ImaStory

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sitting here in Oslo Norway the past few days waiting for our flight back to the States we had the opportunity to rest, recharge and go to the Polar Museum in town as Norway has one of the most storied reputations for Arctic and Antarctic exploration in the world.  

Adventurers such as Amundsen, the first to reach the south pole and cross the Northwest Passage, and Nansen, famous for his expedition to the north polar icecap in the ship named Fram which was frozen into the ice intent on floating with the drifting icecap both hail from here.

After experiencing the unrelenting cold as we did, we were humbled to see what those early explorers endured.  They were either cut from a different cloth, or nuts.  What they did was incredible.

I figure we can wrap this up with answers to the most common questions we were asked, prior, during, and since we started this thing.

By far the most common question was, and is, about....  Well I will try and be delicate....  Basic human functions.  One really simple and quick answer, very, very quickly.  Everyone is different, but once you get on your schedule you hoped that the weather and cold would make it easy for you.  Generally you would find a nice ice boulder to provide a nice little wind block, but mostly, modesty should be overlooked if the situation dictates.  By far one of the most common causes of frostbite is a person trying to be too thorough or take too long doing their thing.  There was a member in another shorter trip that got very severe frostbite on his second day out.  He was evacuated obviously.  I have the pictures of his injury, it was not pretty.

Second question was about hygiene.  Basically, you did nothing.  I would make efforts to smear on frozen deodorant every couple of days, but, it was by far too cold to do much else.  We were all good about using antibacterial on our hands every night before sharing food, and Mike would make efforts to defrost and hand out one wet wipe each night so we could clean our hands further and wipe our face after eating.  We thought it very cultured and would thank Mike as we wiped the corners of our mouth after each meal.

While we took more clothing than we needed, changing was difficult, cold, and unneccessary.   Unless the clothing was wet, it stayed on until bedtime where you would strip out of extra layers while in your bag and quickly put them on in the morning straight from your bag while they were still warm.  This would have been made even easier if Mikes Polar Bag Invention had worked.

In regards to food and water.  Breakfast was usually the little Breakfast Delights CP would make for us each morning rather than the oatmeal.  The Breakfast Delights (which were named by us) were two pieces of Pita Bread fried in butter with sausage and cheese slapped in the middle.  They were delicious and warm and with the exception of the Stormy days we would anxiously await the loud "CACAAA" from CP announcing that they were ready.  We made CP make this chicken noise as we found it funny, not just the noise, but the fact that he would willingly do it.  And yes, he was involved in the joke.  Mike and I would do a quick paper sissors rock to see who would brave the cold to go get them.  Was a good way to start each day.

Lunches were protein bars, peanuts, beef jerky and candy bars which we carried close to our body each day.  They were still frozen, but not as badly if left in our backpack.  We would nibble these throughout the day to keep our calories.  I will admit, i was bad about eating my lunches.

Dinner was a grab bag of soup and freeze dried meals.  Spagetti was my favorite, but anything other than the beef stew was everyone choice.  Felt like losing a contest of stay alive if you got the stew, but you would eat it anyway.

I believe Mikes favorite meals were the ones he spilled on the tent floor as he seemed to do it so often I assumed that was how he prefered them.

Hopefully our flights remain on schedule and the remaining team on the ice makes it to the pole and home safely.

 

 

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Sunday, April 20, 2014, 11:10:00 AM
  • updated: Sunday, April 20, 2014 1:44:00 PM
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Updates have been a tad delayed recently due to some crazy schedules experienced once we reached the pole.

To be honest, the pole was literally just another point in the snow just like all the millions of other points we passed by the last few weeks.  Due to the drifting ice and natural wobble of the earth, the point is very fleeting on any GPS, you have to chase the drift and wobble to remain on it.  But for a moment, we were able to walk around the planet and experience every time zone.  In a matter of moments I was in the past, present and future, the quickest person to cover the globe.  Almost ruler of all.

But, with little sleep and the ever present cold we decided to quickly throw up the tent and keep warm while waiting for the Russians who were coming to pick us up.  After all, they operate on their schedule and clocks are not included with that.

As soon as we heard them coming we took down the tent and got things in order, they would not stay for long and their motors and blades would stay on while we loaded all our gear, people and dogs into an already crowded helicopter.  It was chaos.  The chopper already had the half degree trip (no, we refuse to call that one an expedition), their two sleds and tiny little dogs crammed in the copter.  We had people screaming at us in Russian, nervous dogs and the wind from the blades creating a havoc at the end of a very long trip.  Maher reminded us that the dogs were ours and we would deal with them, they were our family.

How we crammed all our gear, dogs and sled into that I don't know, but we did.  Our team and dogs making a mixture of flesh and equipment several feet off the floor of the helicopter, our heads barely off the ceiling.

Once we arrived at Barneo ice camp the craziness continued.  Our dog team was untangled and unloaded.  It reminded us of the fall of Siagon.  Helicopters were hovering while men and equipment were working to dismantle the camp as the ground it was built on would be breaking apart in weeks.  55 gallon empty fuel barrels scattered the ground, broken down tents and discarded equipment littered the snow.

We got the dogs settled and waited for the word on being able to catch a ride back to Longyearbyen on the soon to arrive plane.  It was our only chance to get off the ice before the 22nd.  Of course, the initial Russian response was 'No'.  We put together the dog crates, unloaded some gear and watched the chaos unfold as the plane arrive, helicopters hover and recieve our standard 'No, no room for you' response.

I took a moment to call home, as it was now a decent hour, and for some reason choked up as i shared the news of us reaching the pole.  Not sure why, but I was emotional at our accomplishment.  Sure others have done it, we were not the first, furthest, most epic or most extreme, but it was hard, we were tired, and we were all proud of our effort.  Funny thing is, I kept this private untill Mike came up to me moments later after his call and told me the same thing.  Misery loves company..

After a while, Victor and Rick came to us smiling, we knew we were heading home, well to Longyearbyen at least, but hot showers, real food, soft beds and of course a bathroom. 

 

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Sunday, April 20, 2014, 7:55:00 AM
  • updated: Sunday, April 20, 2014 12:14:00 PM
Off the Pole - Time to Reflect
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

We made it.

Hardest thing I have ever done in my life by a long shot.

The four of us were reached the Pole in record time for a two degree dog sled team. Overall about 200 miles (lots of east and west). We pushed hard at the end and went 48 hours with an hour sleep. Our guides deserve the glory. Rock stars of human beings.

Mark and I spent a lot of time talking about things on the trail. There are hundreds of hours of time to reflect. I hope this post is not too sappy but its from the heart. Both Mark and I talked about this alot. We both agree. As we stood at the North Pole and thought about the world below we knew the only thing that matters. The people we love. Family, loved ones and friends. Like YOU. Life is short. I miss you. The rest of the clutter of life does not matter in the end. I want my final post to be a tribute to a girl I meet almost 30 years ago at college. The person who made this trp possible. My wife of soon to be 25 years - Susan. The ONLY way I could have done this is with her support. In the first place she agreed to let me go. A month. Imagine. As I chased my dream she took care of the two most important things in our lives. Our two kids Steven and Chloe. She took both to visit colleges. Was there for Steven's tennis and Junior prom and watched Chloe get her drivers license. Not to mention the day to day mundane chores of life. I hated missing the former but certainly not the later. But I needed this trip to recharge. I needed the challenge. She knows that about me. She tolerates more than she should. But I know there is no way I would have been able to do this without her. Susan thank you. I want my final post to be to my base camp. My team. Susan, Chloe, Steven and our 4 lb dog Jasmine (a far cry from the dog-wolves that pulled us). I love you guys and I am headed home soon.

Thankfully all fingers and toes attached. P.S. Mark feels the same way about Dena and his kids. I just beat him to post....

  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 3:37:00 PM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 9:44:00 PM
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Epic day, epic adventure, epic team.

Pole reached at 2:45 am central time.

Updates coming...

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 1:18:00 PM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 5:33:00 AM
Final Stretch
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The entire team is catching a couple hours of sleep before we make our final push to the pole. I, on the other hand, stupidly volunteered to stay awake so that someone could watch the stove for heat and so someone could wake everyone else up at 4am (it is 3am now).

Our goal is to make it to the pole before 12 noon so we can catch a ride back to Barneo with another team on the helicopter. While it is not a major thing if we miss the ride, as we can camp at the pole until we can arrange another ride, but we have made such good time over the last 150+ miles that it is now a point of pride to have a successful full expedition. Most of the other expeditions that we are aware of had either been delayed due to the weather and bumped via helicopter to the pole or had medical situations that prohibited their completion.

There is a strong possibility that we will have to camp at Barneo until our departure date, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

For those that don't know, Barneo is a temporary camp setup by the Russians at the 89 degree mark on the polar ice cap. It is exclusively for supporting North Pole expeditions and it will be torn down the day we leave (it was setup a day before we arrived).

Think of Barneo as a temporary MASH camp. It is far from luxurious but it does have one heated community mess tent. Every night we are required to call Barneo with an update on our position. Our call in time is 9:30. If we miss a call, alarms sound and people will come looking for you. Needless to say, it is important to call Victor every night.

Today was a good respite after the last few days. We were certain that we had at least a week of travel ahead of us when we got stuck in a very active ice field and had to backtrack several times to find a safe way out. I will admit, it was the first time we felt the need to run to safe ice. The open lead we were building a bridge across got very active about 50 yards away and we had to abandon close to an hour of hard work picking our way through. I believe the words spoken were "Run", but don't quote me on that.

Once we finally broke free of the ice field we ran into some flat pan ice, and Maher and CP turned on the after burners. They were machines and were able to crank out close to 30 miles (total) on skis before we stopped for the night. I believe it was CP that said "we have daylight to burn", which is true because it never gets dark here in April.

We debated on charging to the pole tonight since we had sunny but cold weather. But all, including the dogs, were tired and a short rest seemed to be the best idea. Our fear was that when we continue in a few hours, the weather or ice conditions could change. But honestly, we are so close now with close to a week of time yet before Barneo is gone, that we truly have time to burn. It would be nice to finish up early, but not at the expense of safety.

The cold weather with no wind is a huge advantage since the ice does not move around as much and openings in the ice tend to freeze over making them easier to cross with a 600lbs sled. In my opinion it is scary to cross a recently frozen lead regardless of how cold it is.

Speaking of cold, we had a discussion today about how hard it is to explain to anyone about degrees of cold. You can tell someone to turn up the thermostat at home when you are chilly and they basically understand. Living in extreme cold however, as we have, is impossible to explain or put into words effectively. We tried to come up with an understandable concept today but were limited by words that everyone could understand.

Sadly, when in an environment such as this, you find yourself judging cold by moments just past. For example, you will tell someone, "I'm not as cold as this morning" and they will fully understand that you are not saying you are warm, you are just expressing that you don't have every finger and toe tingling as much as this morning. They still tingle, just not as much. When the wind kicks in, you say nothing, you just wait for the moment it is not as cold when the wind blows.

We were laughing about this concept because since Robert was evacuated, we have spent a good deal of time counting our fingers and toes. Not because we thought they would fall off or to pass the time, but because the reality of frostbite really hit home. We counted our fingers and toes because if we could feel them and count them, then we felt safe for the next 10 minutes. Silly I know, but not as bad as the panic we felt when our arms would fall asleep while sleeping.

Well, 4am is here, time to wake everyone up. Going to make the final push.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 11:32:00 AM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:31:00 AM
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Epic day in a drive for the pole. Started really rough with open and active leads stopping our every move. Cold, but less wind. Was really neat to see active leads slamming together creating mini mountains. Less than 10 miles to North Pole. Sleeping 4 hours then making a sprint to the pole.
  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 11:17:00 AM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 11:17:00 AM
Smells and Mesh Bags
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Our 42 hour confinement to our tents was ended today as the storm eased up enough for us to continue north. Our drift over the storm took us further west than we wanted to the 129th Longitude. We ran into many open leads and had to wait until the ice moved back together allowing us to cross. It was incredible to witness and very scary to cross. We gained about 5 miles north today but our progress was halted by thin ice. We made camp and will wait till morning to try and cross.

Needless to say that in the north polar icecap there is very little to smell. No plants and so few animals a person would be lucky to see anything this far north. The fact that polar bears were sighted on our first day is rare indeed. With this there is an absence of smells except, of course, the daily dog doodies which occur often when we are underway. They are very efficient and excel doing their job while under a full trot. With this said, with us being stranded in our tiny little tent for close to 40 hours I can, with very little doubt, say with full, unbridled confidence, that the north polar icecap was not without smells. We were ripe.

Our plans to maintain some semblance of civilized etiquette by cleaning ourselves was thrown out the window when met with such unrelenting cold. Our baby wipes sat at the bottom of our bags, a frozen block of unusable hygiene. We decided late yesterday afternoon to exit our sleeping bags and tidy up the tent since the previous nights Sweet and Sour Pour incident had yet to be adequately cleaned and the roof of our tent was coated with a frozen layer of our exhaled breath. We had not run the stove all day as we were comfortable in our bags and we preferred to save the fuel for an extended stay. This meant every big gust of wind would send a soft coating of snow down on us all night unless it was cleaned.

Mike was the first to exit his bag followed very quickly by me. I am not certain if the smell that hit me was from me, Mike or some grisly mixture of sweat, spilled food, dog doo-doo, unwashed bodies or the lack of deodorant, but whatever it was, it was rank.

We both knew better than to assign blame as the mixture had the potential to become offended and take on a life of its own striking us both down. We both put our heads down and immediately started to clean hoping to finish the cold task as quickly as possible and to return to our smell free haven inside our own bags. I now feel completely safe from polar bears as no living thing would dare to consider us a food source.

This also got me to thinking of an invention Mike had devised early in our expedition. His plan was to utilize a mesh bag to hold all his layers of clothing inside his sleeping bag each night so they would dry and he would not have to fumble around inside his sleeping system each morning looking for each article of clothing. I must admit, upon first hearing this idea I thought it a good one and immediately started to look for a bag of my own. When I failed to find one, Mike let me know in no uncertain terms that he was better than me because he had a mesh bag and I did not. I giggle now when I think of the colossal failure of the new invention.

Our first night on the ice saw Mike stuffing every article of clothing into his new mesh bag invention as he gleefully announced to Robert and I that his new product was about to revolutionize polar travel. We watched amazed as he stuffed layer after layer into his bag and were spellbound as the mesh bag expanded to accommodate each item. Silently we cheered him on as he proudly attempted to shove the oversized bag into his sleeping bag. He kicked it and shoved it, silently cursing as his bag slowly and painfully began its decent into his sleeping bag. Success!

High fives were passed around as if we just witnessed a great discovery. Our glee had blinded us to the one major flaw which was still undiscovered. A round of coco was served up as a poor substitute for champagne as we recounted to each other the scattering of emotions each of us felt as the plan came together. We had witnessed our Alexander Bell "Watson come here" moment.

Mike then began to slide his body into his sleeping bag proud of his accomplishment, only to discover his sleeping system had room for his new invention which was the size of seven basketballs or his body, not both. His mesh bag now resides nightly outside his sleeping bag as a symbol of a potentially great idea that failed to work.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 9:52:00 AM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:17:00 PM
Riding Out the Storm
Sunday, April 13, 2014

I woke up this morning hoping to hear nothing other than the occasional stirring of our guides like in mornings past. Instead I was greeted with the sounds of an angry Artic wind.

We are in a full blown whiteout and cannot move.

The blowing wind fills the air with snow that smashes into your face. It's best described like you see if you are driving into a snow storm on the freeway. The kind of storm that cars pull under over passes for a little reprieve. Our sturdy little tent is our life source. We have to conserve fuel because there is no predicting how long we are here. So no stove and we are literally cocooned inside our mummy bags. We are also losing ground. The wind pushed our ice sheet more than a mile south.

The wind is so loud we have to yell to communicate with the guides who are in a tent a few feet away. Dinner last night was an interesting study in human nature. When times are good Mark and I are jovial and quick to share our limited supplies. Last night was tough. A long cold day with little to show for our efforts. We finally got the stove going to boil some water. Our dinner is freeze dried and comes in a zip locked package. Mark chose lasagna, I had sweet and sour pork. We were wiped out and hungry. I looked in horror as a slice in my package turned my dinner into Sweet and Sour Pour as it drained all over my bag and my side of the tent. My normally helpful tent mate managed a slight grunt and brief pause to see what the commotion was about. He offered to help but by help he meant moving our meager source of heat closer towards him so I could scoop up my Chinese slop off the dirty tent floor and wipe up the mess with my sock while he feasted on his dinner as if in some fine Italian restaurant watching a hungry beggar with his face planted to the window.

I should have seen this coming after earlier in the day on the trail when I braved the bitter cold to take off my gloves to open a Snickers for calories. Calories are a source of fuel to keep your bodies warm. I offered the lions share to Mark which he engulfed without a word. Who is this strange creature that the cold has created? I know him not....oh I hope I do not turn into the same but I find myself plotting my revenge as I eye the breakfast bag.

P.S. In case anyone is reading this and does not understand our sense of humor, we want to offer a small disclaimer. While all the events are true and accurate, rest assured we are brought to tears laughing at the absurdity of each days events. We also take great comfort in knowing we have each others backs in things that really matter.

  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Sunday, April 13, 2014, 8:10:00 AM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 9:48:00 PM
Hamster Wheel
Sunday, April 13, 2014

Today we woke up to more of the same. A howling wind and violently flapping tent walls. We discovered that the wind, which is from the north, is rapidly pushing us back to our start location from yesterday. We call it a hamster wheel when the ice beneath our feet moves as quickly south as we move north.

Since we are tent bound I have felt a survival mode kick in with both of us. I found myself hoarding the last of my Pop-Tarts as I secretly tried to eat them inside my sleeping bag, denying their very existence when questioned by Mike over the noisy wrappers giving me up. From the crunching noises I hear from the other side of the tent I am certain that Mike is hogging the last of the granola in a vain attempt to eat up the last of our in tent food supplies. Next will come the dried oatmeal and I am sure he will make a strategic grab for the freeze dried breakfast skillet, but not if I act first. I will wait until he engorges himself on the granola then patiently wait for his silent, satisfied snoring before I make my move.

We were resupplied by a helicopter drop a day ago, so our sled is fully stocked, but the wind and cold keeps us locked within our warm bags waiting for the storm to ease up and until then we will rely on our in tent supplies.

I had read about stories in the past where people would resort to eating leather boots to survive, and I think of this as I watch Mike, with granola on his grinning chin, eye my best leather gloves hanging from the drying line. I must remain awake and on guard.

The intensity of this storm is actually pretty neat. Since there is very little to obstruct the wind, other than our tent, we both find the idea of going outside very un-appealing. We have only been on the ice for a little over a week (9 days?) but having the first real moments to lay here and think causes you to appreciate things in life you would normally be bothered with such as Sophia waking us up in the middle of the night, Zac trying to sneak down to play the XBox, or spending your weekends playing tag team shuttling the kids from one event to the next. I look forward to all when I return.

Sophia will be sad to learn that I have yet to see any signs of Santas Village or any clues left by Clarice. Zac would be happy to learn that once the weather breaks we do have a chance at being the fastest two degree dogsled expedition.

Time to sign out for now. Battery power is running low and I can hear Mike start to slumber off. Time to get that Breakfast Skillet.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Sunday, April 13, 2014, 8:03:00 AM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:35:00 AM
Boom and Gloom
Sunday, April 13, 2014

Last night after we made the blog post we had CP and Maher to our tent for some freeze dried dinner. It is quiet here at night when the dogs are sleeping. Suddenly we hear a massive noise. It sounded to me like a building being demolished. Mark says with an alarmed voice that he thinks he hears water rushing. We agree.

The guides move fast and head outside the tent. Mark and I sit awaiting news. We suspect at the time that a massive lead opened up. The guides returned to report that they could not see anything but it was definitely the ice moving.

We finish dinner and go to bed. We woke to the sound of the wind. Maher said it was going to be rough today so we should put on extra layers. I took his advice. I usually wear three sets of heavy long underwear and two outer layers. Today I added a fourth. I grabbed the toliet paper to head outside for my morning routine. I looked like Ralph from A Christmas Story all bundled up in a massive jacket and unable to move.

Maher was right, it was colder than the day before and the wind was howling. We broke camp and headed out. We quickly found the source of the commotion the night before. The ice was littered with new pressure ridges, some as high as 15 feet. The wind was relentless and only got worse. A sustained 15 to 20 something mph wind pushing the negative 25 to 30 degree air.

It is kinda like taking the coldest day you have ever felt and sticking your head out the window of a car going 20 mph. We had to earn every mile. We busted our way through pressure ridges and fought for ground at a snails pace. After seven hours and only 4 miles of progress we stopped to set up camp. We had to set up the tents in the massive wind. It's quite an ordeal. The wind is from the North likely pushing us on the ice farther from our goal.

I laugh when I think how bad I thought yesterday was...I guess it just prepared us for today. We are in our tent now and it is flapping around by the ever increasing wind. I hope to wake up to a calm day. If not, we are literally in for some more rough sledding.

  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Sunday, April 13, 2014, 7:59:00 AM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 9:46:00 PM
Eye Lashes and Noises at Night
Sunday, April 13, 2014

To get these posts out every night is quite an ordeal. The cold saps battery power so quickly you can watch the meter tick away. Every piece of electronics needs to be warmed against the body to restore power, then used quickly. We generally collaborate on our posts then, just before dinner, we will hook up all the various devices and start the long process of uploading our posts. I have to admit it is a pain, but something we both look forward to every night in our tent.

I believe Mike is going to write about the noise we heard last night so I won't go into great detail, but I will tell you it was incredibly loud and seemed to go on for minutes. My guess is that it was an ice sheet snapping apart and the ocean was rushing in to fill in the newly opened, highway sized crack. It is certainly a sobering thought to realize it can happen at any place, at any time in this dynamic environment.

On to other things. Just when I thought we were adapting to the bitter cold we get hit with a one two punch, a biting, relentless, bone chilling wind that carried with it every shard of icy like snow directly at us. It was a difficult, cold day with very little to show for it.

We would move north directly into this wind, then 10 minutes later encounter a newly opened lead so we would head west only to encounter the same in that direction. The visibility was less than 100 feet so we were basically driving north blind with very little chance to plan our route ahead. Of course by we I mean Maher and CP.

Every spec of my face was covered except for my eyes as anything you would wear would instantly fog then frost from your exhaled breath rendering your vision from 100 feet to two inches. Now without eye cover your breath would flow up your neck gator, which was pulled up to cover my mouth and nose, then directly to you eyes, which would then create interesting little icy flecks on your eyelashes. These little icicles would then freeze together creating an interesting sort of eyeglass forcing you to either risk a cold hand removing it, or hope that your other eye did not freeze together making you blind until it was removed.

I found that by simply letting the icy little blowing snow crystals sand blast it away would save me the time and effort of risking a cold hand. Regardless, today was difficult yet an experience I will not forget.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Sunday, April 13, 2014, 7:52:00 AM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:39:00 AM
Endurance and EXTREME Cold
Friday, April 11, 2014

Our blog is full of lots of posts about how Mark and I joke around to pass time on the dogsled. Not today. Today was brutal. Coldest day yet. It was at least minus 30 Fahrenheit and the wind was howling. There was very little talking other than to confirm that all of our fingers and toes were working.

The ice was flat but if you rode the sled, you frooze. Our boots are rated to negative 145 degrees. It did not help. The cold brought a cease fire to the war for limited space on the sled because we had to take turns running next to the sled all day to stay warm.  We covered 12 miles. It was a challenge to keep your mind focused. The cold zaps your ability to think.

When we hit camp and set up the stove, Mark tossed a cup of boiling water in the air. It turned to steam. It is so cold that the only thing you can put your hand in are massive over mittens but you have no dexterity. When we stop for breaks, you have to drink. In order to do this you need to change gloves. Even a few seconds of exposed hands turns your hands numb. Our stove is shut off at night and we sleep in mummy bags. If you leave your Thermos of water out of the bag, it turns to a block of ice.

Unfortunately normally bodily functions are not deterred. If you have to go, you have to go. All you can do is try and go quick and endure. One of our dogs was struggling today. So we have a new tent mate tonight. He is quite happy. People ask us why we would want to go through all this stuff.

Both Mark and I agree. It is not just for the goal of reaching the pole. Believe it or not. It's for days like today. We both agree today was the most physically challenging thing we have ever done in our lives. We both love the challenge. Someone once said, until you fail, you do not truly know what your limits are. We are glad we did not fail today. It's kinda strange.

Mark and I are two guys who grew up in Iowa, being led by two Midwest guides. Our guide Maher pointed out that while today was tough, the four of us are on the longest dogsledding trip to the North Pole this year and the two degree distance has only been done less than 10 times on dogs. We planned on 18 days on the ice. Today was day 6. We are moving at a blazing pace. We are only 40 miles away. The arctic is unstable and lots of things could derail us but at this pace we will hit the pole in 11 days. We are gunning hard.

Thanks for reading.

  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Friday, April 11, 2014, 3:32:00 PM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 9:49:00 PM
One Goal at a Time
Friday, April 11, 2014

Today was brutal. The cold was so intense you had to think long and hard before you took off your gloves to decide if what needed doing was worth a period of intense pain. By far our coldest day yet.

During the day I realized how many arctic visitors, like Scott's expedition, had met their fates. Don't get me wrong, Mike and I are in very capable hands and doing quite well, but today's intense cold, with the addition of a stiff breeze, made me understand how many of these explorers, who all embraced life, could simply give up and succumb to the cold. With no food or limited shelter, combined with intense cold sapping your energy, it could be difficult to move forward.

I found myself today making small goals to accomplish. Reaching the pole is of course a goal, but today that was too far away to be effective. I started with the goal of starting the day warm. Failed, just too cold. So I decided to set another small goal, break camp quickly so we could cover at least 10 miles. Failed the first part, too cold, hands were blocks of ice and everything was done slowly. Completed the second part, I think we got about 12 miles today.

Once underway it was too cold and windy to undertake any of our Cold War negotiations, it was a temporary cease fire, as our only thoughts were making sure each of us were focused and on task. That left me alone with my small goals, these I would not fail. I would find an ice boulder in the distance and have the goal to run to it alongside the sled. I would set a goal of warming a hand or foot as each part of my body would, to some degree, succumb to a painful chill at one time or another. The good thing is we are both adapting to the cold quite well, the problem is that it keeps getting colder forcing us to adapt again.

Even one of the dogs is having a hard time with the cold. Ayer is an Alaskan Husky that is a little less suited for the cold than the Greenland Huskies who are hulking beasts of a dog with a great temperament.

Tonight we are quite excited as Ayer is going to join us inside our tent for dinner and sleep. Hopefully Ayer has been trained on the proper etiquette of using the bathroom indoors. Hopefully we get back to the balmy -25 degrees so we can resume the intense negotiations regarding my rights of a negotiated airspace over my side of the sled.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Friday, April 11, 2014, 3:23:00 PM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:42:00 AM
Thursday, April 10, 2014

Today we hit 89 degrees, no, not the temperature but 89 degrees north. We are now a little less than one degree away from the North Pole. We have traveled over 60 miles north from our start point. Keep in mind, this does not include any traveling we did moving every other direction to get around open leads, ice boulder fields, or pressure ridges, needless to say we have accomplished alot in the past 6 days (or was it 7 days? Hard to keep track).

We are expecting one resupply to get us more fuel and food for the dogs, but we have a great team and everyone is motivated to push hard and get to the pole. If we keep pushing, we should get to the pole earlier than expected. But..... This is the arctic and anything could happen to slow us down setting us back a few days.

Mike and I were commenting today about the alien feel of this place, it is strangely quiet except for the sounds of our skis, sleds and dogs. The look of it is ever changing with open rivers, called leads, popping up in front of you and pressure ridges in the distance looking like mountains miles away only to end up being a tiny block of ice that you pass by in minutes. It is peaceful, majestic and breathtaking, anyone would be in awe.

Sadly, much of this majesty is interrupted by Mike and I passing by it having spirited yet playful debates over everything from which ice ridge will be our home for the night to who is the true arctic expert. Basically the sled needs two people to operate efficiently in this environment as it can often tip over when crossing ice or drifts, or needs someone to deal with the dogs while the other rides the brake. It is a lot of work that forces us to work and live together every hour of the day.

We currently have a brewing Cold War over the limited, yet highly valuable, 24 inch by 6 inch platform we are forced to stand on each day. I insist that Mike is taking much more of the space than he is entitled. Mike, on the other hand, feels that as long as his hands or feet do not cross the middle, which we have dubbed the 39th parallel, he is abiding by the treaty we established early, feeling that his upper body violating the dividing line is not constituted as my airspace.

This war was escalated after crossing a particularly dicey area of ice. The sled was violently slammed around flinging Mike through the air like a rag doll into a snow drift. I, of course, kept my ground and rode the sled through.

Mike, upon picking himself off the ground, returned to the sled demanding that I violated the treaty by elbowing him off the sled in a greedy attempt to gain more space. This was escalated further when I stopped to adjust my boots and I heard an excited "Yeehaaa" as Mike commanded the dogs to sprint away leaving me alone on the Polar Icecap.

We have a current cease fire with serious thoughts of installing barb wire down the middle of the sled. We will keep you updated on the results of the negotiations.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Thursday, April 10, 2014, 4:51:00 PM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:47:00 AM
Where Things Live
Thursday, April 10, 2014

In order to prepare for this trip Mark and I went to a 3 day shakedown camp with the guides in January. We spent two nights in a tent at minus 20 Fahrenheit. The guides talked about knowing where all of your gear is at all times. They would say for example to keep your lighter in the same pocket and if you need it, it is there. And as soon as you are done put it back because it lives there. This is crucial in the arctic because we have limited space and you need to keep track of your gear. Too much energy is spent looking for something and if you are freezing you need it right away.

Anyone who knows me, knows my stuff really doesn't live anywhere. It is more nomadic. My laptop might live at work. It might live in the car. It might live on the garage floor. Who knows. I usually don't. I actually have a magic sock drawer at home. I drop dirty socks anywhere and they magically appear clean in my drawer. Our office manager knows what I am like at work. I spend most of my time asking where I left something I need. So needless to say Mark was worried. I was a tornado in our tent at camp. My stuffed lived everywhere. I pledged to do better here but old habits die hard. But the Arctic cold drains your physical and mental energy and exacts a heavy price for not knowing where your gear is at all times.

The first three days were rough and challenging for my VERY almost neurotically organized friend. So I woke up on day 4 and thought I will rule the kingdom of my gear. And I did. I was on my game. Mark was stunned. Instead of being happy I started to poke fun at him for not being able to find his stuff. I would prance about asking everyone to wash their hands and, i am certain, started to speak with a slight British accent. I was king of my domain and proud of it. But the next day i started to slip. It's tough. I would for example get my lighter out to light the stove but accidentally bumped a tea mug so I set the lighter down to deal with that issue and forgot where I put it.

I have a massive set of mittens that live in a massive parka I use on the dogsled. No way to manage the negative 35 degree temp today without these items. They are supposed to live in my backpack. This morning I woke up and they were not there...I panicked. Tore apart my two bags in the tent. Mark left to use the bathroom. When he returned, I was in full panic mode. He opened the tent and everything was living everywhere. In his hand he held my coat and gloves. I asked where they were at. He said last night they lived on the arctic ice. I said man that was stupid. Mark said I don't like calling people names but if by stupid you mean leaving your life sustaining gloves and coat outside in the blowing arctic wind all night was stupid, I would agree...

I am determined to do better. Right now I know where we live. On a floating sheet of ice in a tiny tent less than 55 miles from the North Pole. The goal is in sight....

  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Thursday, April 10, 2014, 4:42:00 PM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 9:52:00 PM
Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Every single day we have to setup our camp and get the dogs settled. Every day we look forward to sitting in our cold tent for some degree of warmth and relative relaxation warming water for drinking and mixing with our dehydrated meals. We realize it is still below zero in our tent (our water will freeze overnight if left in something uninsulated), but warmth at this point is relative, funny how that works. 

To create our little slice of the tropics here we of course need a tent, and to set our tents up, we have to use an evil little device called an ice screw. See, we cannot use stakes here like you would use when camping because we are on a floating, fluffy, icy world. To put in an ice screw you have to dig down to the ice and then screw it in by hand. Think of a 6 inch long screw with a hole in the middle designed to dig into ice and provide a firm hold.

These evil devices are necessary so our little bastion of safety does not send us sailing away in high winds. They are, however, difficult, frustrating and challenging that can often surprise you with great delight.

Imagine if you will trying to put a corkscrew into your driveway. Everyone here has their own strategy, and of course everyone thinks they have the only correct way to put them in. I, however, will stick to my favorite method. If I can't get one in, my first method is to bet Mike that he cannot get it in. The second is to praise Mike by telling him he is the best at putting them in, and the third is to bet Maher or CP that Mike cannot put in the ice screw in less than 3 minutes. All have a 100% success rate. Regardless, we hate these evil little devices as they forestall our entry into our warm slices of heaven each night after a long day. They do on occasion provide you great joy when you can feel them bite into the ice and actually do what they are designed to do. Odd how little things like this are important to me now.

Getting close to the one degree mark (89 degrees north) as we have had some great travel days. At least -31 below today so a very, very cold day today. There were some pucker worthy moments, as usual, when we crossed newly frozen leads, but will save those stories for another post.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Wednesday, April 09, 2014, 2:48:00 PM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:25:00 AM
Meet the Dog Team
Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Mark and I were talking today about how we have a rough idea now how elementary school teachers must feel about their class. We have eight different dogs all with unique personalities, including the traditional troublemaker. If things go wrong, it happens fast and you can bet that Timmus is at the bottom of things.

The dog team is attached to a steel Gang line that goes out in front of the sled. The dogs are set up in four groups of two. Each dog has a collar and a harness with a clip on back. The collar is attached the the gang line with a steel neckline and a steel tug line goes from the back clip to the Gang line. This allows the dogs to pull the 600 lb sled loaded with gear, as well as Mark and me as mushers. We "share" a tiny platform on back.

The front two dogs are called the leader dogs. Tyson is a massive dog with a sweet personality. He is next to Fia, who is the mother hen of the team always turning around to look after the other dogs.

The next four dogs are called the team dogs - Ersua, Rya, Timmus and Stephy. The two back dogs are called Wheelhouse dogs - Pella and Pysa. They are massive Greenland dogs who are the workhorses of the team. Quiet. And affectionate.

As mentioned above, Timus is the source of constant trouble. Think of Dennis the Menace as a dog. We hit camp, unload the sled and turn our back for two seconds. The other dogs wait patiently to be moved to their sleeping line. Timus high tails it to our pile of sleeping bags for an attempted potty break.

Our guide, Maher, used a piece of rope in a pinch for the lead dog. Timus quietly chewed the lead dog free as it ran away on the Arctic. Timus is half the size of the other dogs but constantly starting losing fights for control. This is just a fraction of the mischief. It keeps you on your toes.  Anyway, the dogs sleep outside. We dig holes for them.

Today was by FAR the coldest day yet. They don't seem to mind. They love attention - petting, praising, hugging. The dogs have become part of our traveling family and any of our initial apprehension about working with them has evaporated. We have gotten to know them so well that we now place small wagers as to which dog will relieve themselves next while we are traveling. It is a source of great delight when your chosen dog makes a mess.

Navigating the dogs over leads is tricky. Our two guides are the true explorers here. They take the lead on ski and decide the safest path for passage. We will use shovels and axes to make ramps and bridges. The key is to get the sled to go straight. There is a tremendous rush of adrenaline during the crossing. We have not had any issues yet. It is ALL due to the expertise of CP and Maher ( pronounced mayor ). Mark and I feel completely safe under their command.

The journey continues tomorrow...wish us well.

  • By:
  • Wednesday, April 09, 2014, 2:42:00 PM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 9:54:00 PM
Camp Life - Part 2
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
As the night winds down, we have our two guides, CP and Mayer, over for dinner. By dinner I mean one of four types of freeze dried food. There are, however, lots of laughs about the day's events or past stories of our lives. These are two of most rock solid guys you could ever meet. They are patient, wise and inspire confidence. It is hard to believe that CP graduated from high school just 8 years ago and Mayer just before him. This is Mayer's 6th trip to the North Pole. And CP's 4th. When they speak, we listen. When you go to bed, you have to put everything in your sleeping bag to keep it warm with your body or it will freeze solid. We are having the trip of a lifetime. It is epic beyond words. While we miss all of our loved ones, we both agree that this challenge is perfect for our spirits. P.S. We are both thankful that our friend, Jay, is not here. This is a lot harder than the Seattle Marathon. He would have been evacuated by now,
  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Tuesday, April 08, 2014, 2:54:00 PM
  • updated: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 2:54:00 PM
Tuesday, April 08, 2014

We generally spend 10 hours (give or take a few hours) on the move each day. This means we spend the rest of the day in camp. Now when I say this I don't mean that we are sitting around a warm fire having drinks and kicking our feet up. We are generally unpacking the sled, taking the dogs off the lead, setting up tents, setting up the stove, or making water while huddled around a tiny blue flame that makes a shred of warmth that ekes around the edges of the tea kettle full of melting snow.

We do have some downtime, such as now, where the tent is reasonably warm, meaning we can take our hats and gloves off, and we can change out of wet clothes or simply huddle around the tiny flame.

You would think that after being on the move for hours each day we would run out of things to say, but we pass the time telling stories or betting each other over trivial things, such as whose half of the tent is bigger or who ran the Seattle Marathon faster than a friend of ours (we realized that everyone in the race did).

After 5 days we are both adjusting to the cold nicely and a minus 10 degree day actually felt balmy and we could take our gloves off without wincing in pain.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Tuesday, April 08, 2014, 2:29:00 PM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:49:00 AM
Always morning ... or evening
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Always morning ... or evening
  • By:
  • Tuesday, April 08, 2014, 9:22:00 AM
  • updated: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 9:22:00 AM
Small open lead
Monday, April 07, 2014
Picture - Small open lead
  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Monday, April 07, 2014, 5:06:00 PM
  • updated: Monday, April 07, 2014 5:06:00 PM
Medical Evacuation - Part 2
Monday, April 07, 2014
Robert is by no means a city dweller. He is an experienced and avid adventurer from Austria who works as a doctor and certified mountain guide. He has been to the top of all of the world's seven highest mountain summits many times ...including Mt Everest. He also did a solo ski to the South Pole. But as soon as we hit the ice here he was candid in saying that the cold weather of the North Pole is just different and more challenging. You have to remember that we are floating on a few feet of ice above the 13,000 Arctic Ocean. There are lots of "leads" that are breaks in the ice. This creates unimaginable moisture in the air. When it hits 25 below, the cold is just different. The good news is Robert will be fine. He is a delightful man and his company will be missed. And please Don't worry, Mark and I are operating at 100 percent and rest assured - looking at the blackened toes of a teammate commands our full and careful attention. We will remain safe and northward bound. Following Robert's departure we woke up and gained another 10 miles. We are now 1/4 of the way to the top of the world. It's now 11 pm and we are about to go to sleep. We will see what challenges tomorrow brings... P.S. Steven, good luck in Tennis and have fun! Chloe, safe driving!
  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Monday, April 07, 2014, 5:04:00 PM
  • updated: Monday, April 07, 2014 5:04:00 PM
Medical Evacuation - Part 1
Monday, April 07, 2014
Unfortunately, last night we had to phone in a helicopter for an emergency medical evacuation. One of our team members, Robert, was suffering from frost bite on his big toe and one other toe. By the time it was brought to the attention of our two guides, there was no other option. Thankfully the guides showed tremendous wisdom in handling the situation and, with immediate and proper attention, Robert will be fine. He was evacuated at 1 a.m.
  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Monday, April 07, 2014, 5:00:00 PM
  • updated: Monday, April 07, 2014 5:00:00 PM
Threading the Needle
Monday, April 07, 2014

Lots going on today. Lost one of our team members late last night due to frostbite. We were all becoming good friends and it was sad to see him go. Mike is filling in the details so I will let him explain the situation.

Great day today after our late departure. We didn't get to bed until late due to the noisy helicopter so we slept in a bit. We drifted about 2 miles during the night on our seagoing ice ship and got an additional 10 during the day.

Discovered today that the magnetic North Pole is south of us now, we are heading to the geographic North Pole where the lines of latitude and longitude intersect. Basically the part of a globe that has a little hole in it so it can spin.

Had a few leads (open water) to cross today, but not too many, for the most part it was pan ice with ice chunks everywhere. We have started to call the crossings "threading the needle" as we have to hit the ice bridge created (mainly by Maher and CP) just right to avoid having things get dicey.

Neither Mike or I skied at all today as we move much quicker with us both driving the dogs. That is often tough with even two of us. Will try to post more pics before bed.

  • By:
  • Monday, April 07, 2014, 4:58:00 PM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:52:00 AM
Pressure Ridges and Progress-Part 2
Sunday, April 06, 2014

Our only source of water yesterday was saturated with salt crystals so we had to drink salty water all day. Had four dog team leaders fired today by Maher. Sadly he is running out of qualified candidates, unless of course me and mike qualify.

Mike and I tried the good cop bad cop method with the dogs. I would treat Ersus with kindness and respect ( one of the fired leaders) Mike would speak sternly at him. After 2 seconds of Mikes technique Ersus cowered away and peed on the spot.

My favorite of the dogs is Stephy. A huge dog with a good temperament. Stephy traveled with me on the helicopter while mike traveled with every single leader that was fired today. Having freeze dried spaghetti tonight. It is more like tomato sauce with noodles but regardless it reminds me of home since it is spaghetti night.

Weather report - COLD Going to try and upload some pictures, fingers crossed.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Sunday, April 06, 2014, 4:05:00 PM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:59:00 AM
Pressure ridges and Progress - Part 1
Sunday, April 06, 2014

Fun and cold day today. Woke up and made water (as usual) and got on our way as quickly as we could. We are still working on our personal space organization as a work in progress. Three of us in a small tent make for confined quarters for us and our gear. And, as many of us know Mike likes to spread his wings.

I have the front corner of the tent and Mike explained the legal concept of a right of way easement in and out of the tent. Mike also discovered that it is not a good idea to talk to me before I eat breakfast. All he could say is how sorry he feels for the kids.

Made great progress at the start with flat pan ice. Dogs were fresh and we made good progress with two of us on the sled. It helped to have someone to push or control the dogs. I think we made about 10 miles today. Lots of pressure ridges and open leads today, with us entering a very active part of the ocean.

Yesterday we were lucky with many open water leads closing before our eyes. Today we were not so lucky with many leads opening after we already spent a good deal of time making a path for the sled. When I say "we" I am mainly speaking of Maher who is the only one allowed to touch his axe.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Sunday, April 06, 2014, 4:02:00 PM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 08, 2015 3:18:00 PM
Pressure Ridges and Progress: Part 2
Sunday, April 06, 2014

Our only source of water yesterday was saturated with salt crystals so we had to drink salty water all day. Had four dog team leaders fired today by Maher. Sadly, he is running out of qualified candidates unless, of course, me and Mike qualify.

Mike and I tried the good cop bad cop method with the dogs. I would treat Ersus with kindness and respect (one of the fired leaders), Mike would speak sternly at him. After 2 seconds of Mike's technique, Ersus cowered away and peed on the spot.

My favorite of the dogs is Stephy. A huge dog with a good temperament. Stephy traveled with me on the helicopter, while Mike traveled with every single leader that was fired today. Having freeze dried spaghetti tonight. It is more like tomato sauce with noodles but, regardless, it reminds me of home since it is spaghetti night.

Weather report - COLD Going to try and upload some pictures, fingers crossed.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Sunday, April 06, 2014, 3:47:00 PM
  • updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:53:00 AM
Pressure Ridges and Progress: Part 1
Sunday, April 06, 2014
Fun and cold day today. Woke up and made water (as usual) and got on our way as quickly as we could. We are still working on our personal space organization as a work in progress. Three of us in a small tent make for confined quarters for us and our gear. And, as many of us know, Mike likes to spread his wings. I have the front corner of the tent and Mike explained the legal concept of a right of way easement in and out of the tent. Mike also discovered that it is not a good idea to talk to me before I eat breakfast. All he could say is how sorry he feels for Dena Made great progress at the start with flat pan ice. Dogs were fresh and we made good progress with two of us on the sled. It helped to have someone to push or control the dogs. I think we made about 10 miles today. Lots of pressure ridges and open leads today, with us entering a very active part of the ocean. Yesterday we were lucky with many open water leads closing before our eyes. Today we were not so lucky with many leads opening after we already spent a good deal of time making a path for the sled. When I say "we" I am mainly speaking of Maher who is the only one allowed to touch his axe.
  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Sunday, April 06, 2014, 3:44:00 PM
  • updated: Sunday, April 06, 2014 3:44:00 PM
Polar Bears and Progress
Saturday, April 05, 2014
When we were preparing to leave yesterday, the Russians spotted a number of polar bears by the helicopters 100 yards from the base camp. Everyone went into the base camp. The polar bears passed. We ended up flying out the next morning and landed. We made 7 miles of progress north. I wish I was a poet so I could add with words of beauty when you see the helicopter take off and all you see is ice around you. It is majestic. We encountered lots of leads along the way and watched as a 20 foot lead, which is a river, close as the two sheets of ice pushed together and allowed the sled to pass. We have made tremendous progress and we are now sitting in the tent and boiling hot water for cocoa and soup preparing for another day. All is well here. Our thoughts are with all of you.
  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Saturday, April 05, 2014, 2:31:00 PM
  • updated: Saturday, April 05, 2014 2:31:00 PM
Just Landed at the Arctic Cap
Friday, April 04, 2014
We just got off the plane at the arctic cap. The plane landed on a few feet of ice. Every direction you look, there is ice. It is about 15 below zero and windy. We are unloading the dogs and transferring to a helicopter. We will then fly the helicopter two hours further north and set up camp for the night. Then we start ten hours of dog sledding and skiing in the morning. All is well. We are safe and sound. Weather report - Cold - and getting chillier.
  • By:
  • Friday, April 04, 2014, 1:50:00 PM
  • updated: Friday, April 04, 2014 1:50:00 PM
Barneo - Russian Ice Camp
Friday, April 04, 2014
We are all packed and waiting for word that the Russain plane is set to take us to Barneo Ice Camp. It is a two hour flight with all of the gear and dogs. Barneo is a temporary base the Russian's build on the ice flow each year in April. It serves as a launching pad for people making a journey to the North Pole. The Russians have a helicopter at the camp to take people to their starting point. Lots of people will fly from Barneo all the way to the North Pole and land for a toast, others will ski or dog sled the last "half degree" or the the "last degree" to the North Pole. This year our crew is the only ones dog sledding the full last "two degrees." The Russian crews are now in place at Barneo. But in order to accomplish that feat, they had to pull of an impressive display of logistics. According to their blog this year's Barneo camp is located at 89 39'N. Construction first began by having a team of engineers parachute out onto the ice from Russian MI-8 helicopters. Once there, they built a temporary landing strip that allowed a big Ilyushin aircraft to land and deliver the supplies they needed. Soon a small tent city was built on the ice flow. There is a group of American researchers headed there to study the impact of climate change on the polar ice caps. We will spend only a few hourse there before heading off in the helicopter to start our journey. Next update from the Ice Camp.
  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Friday, April 04, 2014, 4:48:00 AM
  • updated: Friday, April 04, 2014 4:48:00 AM
Departure Looms
Thursday, April 03, 2014
We arrived in Northern Norway yesterday. longyearbyen iis a town of 2,000 people that has its history in coal mining. We are staying In a former mining barracks that has been converted to a lodge. We spent the day today going over our gear and getting everything ready for our departure. We are flying out in the morning with 8 dogs, the sled and 600 lbs of gear and supplies. We will fly on a plane into a Russian outpost on the Arctic circle. We will then take a helicopter to our starting point. We will spend the next 19 days skiing and mushing our way to the North Pole. Excitement is high. As many of you know the Arctic circle is a sheet of ice that can vary in thickness from several feet to mere inches. We will encounter many "leads" along the way which is an opening in the ice. We will also encounter "pressure ridges" where two sheets of ice smash into each other and create boulders on the surface. We have to navigate through and around these obstacles. We are headed up with three other guys. Mayer, CP and Robert. A great group of guys. Don't worry Mayer has more experience running dogs to the North Pole than anyone else in the world. We are in good hands. Off to storm the castles in the morning....
  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Thursday, April 03, 2014, 10:51:00 AM
  • updated: Thursday, April 03, 2014 10:51:00 AM
Additional Updates
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
The company that is putting all this together for us is called Polar Explorers. They will also be reporting on our progress via their website. They will have daily dispatches as reported by our regular call-ins. Their site can be located at - http://polarexplorers.com/polarexplorers-media/blog/north-pole
  • By:
  • Wednesday, April 02, 2014, 4:22:00 PM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 02, 2014 4:22:00 PM
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Day was spent getting ready and eliminating extra items. I am convinced we have taken longer to dial in in the right gear than it will take us to do the last two degrees. We are limited to about 40lbs of gear per person. This includes sleeping system, all our lunches, which is basically a bag full of high energy junk food, and any clothing we are not wearing. This might sound like a lot per person, but it is not. Staying at a bunkhouse tonight, basically a room with a door and a bed. If I were writing the brochure for it I would call it cozy or quaint. Lots of people are here gearing up for trips to the ice, most for a few days, others for a bit longer. The peak season is through April as the ice begins to melt and move around too much when May arrives. Walked back to bunkhouse today from town and passed a school. We had to laugh because the kids were having recess and they were all outside in full arctic gear playing on the outside playground. Some kids were actually skiing around the playground, and sadly they were much better skiers than either of us. We laughed because it seems that our kids have school canceled anytime it snows, and forget about going outside when it is below zero (it is about -20 here today). Different culture here where kids get dropped off to school via snowmobile and get outside regardless of the weather. I like it... Will also have an additional site with updates, will post the address shortly. Attached picture of kiddies outside at recess.
  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Wednesday, April 02, 2014, 9:26:00 AM
  • updated: Wednesday, April 02, 2014 2:39:00 PM
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Landed today in Longyearbyen. Weather report... Cold. Met with guide, henceforth known as 'Maher'. Got rest of today to supplement gear. Pretty certain we will not meet the dogs until Tue or Wed. Longyearbyen is an interesting place. Our first thought was that it reminded us of a modern day Deadwood due to the mining. Will update more later as time allows.
  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Tuesday, April 01, 2014, 8:12:00 AM
  • updated: Tuesday, April 01, 2014 8:12:00 AM
Spring forward.
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Here is an interesting fact. Sweden follows daylight savings time. We went to bed last night and the time sprang forward an hour at 2 am. We discovered this fact after we arrived at the airport an hour late. Missed our flight. Now we can't get another flight to northern Norway until April 1st. Thankfully the folks at Polar Explorers are accommodating and this will not cause us any real issues. It's a good thing we are not on the tv show the Amazing Race. If we were we would be headed home before we started.
  • By: Mike  Ketchmark
  • Sunday, March 30, 2014, 8:12:00 AM
  • updated: Sunday, March 30, 2014 8:17:00 AM
Saturday, March 29, 2014

Arrived in Stockholm Sweden last night, resetting our body clocks is difficult. Did a gear check and discovered some things we still needed. Asked the hotel for directions to the best outdoor equipment store. Was told it was a short 35 min walk away. Got there and it was pretty much a GAP store with coats. Good news is we wandered around a bit and found the best glove store in the world. Nothing but wall to wall gloves. Heading to Longyearbyen in the morning.

  • By: Mark  Andresen
  • Saturday, March 29, 2014, 11:36:00 AM
  • updated: Sunday, March 30, 2014 3:36:00 AM

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