that it had gotten as cold as -44 degrees while we were on the ice.<br /> <br /> In what can only be described as one of the oddest things I've ever experienced, a blues and rock band had been flown in from Lonygearbyen to play for the staff and visitors at Barneo. After lunch, I sat and listened Creedence Clearwater Rival sung with a tinge of Norwegian accent. The band would play into the early morning hours but I left early to relax in the bunk tent. Inside, it was easily 100 degrees and I had to open the door wide and still sleep on top of my sleeping bag.<br /> <br /> The next morning Victor said I looked like a high school science project - splayed like a frog on the dissecting table. I, of course, was fast asleep.<br /> <br /> The Antanov arrived on schedule and we watched the crew load our sleds and other gear from the station. Walking up the stairs to the plane, I stopped briefly to give one last look to the ice and snow. I know enough now not to say good bye to the Arctic Ocean and instead said quietly to myself, 'until next time.'<br /> <br /> Deplaning in Longyearbyen, it was a balmy 20 degrees F. Snow was melting on the runway. We shared a taxi with another North Pole team and their guide, Dixie Dansercoer, a Belgian polar adventurer who were a day and a half behind us on the ice. A young polar bear had raided their camp one morning and tried to run away with one of their sleds before they scared it off. Where we had seen the Arctic fox tracks (who follow polar bears), Dixie's team had seen the actual bear!?!<br /> <br /> Victor, Bachir and I agreed to meet for dinner but before going to my room I spent several hours, drying, cleaning and organizing our gear. I managed to get in a quick shower as well, which I'm not going to lie, felt really good.<br /> <br /> Bachir and I walked into town together and met Victor at the restaurant where we had a celebratory beer and dinner. We laughed and talked about our trip and the cold.<br /> <br /> When it came to ordering, each of us ordered the same thing: hamburger and fries. But as the server walked away and Bachir called him with one final request, 'and an extra plate of fries.'<br /> <br /> Image: North Pole air taxi.&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262170'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Fri, 14 Apr 2017 16:20:03 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262170 78.21666 15.5499 <![CDATA[The North Pole!]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262169 There is a transformation that occurs when routine moves from a daily required task to the last time you will ever do something. <br /> <br /> And so it was as we woke up yesterday morning and swept the frost off the tent that had formed throughout the night. The day prior, we viewed this activity with disdain (and pain) but this being our last day of skiing, there was now a nostalgia to this act. Lacing up our boots can often be stressful (seriously) because if we don't tie them properly, we might get a blister or worse. This last time putting our boots however, there was none of that intensity. We could easily deal with something for a few hours.<br /> <br /> Simultaneously, it is also quite sad knowing that this would be our last day on the ice. Being out here is a unique opportunity and one that, even though I've spent nearly a year of my life on Arctic Ocean expeditions, I do not take lightly. This frozen place is like no other on the planet.<br /> <br /> 'Let's continue to be safe in our movements and thoughtful in our systems today,' I instructed Bachir and Victor. 'But also take time too look around and appreciate where we are.'<br /> <br /> We skied across a variety of drifted in older pans winding our way steadily north. By compass had been acting up for the past few days so I skied along by dead reckoning using the sun and angle of the snowdrifts to check my direction - every once in a while checking my Garmin GPS for reference. It was slow going with tired muscles and at our first break I, for the first time, asked Victor and Bachir to push through the morning lethargy and slightly (very) increase the pace. <br /> <br /> Skiing faster is a dangerous game as it generally means your body generates more heat, which leads to sweat which leads to wet clothes which reduce your body's ability to insulate as well as just plain freezing in the cold. But with the request also came a reminder, 'if you get too warm, take a layer off.'<br /> <br /> We got into a more open area and younger ice during the second shift which turned slabby and broken. Still, I was relieved at the colder temperatures as every crack, split or lead was frozen thick enough to support our weight without breaking through.<br /> <br /> Slowly and steadily, I watched the numbers on the Garmin tick upwards 89 degrees 57 minutes, 89 degrees 58 minutes...<br /> <br /> Visibility started to drop just as we entered a really cracked area of small slabs roughly 20 to 30 meters across. In areas like this, it seems like the ice is trying to swallow us whole. We wound around connecting edges. I call this type of travel puzzle-piece navigation where about 25 percent of the pieces are missing and we simply try to connect the 'corners' to find a safe route. <br /> <br /> I was glad to have this mess here, roughly two mile the from the pole, as it meant our changes of having good, flat ice at the pole were that much better.<br /> <br /> 'Where there is bad ice,' I often say. 'Good ice will follow.' Of course, the reverse is also true.<br /> <br /> Closing in on the pole with limited visibility, I navigated solely by GPS watching the latitude numbers increase meant I was getting closer, having them decrease, farther away. In the end, we traveled in decreasing concentric circles. Because the ice is moving (and we are on the ice) we are trying to zero in on an ever moving target. In the end, we unhooked from our sleds and skied in one more loop before arriving at 90 Degrees North latitude- the Geographic North Pole.<br /> <br /> We took a few pictures of the GPS, then 30 seconds later we had drifted a few feet away.<br /> <br /> This is my second fifth time at the North Pole - the first three were in 2006, 2010, 2014 after two month epic sufferfests. <br /> <br /> For Bachir this trip represents a huge accomplishment. I met Bachir in 2015, when he enrolled in my Lake Winnipeg polar training course and at that time the North Pole was just a pipe dream. But he kept dreaming, trained hard and is now the first ever Syrian to complete a Last Degree North Pole. <br /> <br /> Victor, has been chasing a series of adventures that began many, many years ago when he first climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. That lead to a bid to climb the seven summits (the tallest peak on every continent) and now with each reaching the North Pole has completed what is now being called, the 'Adventurer's Grans Slam' - climbing the seven summits and skiing the last degree to both poles. <br /> <br /> Our celebration was brief and after snapping a few more pictures, we set up the tent and luxuriated in warmth not needing to melt extra snow for the trail in the morning. We shared a whole tube of Pringles and laughed at all the crazy experiences we shared over the past week.<br /> <br /> Throughout our adventure, we functioned efficiently as a team through some very intense conditions. In working together to achieve our goal, we have also become friends.<br /> <br /> I didn't set my alarm in the morning and instead woke up in the late morning. A couple hours later the Russian MI-8 helicopter picked us up at the pole and whisked is effortlessly back to Barneo - where we will spend the night stacked like cordwood in an overheated bunkhouse and fly back to Longyearbyen in the morning.<br /> <br /> Thanks to everyone for following along. Always remember, it's cool to be cold. Think Snow!&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262169'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Wed, 12 Apr 2017 15:00:02 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262169 90 -12.2066 <![CDATA[Audio Update - 11 Apr]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262168 A new remote audio post has been added to the blog...&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262168'>View Post...</a>) Tue, 11 Apr 2017 14:48:05 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262168 <![CDATA[Audio Update - 11 Apr]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262167 A new remote audio post has been added to the blog...&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262167'>View Post...</a>) Tue, 11 Apr 2017 01:18:04 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262167 <![CDATA[Almost There]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262166 Getting out of the tent this morning, I was greeted by a stiff wind, light snow and overcast skies.<br /> <br /> 'Great,' I thought. 'There is nothing worse than traveling on the Arctic Ocean in a white out. Resigned to a fate of blindly stumbling through snow drifts and ice blocks, I went back in the tent to finish my breakfast.<br /> <br /> 'At least it's warmer out today,' I told Victor and Bachir trying to sound optimistic.<br /> <br /> There is an exponential intensity to cold that can make our lives on the ice enjoyable or unbearable. The difference between -10 and -20 is a somewhat bearable change. Sure the cold stings, nylon is brittle but most things function relatively well at this temperature. Going from -20 to -30 or colder, on the other hand, is like spiral down through Dante's Inferno (but the cold version). Simple acts like zipping a jacket or going to the bathroom can feel like near death experiences.<br /> <br /> Conversely, when the temperature warms up five or 10 degrees as it did today. Expedition life instantly becomes more enjoyable. We lounged (well kind of) on our sleds during snack breaks, took our time eating our lunch soup and generally felt more relaxed. Today wasn't the pitched battle for survival of the prior five days, but as Victor pointed out, 'It's still the Arctic Ocean.'<br /> <br /> Not only was the weather warmer but we had nearly ideal ice conditions for the first half of the day. One big open pan after another for nearly the entire morning. At one break Bachir swept his arm across the horizon and observed, 'Look at all this. It's amazing!' <br /> <br /> And he is right. It is amazing. Ice for as far as we can see.<br /> <br /> We have settled nicely into this life. After six days on the trail, we are performing like a well oiled machine. Our bellies our full and our socks are nearly dry and the sun circles around us and we get ready for our final night's sleep before reaching the pole.&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262166'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Mon, 10 Apr 2017 14:13:02 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262166 89.7104 142.5586 <![CDATA[Fox Tracks?]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262165 Despite sleeping through my alarm for about 10 minutes, we still managed to get an earlier start than yesterday, which by the way is no easy task as it takes us roughly two and a half hours from the time we wake up until we are packed and pulling sleds. If I was backpacking in Colorado in July, it would take me 15 or 20 minutes.<br /> <br /> While we have yet to encounter a 'real' pressure ridge (one where there is no other way around) there were significantly more blocks and pressured ice in our path today and we spent a significant amount of time simply route finding through different areas of broken slabs and cracks.<br /> <br /> Twice today I quite literally tripped over my skis and landed flat on my face. Starting out after one of our snack breaks I shifted my gaze to a far away ice chunk. Not looking down my ski tip jammed right into a snow drift stopping me instantly. <br /> <br /> 'I meant to do that,' I commented back to Bachir and Victor. I smiled underneath my goggles and nose beak.<br /> <br /> At one point today, I saw a single line of footprints heading in nearly our same direction - an Arctic Fox. I was surprised to see these tracks here, so far away from anything, but amazing it is to know there is a fox around, it is also unnerving. The foxes are scavengers who follow polar bears for food scraps (from dead seals). <br /> <br /> In the afternoon, we skied through a section of relatively open terrain and then the ice changed dramatically and we were surrounded by small slabs and blocks. I worried that we might not find a stable piece of ice for camp, but after pressing on another quarter of a mile, I found a larger pan about 400 meters across. <br /> <br /> Now warm and eating in the tent, we are pleased with the day's efforts having covered 9.8 miles.&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262165'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Sun, 09 Apr 2017 14:25:01 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262165 89.7104 142.5586