Tuesday, 6 April 2010

So...Unassisted or Unsupported?

I'm confused; we plan to ski to the South Pole from the Ross Ice Shelf via the Axel Heiberg Glacier. Then once we have reached the South Pole we intend to head in a North Westerly direction towards the Ronne Ice Shelf. For this part of the journey, if the wind is blowing strong enough and in the right direction, we will use kites to assist us in pulling the 140kg pulks whilst still using the same ski's that have enabled us to complete the 450miles (or so) to the Pole.

As far as I was concerned, we had devised an unsupported crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole. We would start the expedition with all the supplies (food, fuel, equipment) we would need for the entire journey. The impact this would have on the team would mean an extra 50kg to add to the 90kg we would have to pull if we were to re-supply once. This was an important decision to make early on, as it would affect the way in which each team member prepared themselves, both physically and mentally, for the trip.

So it was agreed, unsupported but assisted by wind. The use of kites is important to me as the expedition will commemorate the memory of Captain Scott and his team. We will reach the pole using traditional methods, cross country skiing man hauling our supplies, it will be extremely hard, physical work but we will reach the pole by sheer determination and endurance. When we reach Pole we will herald the new way of Polar travel by attempting to kite ski the 650miles home. An expedition that will combine the spirit of the heroic age of Polar exploration with the 'Red Bull generation' age in style.

However, according to the 'rules' on www.adventurestats.com it appears that the expedition will be supported but unassisted?!

See below;


Support refers to external power aids used for significant speed and load advantage. Typical aids are wind power (kites), animal power (dogs), or engine power (motorized vehicles). Only human powered expeditions are considered unsupported. Usage of human powered equipment such as skis, snowshoes, and sleds are not considered support. Usage of navigation aid such as compass and GPS are not considered support. Usage of safety aids such as radios, satellite phones and location beacons are not considered support.


Wind Support
Dog Support
Motorized Support

So according to the rules, the British Antarctic Expedition will be (deep breath!) an unassisted wind supported crossing of the Antarctic land mass.

I need a drink!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Kite Skiing at the Hardangervidda Plateau

When we reach the South Pole, our heading will be in a North Westerly direction towards the Ronne Ice Shelf - with the wind directly behind us. This is where the heroic age of Polar Exploration meets the 21st century.

Having skiied for over 450 miles and 30 days to reach the Pole, we will try to harness the strong winds on the Antarctic Plateau to kite ski pulling our pulks at speeds up to 30mph. To do this we need to be able to use the 8.5metre kites efficiently and skillfully.

We headed to the Hardangervidda Plateau in Norway on March 15th 2010, this would be our first taste of the power of these kites which we would have to master in order to succesfully complete the expedition. My first attempt to fly one of these kites through me 10 metres across a frozen lake.

The power that they harness is awesome, and the wind speed was only about 10 knotts, 30 knotts is probably what we would be having to deal with in Antarctica. The training was simple, fly the kite and learn to put the power on when needed, enough to move at speed but less when required. I spent most of the week dragged face down through the snow, it was clearly evident that the learning curve would be steep!

We have learned the basics now we have to master the techniques that are going to get us to the Ronne Ice Shelf, luckily there are plenty of open spaces in which to practice in the Lake District, an 8 day kite ski expedition is planned for February 2011.

Training in the Lakes!

We moved to the Lake District in 2006, the job I had as consultant with Marriott Hotels meant we could live anywhere in the UK we wanted. Having lived for 18 years in Wolverhampton, we were desperate to move, the Lakes represented such a change of scene and way of life that we took the chance and moved to Ambleside, and we are so glad we did.

The training for the Expedition is going to be intense, to prepare for the climb up the Axel Heiberg glacier is going to be intense, likened to running the London Marathon dragging a tyre - everyday. The glacier will represent just over a tenth of the overall 1100 mile crossing, but the sheer effort needed to ski uphill dragging a 140kg pulk will be very tough.

Luckily, living it what is clearly the Adventure Capital of the UK, we are in the best place to train for this trip. Building stamina and strength is key, fell walking, lake swimming, mountain biking at Grizedale and Whinlatter, kayaking on Windermere are just some of the key activities that are literally on our doorstep in Ambleside.

And the snow! The end of 2009, beginning of 2010 was like nothing I had seen in the UK, snow was on the ground for over a month so cross country skiing over the ferry at ferry nab was possible and even 'alpine skiing' at Yad Moss, which was only a 90 minute drive from our house and still in Cumbria! Skiing at Hellvellyn is next on the agenda when the season starts in November!

The Team

Of the original team selected on October 31st 2009, 2 dropped out by the 'confirmation date', a 2 week period where the magnitude of the expedition was allowed to sink in. I can't even remember the names of these 2 guys but I can remember failing to understand how anyone could pass up on an opportunity like this.

It was time to select a further 2 team members from the list of applicants who didn't originally make the cut. For various reasons but not failure on their part to 'make the grade', anyone who didn't quite fit the criteria was automatically de-listed, the 2 candidates that were to fill the newly vacant places both had there applications delayed so they missed the cut off date.

The first meeting of the new team, and confirmed BAE 2011 line up was in the Peak District in December 2009. After a succesful first meet, the team was comfirmed as Duncan Cameron (me!), Anna Wakefield, Claire Marritt, Alex Toseland and Carl Alvey.

Getting Selected

'Applicants wanted for hazardous journey.Small wages. Bitter cold.Long months of complete darkness.Constant danger. Safe return doubtful.Honour and recognition in case of success.'

This original advert placed by Shackleton in 1914, it was placed again, this time in Trail magazine (UK only I think!) for applicants for the British Antarctic Expedition 2011,the centenary year of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's epic race to the South Pole.

Placed by BPE Ltd. the expedition logostics company was looking for 5 individuals from across the UK to attempt an 1100 mile traverse on the Antarctic continent, they were not advertising for an organised trip, indeed they're only involvement would be to get the team to Antarctica and help with navigation through the crevasse riddled Axel Heiberg glacier.

In November 2009 the team were selected.