COLERAINE adventurer, Gavin Bate, has described his “epic trip” to the Magnetic North Pole and the incredible physical effort to complete his most gruelling expedition yet.
Gavin was skiing to raise funds for his Moving Mountains Trust, an organisation focused on sustainable development projects in Kenya, Nepal and Borneo.
When he set out from Resolute Bay on April 4, Gavin began skiing toward 78° 35’N, 104°11’W, the site of the Magnetic North Pole as it was recorded back in 1996, when the first Polar Race was held.
His journey would cover 341 miles through one of the coldest and most inhospitable environments on the planet. Along the way, he faced temperatures that dropped to -40º and high winds that made it feel even colder and blizzards that lasted for days.
And just a few days from the finish line, Gavin and a few traveling companions even had a close encounter with a large polar bear who decided to pay them a visit in the middle of the night.
At 9:30pm local time, on the 28th day of the expedition a tired and emotional Gavin called in to the team tracking him to say: “We are at the Pole!”.
He had just completed an exhausting 22 mile final push to reach the Pole which took 13 long hours.
The journey wasn’t quite over yet however, as the team had to ski an additional 17 miles to reach an airfield at Isachsen, a remote weather research station in extreme northern Canada. It was the closest point to the Pole where a plane could land to retrieve them.
Afterwards Gavin said he was “happy and proud” of his incredible achievement: “Enough of frozen sleeping bags, frozen boots and frozen meat sticks for lunch, it’s extremely nice to be back in London with all the greenery and sunshine.
“We endured awful weather nearly every day, and my sleeping bag and boots have been wet for weeks, frozen solid at the end of every day. Yet the team showed great spirit, stamina and humour and we did it. Seldom in my years of expeditions, including six times on Everest, have I felt the need to dig so deep to keep myself and the team safe, secure and motivated.
“To be fair the team are all motivated strong people already, but after the second resupply morale was low and we were only half way. It was after that when we suddenly had to make 30 and 35km days, at a time when our bodies were going into a calorie deficit mode. Our hourly distance halved. Feet and joints suffered, some of the many blisters suppurated and some people had five or six.
“Pain and anti-inflammatory medications were helping keep us going with ever stronger pain killers, we carried on, ending up exhausted and hollow eyed after 12 hour days. The ice was unforgiving and the temperature never rose above minus 15.
On the last day to the disused weather station at Isachsen for the air pick up, we were walking into a headwind of 30 knots and it was so cold our whole bodies juddered with the cold.”
Gavin’s Herculean efforts resulted in him raising a fantastic £16,655 for Moving Mountains.
He added: “Over many years now, many people have shown me that support and belief on my mountain trips. On this polar one, I am once again humbled and happy.
“And the Pole? Just a point on the ice, of no great significance really. It was the getting there that mattered. Over and out,” said Gavin.”