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Friday, 03 June 2011 07:20

Gimme shelter

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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weatheringthestormJune 3rd, Day 77

Distance traveled:
June 2nd: 59.5 km
June 3rd: Tent bound

Position: N71°31'06.0 W080°17'58.9

Yesterday, the winds died after only two hours of kiting, so we set up camp, wrote and launched an update, and were looking forward to catching up on sleep. However, much to our surprise, the winds switched directions and rapidly increased. We hurried to get ready and were able to kite for no more than an hour before heavy snowfall obscured visibility and gusty winds kept us grounded.

The next morning, a similar event occurred; the winds lessened temporarily, and we rapidly made our move. Three hours later, the storm was stronger than ever and kiting was out of control. We pitched our Hilleberg tent once again, with the satisfaction of knowing that we were sheltered form the elements, as this tent can withstand virtually any storm, and has.

These tents have proven themselves remarkable in many ways: last year, while on the Greenland Icecap, I weathered a 5 day storm relatively comfortably, and Sarah has weathered an Antarctic storm with winds gusting up to 90 knots (170 km/h) in one of these tents.

For this expedition, we have chosen the Keron GT 3. The tunnel structure makes them easy to set up in stong winds, and the extended vestibule is big enough to bring our sleds or other gear inside to repair or to shelter from the weather. Over the last couple years, these tents have become our homes; on a good year, we will spend more than half our time living in our Hilleberg tent.

We will let Stuart from Hilleberg explain why their tents do so well.

Eric

Hilleberg tents have been the top choice of discerning outdoor travelers around the world for over 35 years, and with good reason: they are utterly dependable in any season, comfortably spacious, and yet are still remarkably lightweight. Hilleberg, being family owned and run, is a company that has always been guided by their family passion for being outdoors and traveling in the wilderness. …Quality… for the company equals making the kinds of tents that they would not only be happy to use themselves, but that they would also be proud to have their best friends use, as well.

Today, the company offers 28 models of all season tents. All have linked inner and outer tents … an idea Hilleberg pioneered … for far quicker, more efficient pitching. All are conceived and developed in northern Sweden, and go through rigorous, real world testing before they are brought to market. And all offer the ideal balance of low weight, extraordinary strength and remarkable comfort.

Stuart W Craig

www.hilleberg.com

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 June 2011 07:26
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 07:23

Crossing the Fury and Hecla Strait

Written by Sarah McNair-Landry
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ericwithkiteDistance traveled:
May 31st: 131.3 km
June 1st: 21.6 km

Position: N70°41'55.2 W080°40'58.4

The winds were slowly increasing, and by 5pm we set off on our final leg, towards Pond Inlet. With the warm spring weather it is to our advantage to travel during the cooler nights when the snow surface is hard packed, and to sleep during the warm days.

Igloolik Island faded out of sight as we headed north crossing the Fury and Hecla Strait, a 50 km crossing before arriving on Baffin Island. The strait is named after Parry's two ships, who spent many years searching for the Northwest Passage.

During his first expedition Parry sailed north of Baffin Island mapping a huge artery of one of the Northwest Passages; Lancaster Sound.

On Parry's second expedition, he decided to sail south of Baffin Island through Hudson Bay in hopes of discovering a more southern passage to the Orient. His ships became locked in the ice near Igloolik for several years.

During that time the Inuit told him about a passage between Melville Peninsula and Baffin Island. With that knowledge and rough sketches of the area that the Inuit drew for him, he set out on an overland expedition. Sure enough there it was a narrow passage, filled with islands and clogged with ice even during the late summer months which made it impassible for his ships.

Now with a warmer climate and strong icebreaker ships, the Hecla and the Furry strait has been sailed a few times making it one of the several Northwest Passage routes.

With good winds we crossed the frozen strait, and continued north across Baffin Island. Weaving our way across the rolling landscape dodging rocks, we continue well into the morning till we were to exhausted to continue. Today however the wind only allowed us to travel a couple hours before diminishing.

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 07:20

Leaving for our final leg

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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lookingovermapsNo distance traveled

Position: Igloolik

The last few days in Igloolik have been a whirlwind, as we needed to make a critical decision; would there be enough snow on the trail to make it to Pond Inlet and furthermore what would be the best trail. After talking with locals, it appears that this year has had a late spring and exceptionally good snow; however, the rivers will soon open and because Pond Inlet has been getting more sunlight the snow has likely melted more further north.

The route that we have been recommended is one of the traditional dog sledding routes. Before plastics, Inuit throughout the North would ice the bottoms of their runners, an effective but fragile way of reducing friction. They would therefore avoid rocky snowless overland crossings. We are hoping this route still retains these desirable attributes.

We have already traveled over 2,800 km and only 400 km remain to attain our goal of Pond Inlet. Our detour south around the Gulf of Boothia has delayed us by about two weeks; we have however made the call to continue to Pond Inlet, with the best of hopes that the snow will last just a bit longer. With a slight but steady south west wind blowing, we are heading back out for our final leg.

Eric

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Saturday, 28 May 2011 07:16

24 hour marathon

Written by Sarah McNair-Landry
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igloolik1Distance traveled:
May 26th: 38.1 km
May 27th: 11.1 km
May 28th: 153.7 km

Position: Igloolik - 69.3666N,081.7833W

After seven hard days of skiing, we were desperate for winds; without them, we would soon have to resort to our spare rations. On the morning of the 26th, a light and erratic breeze picked up from the south, and we were able to slowly make progress on our 14 meter Yakuza kites, flown on 60 meter lines.

Our weather forcast the next morning was titled: "the times they are a changing". West winds were perdicted to pick up at 6 pm and blow till 6 pm the following day. We skied only 4 hours, set up camp ate dinner and took a 4 hour nap. Sure enough, the winds picked up as predicted and we were quick to pack up our tent.

With our kites in the air, we started our descent off the plateau, fenced in in a narrow valley following a river. The rocky hills which rose up to 800 feet on either side confined us to the valley floor. For the first section of the night, we weren't able to kite more than 30 minutes at a time. The hills made the winds turbulent, at times blocking them completely, and the river often turned upwind. So we kited when possible, and walked or skied when the winds or terrain would not permit.

igloolik2As the morning sun rose, we descended off the river onto flat terrain. However the winds were not favorable, gusting up and down forcing us to change our kite size frequently. Exhausted, we kept trying to make as many miles as possible. The town of Igloolik was still far, and we knew these west winds would only last till this evening. We had only 24 hours of wind, none could be wasted.

This wasn't our first 24 hour push; on our first Pittarak expedition in Greenland, we did a 24 hour day for "fun", covering over 400 km. This last year, Eric was back in Greenland and put in a new world record, traveling 595 km in 24 hours. However, Greenland is home to an immense icecap that has both steady winds and flat terrain. Today, between the terrain and the winds, the only record to be made is the number of times we un-rolled and re-rolled our kites.

Finally, as the sky clouded over, the winds increased, and we zipped across the white landscape. After twenty five hours of kite skiing, skiing and walking, Igloolik Island appeared on the horizon. We kite skied around the point of the island, and the town of Igloolik came into sight. It was late, and we were exhausted, so we pitched our tent. The delights of town could wait till tomorrow.

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Thursday, 26 May 2011 09:38

Our contact with the outside world

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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Check out this new Team Pittarak video, in which they reveal how they stay in touch with the outside world and keep you informed.

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 09:34

How we dress to stay warm [Video]

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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So now that they are racing against spring to make it to their final destination, Team Pittarak does not go to such lengths. When they started, however, it was... ahem... slightly colder. So here's what they do to keep from that cold.

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Thursday, 26 May 2011 09:41
Wednesday, 25 May 2011 09:25

Sunburns all around

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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Sunburns all around 25 May, 11 - 17:52 67.6688N,083.6982W

solarpowerMay 25th, Day 68

Distance traveled:
May 24th: 13 km
May 25th: 26.9 km

Position: N67°40'07.7 W083°41'53.3

We awoke at two in the morning. hoping that the forecast we had received three days prior would come to be and bring us some much needed west winds. Unfortunately, we woke up to stillness and sunshine; outside our tent, another sunny and windless day began.

Today, I got a sunburn on my legs, which goes to show how warm the Arctic can feel without the bite of the wind. The sun, however, can be violent; in the spring, it shines endlessly and its reflected glare off the snow greatly magnifies its power. Sun burns can be uncomfortable, but snow blindness, a type of painful but temporary blindness due to overexposure to UV, is far more serious.

The sun is not always a menace however; it turns our tent into a greenhouse, making it toasty warm every morning, and it helps keep our electronics charged, thanks to the two solar panels and the HET battery pack that we have brought along with us. This in turn keeps our electronics, satellite phone and, most importantly, our ipods charged.

After 6 days in a row of skiing, we have our fingers crossed for some favorable winds!

Eric

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Thursday, 26 May 2011 09:34
Monday, 23 May 2011 09:21

Klättermusen

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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klattermusenMay 23rd, Day 66

Distance traveled:
May 22nd: 14.2 km
May 23rd: 24.2 km

Position: N67°20'59.2 W084°06'59.5

When we started our journey back in March, the temperatures were cold and the sun only appeared briefly. As we move into spring, the temperatures have been hovering around -5C to -15C, warm for Arctic standards. But today, with head winds and overcast skies, we layered up and pulled our hoods tightly around our faces.

Both wind and snow are needed to kite ski, so we tend to spend lots of time in windy Arctic weather. But cold weather is only miserable if you are not properly prepared with the right clothing. Layers are worn for more versatility; starting with base layer against your skin to wick away moisture, warm layers are then added, with a wind shell on top. And when it's really cold, we throw on our big down jacket and insulated pants.

It's not easy to find clothing that works well in these harsh climates and that is durable enough to last an expedition. Sadly, most outdoor gear these days is made for riding chairlifts. A couple years ago, we were introduced to Klättermusen, a Swedish outdoor clothing company. Their slogan, "maximum safety for you, minimum impact on nature", sums up the company. Their products are designed for serious use, to last long, with lots of design put into all the small important details from buckles to zipper pulls. But not only do they make quality gear, their environmental initiatives are also impressive.

To start, Klättermusen donates 1% of their sales to environmental projects, and now uses recycled nylon fiber to make packs and bags.

They have also recently started RECOVER, which allows customers to return old products to reclaim a deposit. The old clothing is then used to make new clothes, or, if it's appropriate, repaired and given to charity.

Not to mention they are part of the ECO-Index, which assesses the level of impact a product has on the environment, allowing the customer to compare the eco-footprint of garments, and for the companies themselves to improve.

Impressed? Wait till you see their clothing! To read more, check out their website: www.klattermusen.se

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Saturday, 21 May 2011 09:06

More chocolate please

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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snackbreakMay 21st, Day 64

Distance traveled:
May 20th: 25.29 km
May 21st: 22.1 km

Position: N67°10'21.6 W084°52'50.0

Recently my thoughts have been increasingly gravitating towards food, and why there is so little of it left in my snack bag. Every break, I seem to rummage around in the various plastic bags looking, and if I'm lucky, I'll find bits of chocolate covered nuts, or pieces of licorice. Still, the vast majority of bags seem to be empty, or filled with wrappers.

On long ski days, rationing snacks can be tricky. We eat a Camino chocolate bar a day, so rationing these is simply a matter of will power; other items however, such as the bag of mixed nuts, are harder to mentally divide between five days, four snack breaks a day. Today is day five of our snack rotation, and my snack pack is feeling quite light.

Out in the field, we eat roughly 5000 calories a day and yet some days we still feel hungry. The mornings start with home made granola and powdered milk, along with three cups of hot chocolate. During the day, we eat a variety of nuts, chocolate and dried fruit, and for supper, we have soup followed by a variety of Harvest Foodworks freeze dried dinners.

Eric

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Thursday, 19 May 2011 09:03

Music and the Outdoors

Written by Sarah McNair-Landry
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listeningtomusicMay 19th, Day 62

Distance traveled:
May 18th: 80.3 km
May 19th: 26.8 km

Position: N66°46'19.9 W085°07'45.7

I powered my kite to gain extra speed to climb the hill in front of me. Eric reached the summit first and slowed down to scout a decent route. The opposite slope was covered in medium size rocks, impossible to kite down, so we turned around and headed back down hill. We zig zagged over the rocky and hilly terrain, trying to push east, where we would encounter the traditional route north to our next destination, Igloolik. Unfortunately the terrain kept forcing us south, towards the ocean, down an icy drainage. With low visibility, travel was challenging and we took many falls, but did manage to get within a stone's toss of the trail.

Today, head winds forced us to clip on our skis as we traveled north, listening to music. Eric grooved to Arcade Fire, and I was accompanied by Pearl Jam. Music not only motivates us, but allows us to forget our worries about winds and route, distracts our thoughts from how tired we are, and allows us to enjoy our surroundings.

Sarah

An Outdoor Nation ambassador, Maren Nilsen, shares her thoughts on music and the outdoors:

My unfaltering passion for creativity in performing and exploring have resulted in some of the best experiences I have had. I believe music and the outdoors are deeply rooted in the same soil. Both influence one another in a way that shapes ties connecting nature to human living.

Whereas music may tell stories through measures and notes versus petroglyphs and puffed clouds, the romance and adventure in both brings people together emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. The outdoors and music are the seasonings in life.

So let the imagination take flight to the forests of Norway in Edvard Grieg's …In the Hall of the Mountain King,… experience the sounds at an outdoor concert, and mesh into a black sky sprinkled with bright stars as a lazy strum of a guitar echos around the campfire. You will find that pairing the two will magnify each experience.

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
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