The North Pole – with its layers of powder white snow, temperatures that dip way below zero and the promise of no man’s land – has always been my childhood travel dream. While I’ve yet to fulfill that dream of mine, let’s travel vicariously through Iain Miller’s experience. Today’s guest post by Iain brings us to the land of icicles and polar bears, as he shares with us his experience on a dog-sledding expedition in the North Pole.
I can still feel the tingle in my toes and the biting cold against my face. The huskies are barking with excitement and panting from the adrenaline. The all-white winter world stretches endlessly into the horizon. I have journeyed to the edge of the world on husky-pulled sleds and I’m finding it hard to believe that I have made it to the North Pole. As adventure holidays go, this is perfection.
Pre-trip Training at Husky School
This North Pole expedition had promised adventure, fun and isolated lands – it did not disappoint. I had organized the expedition with luxury holiday company Elegant Resorts and it was co-ordinated in perfect detail. The trip had begun with five days of training at husky school in Norway, where I met our team of beautiful dogs and learnt the skills required to handle them on ice. Their friendly blue eyes, lolling pink tongues and thick warm coats belie the muscle-machines they really are, and they’re more than happy to go running on ice.
Armed with my dog handling skills, I briefly returned home to the UK before departing for our first staging post on the journey into the eternal daylight of the Arctic summer, Longyearbyen in Svalbard. The cold was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane, and having met up with the expedition leader and doctor, things started to feel real for the first time. I had a day to relax and prepare for the excitement ahead, so I took things gently, ate plenty and drank in the splendor around me.
Next day, we flew further north to an Ice Camp at the 89th degree (one degree south of the North Pole). The mercury was down to almost –20 degrees Celsius by now so I had layered on all my warmest clothes to acclimatize to this new world. In the Arctic, the white expanse stretched as far as the eye could see beneath a wide blue sky. After a cozy night it was time for an early start: a helicopter ride to meet the dogs and time to put those skills into action as we started out for our Polar goal.
The next seven days merged into a mixture of skiing, sledding and walking depending on the terrain, punctuated by stops to refuel ourselves and the dogs and to rest and catch up on some sleep in our tents. Depending on conditions, the route can vary from crossing large areas of easy flat ice to maneuvering around open water ‘leads’ and over hump-backed pressure ridges up to five meters in height. Fortunately for us, we only came up against a few minor leads and ridges, so we made good progress. On our fourth day out, one of my secret hopes was fulfilled: a view of a polar bear in the distance. It was a truly magical moment, one that would stay with me for some time.
With good weather and conditions we made it to the North Pole in perfect time on our seventh day, tired but ecstatic. After hearty congratulations all round (especially to the dogs!) we marveled at the incredible journey we’d made – the last degree to the North Pole. In true luxury, a helicopter flew us back to the Ice Camp and then a plane took us on to Svalbard where the party began! We spent two days recuperating and exploring Longyearbyen before flying back to the UK. Back home the weather felt tropical!
This guest post was written by Iain Miller, a contributor to WildJunket.com.