Tuesday, April 30, 2013

RACE ME TO THE POLE - Wrap Up...

Photo provided by Hannah Rollings
Race Me To The Pole - Wrap Up

BY: HANNAH ROLLINGS

Ahead of relaying the final installment on Gavin's trip, we want to thank all supporters of Gavin and Moving Mountains Trust throughout this expedition on behalf of Gavin himself and all of the Moving Mountains staff and beneficiaries.

100% of the donations will go towards projects in Kenya, Nepal and Borneo so make sure you follow Moving Mountains in the near future to see the fantastic projects that these funds will help support. 

The last re-supply checkpoint was at Cator Harbour on Sherard Osborn Island, right at the Northern Tip of Bathurst Island and at the 310km mark of the journey. Gavin and the team made it here on the 21st April. The re-supply plane picked up one of the guides, Steve, who unfortunately suffered from frostbitten fingers. As a precaution he was flown back to Resolute to have it checked out and we since hear he is doing fine. The re-supply plane brought extra food and fresh sat-phone batteries. These phones have been one of the only links between Gavin and the outside world, allowing us to exchange brief conversations, and relay information by text. In addition, the Yellow Brick GPS tracker unit has allowed us view his position at hourly intervals on the interactive map and also extract accurate Lat/Long coordinates. READ MORE AFTER THE JUMP

In temperatures often reaching -40 degrees Celsius there's only place for the hardiest electronics, meaning Gavin was not able to relay digital files, videos or photos since leaving Resolute Bay. After Sherard Osborn Island, Gavin and the team continued North West over relatively smooth sea ice that had 'freshly' frozen this year. This offered a little respite from skiing over older, broken and re-frozen ice rubble and also the areas where they were forced onto the land at Airstrip Point and Cape lady Franklin; testing work! During the penultimate week of the expedition, with temperatures still extremely low, a lot of Gavin's insulating down gear had become wet through condensation from sweating and cooking and then frozen solid. The team had therefore been hoping for slightly higher temperatures and some direct sunlight to afford the opportunity to try and melt and dry out some of their essential kit. Soon after, we received news that conditions had improved dramatically. However, a new concern was raised; the team feared that they might not make it to the Pole in time for their pick-up. After losing ground to the Arctic snow storm the week before, it was looking like the team would have to spend 10-12 hours skiing every day for a week, that's said to be akin to doing a marathon every day of the week. 

On the night of the 27th of April the team had a near miss with a polar bear. The team had managed to stay way out of reach of these Arctic giants right through the usual danger zone close to ‘Polar Bear Pass’ on Bathurst Island, but just days from the pole, the team had a 1AM polar bear visit. The curious bear sniffed around, leaving 8 inch wide paw prints circling the tents. Luckily, the creature didn't commit any breaking and entering, but rather sent one of the team into a mild panic; the dilemma of being the only member of the crew to be awake and hearing the deep breathing of a polar bear... On May the 29th, at around 03:30 GMT (9:30pm local time) Gavin and the rest of the team made it to the North Pole after a mammoth 35km push over the course of more than 13 hours. 

Not long after arriving at the pole last night and setting up their camp, a tired and emotional Gavin, called in to leave the message they had been looking forward to uttering for weeks, “We are at the Pole”. To listen to the final audio message, plus earlier stories from the expedition, visit Flickr . The race may have finished, but the team still have to ski approximately 28km today (30th April) to get to the airstrip at Isachsen. The strip is on the land, considered much safer than landing on the sea ice, although it will of course be covered in snow. There is only one aircraft available to pick the team up tomorrow, meaning that the plane will have to do two trips to pick up all of the team and their kit. They will try and get as many people on the first plane as possible but will have to leave a few for the second trip, along with as much gear as they can. They may have to leave behind gear in the abandoned weather station buildings but this may well be of use to people in the future if they do. 

According to the Environment Canada Climate Severity Index, Isachsen and the surrounding area has the worst weather in Canada with a CSI severity value of 99 out of a possible 100. Trees and shrubs cannot survive this far north, restraining the wildlife to polar bears, Arctic Foxes, seals, muskoxen and a variety of migratory birds. The abandoned weather station will therefore prove to be a welcome shelter, though they will no doubt be praying that it is a very temporary one. 

A huge thank you to everyone who has already joined the Donation Team by donating to the Moving Mountains Trust via the Race Me To The Pole campaign. So far we have raised a fantastic £14,278, 40, putting us at the 354km mark. It is not too late to join the team or even re-affirm your membership with any donation, large or small. 

To donate, visit the Race me to the Pole MyDonate page. 
Or, to donate via text... send.... POLE13 £5 to.... 70070 

On behalf of everyone who will benefit from the work of Moving Mountains, around the globe, we would like to say a huge THANK YOU for donating and supporting us so far.

Left - Members of the U15 football team, kids from the slums near Embu town and children from both the county primary and urban primary schools got together to wish Gavin a safe trip. Each child took the time to write Gavin a message. To read the stories of other Moving Mountains Trust beneficiaries, visit www.movingmountainstrust.com/changing-lives