by John Huston
Tyler and I have now been away from home for a week. It has been a busy week with a lot of packing and unpacking. Living out of duffel bags and moving from place to place is a constant in an expeditioner's life. While on the ice we pack and unpack our bags everyday. As we have traveled all over the place the last year, this packing and unpacking is a ritual of the road warrior and road weary.
Right now, Tyler and I feel like a bit of both, road warrior and road weary.
On Thursday, we and our 16 pieces of checked baggage landed happily in Iqaluit (pronounced E-cal-you-it). Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut, Canada's Inuit Province. After an emotional and stressful week of departures and a few days of shopping, we are pleased to be in Iqaluit for two weeks of training, relaxing and getting everything ready for the ice.
Tyler and I trained in Iqaluit last March and this year marks my third straight year that I have been here. We have several friends here, know the town and the lay of the land. This familiarity is comforting and makes for efficient preparations. We are staying with our friend, mentor and polar veteran Matty McNair. We also reunited with our good friend Meeka Mike, a fun loving 4'9” Inuit woman, who is currently heading up a fascinating project that documents Inuit traditions and experience with climate change.
Matty's house is the perfect place to prepare for a polar journey. The 5 bedroom house is located on the Frobisher Bay beach, just a hundred yards from the hummocky sea ice. We spend most of our time in the small workshop assembling and making small modifications to our equipment. This workshop has everything one could want to work on polar equipment in preparation for a long ski expedition. While working in the shop, it is fun to dream of all the expeditions that have used the same workbench.
Matty is an extraordinarily welcoming host, who loves chatting about polar dreams and gear preferences till the wee hours of the night. Like Tyler and I she has her roots in Outward Bound. Last year she hired me to guide a two month expedition to the South Pole. Tyler and I will definitely leave here with full bellies and plenty good memories of small dinner parties around her table (a staple in the McNair house).
Tyler and I have truly believe that in many ways 'the preparation is the expedition.' Throughout the past few years we've gone out of our way to humbly learn from some of the most experienced polar travelers on the planet. By working with and talking with these people and from our own testing, we've synthesized a lot of information and ideas into our own expedition model.
Today the expedition feels more tangible than ever before. Over the past week our lives have simplified greatly. Now it is only Tyler and I and our expedition supplies. We deliberately left home well ahead of the expedition start date so that we could prepare calmly and with room for adjustments. By this time next week we hope to have packed 530 pounds of our food and equipment.
The closest weather station to our staring point is reporting -40°F (we'll be quite happy if it is that warm on March 1). We hit the ice in two weeks!