COLERAINE man Gavin Bate is battling temperatures of minus 45 degrees as he attempts to ski more than 550km from Resolute Bay in northern Canada to the magnetic North Pole.
The philanthropist and adventurer was stuck in a polar storm for 60 HOURS last week as his tent was frozen solid with ice and he lay in a wet sleeping bag waiting for the snowstorm to pass.
The avid climber is one of two guides for a team of ten heading towards the North Pole. Gavin hopes to raise £22,000 for his charity Moving Mountains Trust which he founded more than ten years ago
The ambitious expedition is posing unique threats for Gavin and his team, including trekking through “Polar Bear Alley”, open water cracks in the ice known as “leads” and a wind-chill that can push temperatures down as low as -45 degrees.
As The Coleraine Times reported earlier this month, Gavin’s team began their marathon trek on April 6 and are expected to reach the Pole approximately a month later on May 5, weather permitting.
Last Wednesday the team encountered deep-freeze blizzards at Airstrip Point on the East side of Bathurst Island.
Gavin said: “It has been a difficult couple of days with high winds, soft snow and white-out conditions.
“The physical stress is compounded by the psychological stress of your world effectively shrinking to a small, cold, white sphere a few metres across.
“The snow in the Arctic is far lighter and drier than the stuff we’re used to and sounds like polystyrene.
There are signs that the weather may change over the coming days. Hopefully with some welcome views and warmth.”
Gavin has passed the 200km mark but still has another 350km to go.
At Polaris Mine the weather was so bad that the team had to make an igloo to keep warm and a sheltered toilet.
Completing the expedition will see Gavin ever-closer to achieving the ‘Explorers Grand Slam’, a challenge that includes reaching the North and South Poles along with all of the seven summits. If he successfully reaches the North Pole, he will have just the South Pole left to visit.
Gavin acknowledges “to some, skiing to a pole or climbing a mountain can be viewed as essentially a selfish and pointless exercise in the grander scheme” but explains.
“These personal expeditions do however gain public interest, and if I can use my personal endeavors to also raise awareness of, and funds for, the fantastic work of the Moving Mountains Trust, then it also greatly enhances the motivation and satisfaction behind the trip.”
Everyone can follow the daily progress made by Gavin and the donation ream via the constantly updated race record at racemetothepole.com and via a host of other social media streams.
Thanks to Yellow Brick tracking colleagues and friends receive Gavin’s location every four hours. It’s near impossible for the team to carry any other form of functioning electronics due to temperatures that often reach -45.
FEATURE: DAVID RANKIN
Wednesday, April 10
It was chicken fricassee with broccoli for dinner last night. There’s no video posted onto the website due to the extreme temperatures, often reaching -40 degrees celsius.
Gavin is now well out into an area of the Arctic Ocean called McDougall Sound. The area is named in honour of George F. McDougall who explored the sound in 1851.
Thursday, April 11
Gavin is still waiting at Polaris Mine for fresh supplies. The once functioning mine produced 21 million tonnes of lead-zinc worth over $15 billion before closing in July 2002 after 20 years of production. At one time 250 people lived and worked there.
Although the site is now closed and de-constructed it still serves as a convenient checkpoint and re-supply point for adventurers and expeditions on this classic Polar route.
Gavin has travelled an impressive 115km to reach Polaris Mine on Little Cornwallis Island. Today, a flight will be meeting the team for their first re-supply. They will stock up on food and fresh satellite phone batteries.
This will also be the first opportunity Gavin has had to change his base layer of clothing after six days of skiing.
Friday, April 12
Gavin was pinned down at the Polaris Mine all day yesterday by bad weather after meeting up with their re-supply. The team make an igloo and sheltered toilet.
The team are hunkered down and sitting out some nasty weather in their tents. They have been re-supplied and also met some of the Canadian rangers who are on patrol in the area at the moment. The Rangers warned of a female polar bear and cub in the area.
Saturday, April 13
A very tired sounding Gavin called in late on Saturday to give a word on progress in difficult conditions close to Polar Bear Pass and heading to Airstrip Point where they join the land (or close to it) to avoid possible thin ice.
Gavin has made the most of a slight let-up in the weather to push on from Polaris Mine. He made another 24km of progress yesterday, up through the Crozier Strait to camp near Milne Island.
Sunday, April 14
Gavin made another solid 22km yesterday before camping at the mouth of the Goodsir Inlet.
This is the inlet that narrows to form the natural rift in the landscape of Bathurst Island, known as Polar Bear Pass.
Gavin has now travelled a total of 161km toward the Pole since leaving Resolute Bay and reports that the stresses of relentless ski technique are starting to take their toll on his legs; he is fighting off shin-splints with regular doses of Ibuprofen.
Monday, April 15
Gavin just passed the Crozier Strait, named after the renowned British Naval officer and veteran of polar exploration, Francis Crozier. Crozier was born in Co Down.
Cape Crozier is home to one of the largest Adelie Penguins colonies in the world.
Tuesday, April 16
Gavin is stuck in his tent today and unlikely to be moving anywhere due to high winds and cold weather. They are on the land rather than the sea ice at the moment, at a place called Airstrip Point on the East side of Bathurst Island.
Gavin skied another 20km yesterday before camping on the coast of Bathurst Island, passing the 200km mark of his journey.
Wednesday, April 17
Gavin has been stuck in a polar storm for 42 hours. His tent is iced over solid and his sleeping bag is wet.
Thursday, April 18
Gavin has been stuck in his tent sitting out an Arctic storm for nearly 60 hours now.
Friday, April 19
Gavin was finally able to leave his tent yesterday after spending 63 hours confined in temperatures of around -17degrees, inside.
He made the most of being able to stretch his legs and progressed another 27km to the Northern end of Reindeer bay at 076° 23.183N. This brings his total distance to 228km.
Saturday, AprIl 20
Gavin made good progress yesterday and is now camped at around the 260km mark. They cut inland of Loney island and stopped just short of Cape Lady Franklin. Their next re-supply is around 50km ahead at Cator Harbour.
Sunday, April 21
Gavin made it to the 292km mark yesterday but reports it as having been a “really awful day, hauling through ice rubble and soft snow in a white out” and still no sight of the much awaited sunshine.