North Pole Classic 2006
On March 5, 2006, Conrad Dickinson and I left Ward Hunt Island destined for the North Pole. We walked on snowshoes, towing sleds with 120 kg of food and supplies, which was all that was necessary for the journey. On April 26, 2006, we reached the North Pole. We were the only 14th and 15th people to make the unsupported trip from Canada (Richard was also the 1st person), and remain the only people to have made the trek to the Pole relying only on snowshoes.
In 2005, Conrad Dickinson from Hexham, England, recruited Richard to help him reach the North Pole unsupported from Canada. Conrad had already skied unsupported to the South Pole and kite-skied back. We decided to not skis but to snowshoe the entire distance to the Pole. We left Ward Hunt Island on March 6th. Though we had an unusual amount of whiteout weather (low cloud causing a lack of visibility) the temperatures were not terribly cold. The temperature was never much colder than -40C. There was a lot of very soft snow, often we were to our knees even with snowshoes. It was a race against time, the time when Barneo Ice Station barren closes. This made for many days with long hours, 12 to 14, with little sleep. This has become the norm for many teams these days as they race to get to Barneo before it shuts down.
April 24-25 Day 50
Felt much better after a good nights sleep. Goal for the day was 84⋅̊ 45’. So many cracks, fortunately most are frozen to two to four inches thick. But it is clear that it would only take a full moon, new moon or a good wind to completely break the ice apart. reminds me of trying to reach the Pole in June 1992. Last march of the day, big lead – wide open – going to the horizon. So depressing but we did not get emotional, just walked along the edge which was surprisingly good going. After 30 minutes the lead narrowed, there was an island (of ice) and five minutes later we were heading north again. But it ruined our chances to reach 84⋅̊ 45’. We are drifting south at 0.1 mph or more.
April 26 Day 51
Drifted backward 1.7 miles last night. A sign the pack ice is loose because there was not much wind. Started from 84⋅̊ 42.3’ still drifting south. Lots of cracks but no problems to cross or get around. Just walking, walking. Slowly becoming more and more tired. Our speed has dropped over the last few days. The best ice yet but soft snow in broken areas – like I have never seen before. We made marches of 2.5 hrs, 2hrs, 2 hrs, and 5 × 1.5 hrs to cover 17.7 miles and lost 2 miles to drift. Yesterday at the end of the day my vision blurred. Today it started in the middle of the day and got slowly worse. It was hard to see details in the distance. I asked Conrad to help but he said he was not seeing so well either! A couple of “old” guys stand up on a lump of ice trying to see where a lead is going! We kept walking. At time I was sure I could see mist from open water but when I got to the place – no water. The final mile to the North Pole seemed so long, I was so tried. I just wanted to lie down and sleep.