Under full blue skies

Richard from Camp 15, located: 68º 11’ 12” N, 89º 30’ 44” W

I am pleased to relate that we woke to sunny blue skies this morning, which was very nice indeed.  Especially so, after all the flat light we’ve been having. ‘Three days in a ping-pong ball’, according to David. The early morning wake-up call of a raven, as it turned out, was the only wildlife we saw, or heard, the entire day. Not much in the way of wildlife, true, but we did continue to ski under full blue skies as the day wore on. Hurray for that!

We had to break trail today, on a river system, just grinding away, one foot in front of the other through a thick, powdery snow. It made pulling the pulks (small sleds) behind us, difficult and ‘energy-sapping’. That’s the way it’s been the last two days.

Out here, so blatantly minuscule and alone, it is important to keep the mind occupied. We were expecting our forward momentum to run on a fairly flat downhill trajectory, but it seems we are FOREVER going uphill, which has mystified us somewhat. Should good fortune smile, We are hoping that we are at the top now and ready for the topographical slope to trend back down as we get to Pelly Bay, and back onto the sea-ice; a milestone we hope to achieve sometime over the next two days.

It’s literally been nothing more than just grinding away today, one foot in front of the other. David and Frank have digital devices in their kit, to listen to music whenever —a very good idea, that!  Keeps the mind busy. I didn’t bring one, so I’m left to my own thoughts most times, trying to think about anything I can, other than the slog.  Otherwise, I might just lose my mind. David was very kind to lend me his iPod yesterday, so I did have an hour or so of musical accompaniment…which was, FANTASTIC!  His batteries are worn today, so David and I had none. Frank however, did have a disc going all day long: Andrew Lloyd Weber’s, Phantom of the Opera, perhaps?  We’re not sure, Frank’s not telling. 

More Gear Talk  The still hilarious saga of Frank’s shoe modifications (boots) continues. Apologies to Garry, our former, fourth teammate. In advance of this trip, Garry purchased a ‘gorilla mask’ to go over the mouth to shield you from the wind —the intention of this special mask being that your goggles won’t mist up, apparently. (Very expensive and doesn’t work —goggles still mist up!). He left the mask with Frank and Frank has since wisely repurposed ‘the gorilla’ to become yet one more new and integral part of his ever-evolving boot —an amazing feat of ‘gear-assimilation’ if you ask me. So, yes, Garry is with us on the trip…in spirit!!

From masks and boots, I would like to move on to sleeping bags. The guys manage to get, ‘all in’ into theirs, but my sleeping bag, yes mine and the very latest in ‘smart tech-gear’ is in fact quite narrow… all the better to retain the body-heat, I’m told, but which also means that I either sleep all night with my hands and arms rigidly down against my side, not unlike a soldier on sentry duty,  or with my hands scrunched up to my chest like some ‘miniature T-rex’. I normally wake up in the morning with numb hands and they do take a bit of time to adjust to normal function. Also, in full and honest disclosure: David’s cacophonous, ‘Darth Vader-like’ nighttime breathing, and the frightening visage of Frank’s grotesque, ‘gorilla-mask mash-up’ continue to wreak havoc upon our sleeps. Well, mine at least.

Looking back on our day It’s very easy when you are trudging along and the hours slip by doing naught but concentrating on your ski-tips, it’s wonderful to stop every now and again to have a look around.

We had a beautiful blue sky today. The vistas were spectacular, ranging from wide lakes to narrow river gorges, with rock outcrops and overhanging cornices, and a view of the distant mountain ranges behind. That stop… was a rare and much appreciated treat for us. 

Wishing everyone a very good night. Maestro…bring up the chorus (in the background): … ONWARD! 

(Richard, Frank and David)


[To provide a bit of context: The Arctic is mysterious, alluring and beautiful. But beyond the superlative-invoking tributes it garners, it is also an unforgiving, harsh and dangerous environment. It will dish out nasty tricks and illusions of terrain, light, colour and sense of direction upon all, not just the unsuspecting. It can and will challenge physical capabilities and stamina, dampen the best of spirits and play relentlessly on the psyche.

So it is, that the serendipitous (and welcome) distractions of: even the most meagre of wildlife sightings; unexpected human contact; music and entertainment; propitious changes in weather, light, or terrain; and of course, the light-hearted bouts of silliness and good-natured ribbing, all serve to change the mood, elevate the spirit, and bolster the tight camaraderie an expeditionary team such as this must have, to keep going day after day.]