Sunday, June 19, 2005

If you come from a country with an actual winter, imagine the coldest its been when you've been outside for an extended period. I've been outside at lower than -20 degrees C temperatures for a couple of hours or so a few times, although I'm not sure of the coldest I've done this at.

Now imagine doing this for weeks, instead of a couple of hours.

British adventurer Pen Hadow has done this multiple times. On March 14, 2003 he was dropped off on Ward Hunt Island in Canada's High Arctic to begin his third attempt to make a journey to the North Pole on foot, solo and unsupported. Solo: The North Pole: Alone and Unsupported is his chronicle of this amazing adventure. Hadow carried literally everything he needed on his back and in an ice sledge he towed behind him that weighed 275 pounds when he started his journey. The book details both the basic history of artic exploration and Hadow's own history before concentrating on the challenging 10 weeks he spent reaching the Pole and the aftermath of his arrival. The book fortunately includes a lot of colour photographs from Hadow's visits to the Artic, showing things that even the majority of Canadians have never seen and are never likely to see. Even if you have been out in such cold temperatures its hard to imagine being in them for such a long time, with the only respite possible the shelter of a tent that even with the small stove he carried didn't warm up much at the coldest point of the journey. Its also hard to imagine knowing that if something bad happened the only help was hours away by aircraft if the plane could actually take off to reach you, and that the harsh conditions meant that a major screwup or injury could quickly be fatal.

I found this book very entertaining. But I don't think I will be trying to duplicate this kind of adventure. And to top it off, although its not detailed in this book, Hadow would go on before 2003 was out to walk to the South Pole as well. That's more time spent in the cold than most of us will probably spend in a lifetime. At least I hope so!

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