Posts Tagged ‘Northpole’

Update from Finse.

12/03/2010

It’s day six here in Finse, Norway, where we have been learning to harness the wind using various forms of kite in order to pull ourselves and our pulks across the snowy, windswept landscape. Well…..at least that’s the idea! There have been a lot of comedy crashes but we are pleased with our progress.

We’ve been a given a (sometimes literally) crash course in parasailing and kite-skiing by Ronny Finsaas, local kite-skiing legend and holder of most polar kiting records that exist. His phlegmatic approach to teaching has been much appreciated by the team; when Paddy’s first attempt to launch a kite resulted in a face plant Ronny just grinned, “well I guess it is a crash course”.

Mike and Si kiting across the lake

Acres of space for the occasional wipeout

Parasails are basically kites with short lines that are controlled via a bar held vertically. They are useful in high winds (and also for going off jumps!) due to their ease of control and the fact that its pretty easy to quickly de-power them in case things get out of control – quite a common occurance for the team!

I won’t insult the reader’s intelligence by describing what a kite is! However, what we are using is slightly different to your average kite. For propulsion in lower wind conditions (below around 40 kph) we are using foil snow kites made by Ozone in various sizes; controlled by handle and bar control systems. The kites range from beginner versions which are fairly easy to handle and stable to more advanced versions which react quickly (sometimes unpredictably) and develop a huge amount of power for their size. The most advanced version we are using is called the Yakuza GT. Being Ronny’s favourite kite he had us trying it on day 2. To a man we were pretty much controlled by it, rather than vice versa, and as such ended up being rescued by Ronny from the downwind end of the lake.

As a result, the team has developed a healthy respect for the Yakuza GT, in addition to a desire to “master” it. The latter is especially necessary as it will be the principal kite we intend to use in Greenland and Antartica, mainly due to its exceptional power / weight ratio. During a session yesterday with this kite I was practicing with this kite and made the mistake of not de-powering it enough before initiating a turn. As a result the 5.5m2 kite picked me up around 10ft in the air and deposited me in the snow amongst a pretty much unresolvable mess of skis, skis boots, kites lines, handles and the kite itself. And this was in a fairly moderate wind!

Despite the hiccups we are pleased with progress here and feel we have kept up with the steep learning curve. We have learnt to control parasails of various constructions and sizes in addition to many handle-controlled and bar-controlled kites. We have also completed two day trips downwind, during the longest of which we covered 60km in a variety of terrain and wind conditions.

Lastly on this post, I’d like to offer a big thanks to Ronnie Finsaas, who not only has taught us to kite but has also given us a huge amount of indispensable advice on kite travel in Greenland and Antartica. Thanks a lot Ronnie!

Simon, Finse

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Keeping the mind alive

20/02/2010

For my first post on the PolarIce blog I was going to write about my particular role within the team as Training manager, and how I was going to structure the programme, what parts of the body we’d need to focus on, what type and standard of fitness blah blah.  But to be honest, I’m still writing the training programme, and although some of us are a little more insulated than we really need to be this far ahead of getting to Antarctica, we’re still pretty fit on the whole.

Simon, marching across the Arctic wastelands

This is far more colourful than I remember it

Anyway, I’ll come to the training and the issues it throws up some other time.  For now, I’m trying to find solutions to the bigger issue we had on our last exped.  Mike, Simon and I discovered very quickly on the Sony Polar Challenge 2006 that there is a far bigger threat to success than fitness.  Boredom.  There is nothing quite like a vast sea of white, no visible scenery, and placing one foot after the other for 12 hours a day to inspire deathly boredom in a man.  It’s worse than the normal kind of boredom.  The normal kind of boredom is when one has little to do, so the more creative of us tend to find things to do and get in trouble for it, which at least relieves the boredom.  It’s not possible to relieve this kind.  One can’t do anything other than keep putting one foot in front of the other, second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour.  In the Arctic, Mike was so bored he became convinced that while I was navigating, I was forcing him to climb every single hill we came across.  Simon was making it snow.  Mike was furious with us both.

So, we’re taking two approaches to alleviating the monotony of polar travel.  One: we swore after Polar Challenge that we would never again walk on snow; so we’re kite-skiing.  Having just taken delivery of two trial kites from Ozone, a 9m Frenzy FYX and a 10m Manta M3, I can testify to the fact that these are pretty damn fun to fly even when one is static, never mind when one is skiing fast over sastrugi-strewn Antarctic wastelands.  Having said that, there was nothing static about me yesterday.  Even with a pathetic 10mph wind other walkers on the beach at Branscombe were dodging the pebbles from the wake made by my boots as I powered down the beach howling like a banshee with a maniacal grin (at least that’s how I remember it).  Anyway, the point is that kites are inherently exhilarating, especially the massive beauties that we’re going to be racing under down South.

However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and if it really does take us the whole 3 months that we’ve got available to us, even the buzz of snow-kiting may begin to pale.  So I’m looking into tech solutions.  Back in 2006, we had mini mp3 players that ran off a single AAA battery, and stored about 20 CDs worth of music.  They were great, and saved what was left of Mike’s mind many times over.  But by the end I was starting to find Nickelback, ‘Far away’ a little tedious.  That was only two weeks.  We’re going to need quite a bit more for three months.  Thankfully technology has advanced and ipods and equivalent these days have a few more than the 10MB I think our little players did back in 2006.  What to play on them is still an issue though; I could probably play my entire music collection 5 times over throughout the duration of our journey, and I don’t even like 60% of it.  We did have a bit of a brain-wave a while back though – Audiobooks.  I reckon that if we get the playlist right, by the time we get back, I can be semi-well educated.  But we could do with your help.  We’d be hugely grateful if you could suggest some great books for us that we can get hold of as audiobooks, entertaining over interesting please, and they better be great!  I’m not going to be pleased if I have to listen to drivel for 3 months!

tica, we are all pretty fit to start with.