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30 March 2010

March - Journey To The Unknown

On 14th March I returned home safely (Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland) after a 33-day, 400-mile solo journey with 12 of my dogs to an area marked unknown or unexplored on the maps of Greenland. Press Release.

The journey cold was terrifying. Staying alive meant layering Rab's Vapour-rise and their down clothing together with gloves and mittens from Outdoor Designs. A new favourite came in the shape of Rab's lightweight one-piece Expedition Windsuit. Packing my sled always means using Rab Expedition Kitbags, they're all but bombproof.

All food and fuel re-supply depots were deployed last summer and remained intact. My dogs are always fed Nutrience from Hagen. They went out and returned healthy and very fit. My own food was prepared using an Excalibur dehydrator from UK Juicers. I adore this machine. Picture left is Loads one of my four leaders. I ran two lead dogs up front all the time. Loads was the only one who stayed up front for the entire journey. He is the dog god.

I carried an ACR personal location beacon because I never trust satellite phones, reception remains dreadful and worst of all I’ve seen them fail too often. Energizer Ultimate Lithiums powered, without fault, essential devices like my Petzl headtorch. CIBA Vision contact lenses corrected my vision to perfection and kept my peepers healthy. Throughout the journey I used top-notch trace rope from Snowpaw.

My Multimats meant I slept warm and well. Gerber tools meant I always had something sharp when I needed it. Tubbs snowshoes enabled me to break trail in front of my dogs. Without snowshoes I’d have been wading through snow chest deep. Not fun. Previously I'd kept some Clamcleat tent guy adjuster samples outside for an entire Arctic year. Subsequent research tests proved their resilience wasn’t altered. My journey tent adjusters proved to be just as reliable. On journeys I am never without water. Primus1-litre steel flasks filled with boiling water remained hot even throughout brutal cold. My daytime temperatures fell to minus 50ÂșC and my spit crackled before freezing solid. The flasks never winced. Incredible.

I love Think Tank camera and video cases. Their materials are tough and design makes for fast easy handling in the cold. There's little point me doing what I do unless I can communicate and share. The speed at which this can be done with my Panasonic Toughbook and Lumix camera, I think, is incredible. For cuts and scrapes Bag Balm is a wonderful healer for both my dogs and me.

My dogs know they pulled off a great trip. Most of the 12 were in or approaching their prime during this journey. Skill, expertise, advice, inspiration, effort, wisdom, and attention to detail also came from relationships I never take for granted and include:

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Joe Fragapane, Dave Birkitt, Geoff Somers, Nikki Skinner, Neil McAdie, Helen Robinson and Matt Gowar, Jane Hinton and Tom Gibson, Alison, Pam and Nick Payne, Carl Wolter, Tony and Yvonne Oakley and John Kirbyshire, Jonny Pegg, Debbie Evans, Tim Holden, Ralph White and Andi Hayman, Susan Strible and Greg Freyberg, Sammy Laurence, Andy Hawkyard, Brian Irwin, Paul Hellawell and Nick Ledger, Serge Trembley, Will Steger, Mark Karn and Maddy Edwards, Anne Dewe, Diane and Eric Smith, Adrian Stammers and Kathryn Evans, Isobel Davies, Chris Brannan, Dale Emery, David Grapentin, Ann Rosenthal, Kevin Thompson, Dawne Warren and Anne Jardine, Patricia Jameson, Tom Whitworth and David Hamill, Martyn Hurn and Roger Chaldecott, Ben Lyon, Paul Cornthwaite, Frank Bennett, Michelle Airey and Rinaldo Colombi, Terry Timlin, Tim Daniels, John Hancock, Dennis London, Chris Wahler and Katie Herod and my parents.

At home in Ittoqqortoormiit my thanks goes to many including: Jennifer, Boas, Olle, Jan, Martin, Tore, Lea, Erling and Evald. There are also a few who would not thank me for mentioning their names so I won't.

To each and every one of you, my dogs and I thank you all.

This picture is looking into an area marked on maps as unknown or unexplored. What I saw and felt will never leave me and one day I plan to write and share more about the experience.