This is when our program starts and this is the latest day you can meet up in Longyearbyen. Our team will be there a few days in advance, and we highly recommend arriving before time to familiarize yourself and be rested for the big trip. The reason we have to show up early is that we need to prepare, pack sleds, food and go through the procedures and equipment. We will also do a thorough brief and go through all issues and questions regarding the trip.
If we need to stock up on anything, this is the day. There are great outdoor stores in Longyearbyen with no v.a.t. We finalize packing and preparing for both the team and for our selves.
In the afternoon all our equipment has to be checked in at the airport, weighed and stowed into the airplane.
From the morning we will be on ‘stand-by’. We will only be flying out if the pilots are sure that the weather will not be changing on our way further North. Sometimes these may be some exciting and long hours, where we try to relax in our hotel just waiting.
When the call comes, it’s all hands on deck and off to the airport! After the security check, we enter the Antonov 74 airplane; wait for the very last weather check-up – and off we go!
Two and a half hours later we will have flown over ice, ice and more ice, realizing this even is bigger than ever imagined. The runway comes into sight, then a few coloured spots, some bigger ones appearing to be tents, and we are touching ground – on the ice runway, in a huge plume of snow at Barneo, a floating Arctic Ice Camp situated at 89 degrees latitude.
What happens after arrival at Barneo depends on the weather and the availability of a helicopter. Usually we are greeted with a hot meal and a fascinating tour around the Barneo Base – but our aim is to get going as soon as possible. If all goes well, we fly out to our drop off point only hours after arriving. We need to fly into the starting position, as the Barneo icecamp is drifting with winds and currents and seldom are at 89 degrees sharp.
Packed into a cramped MI8 helicopter, we are flown to our carefully planned drop-off point. Where we start off, is crucial and needs to be well prepared, as we do not want to be struggling against the current and the wind.
As soon as the helicopter leaves, we are surrounded by a roaring silence.
It is stunning, it is wild, and so isolated that you will get goose bumps! This is a moment you will savour for the rest of your life.
We get on our skis headed northwards, or as close to due north as possible. The first day on the ice we familiarize to the challenge and settle into a good routine. We learn, adapt and adjust, in order to make our experience as good as possible.
The following days we ski ever closer to the North Pole. These will be long days, but we can ensure you that up here, time flies. To challenge the ice is like a huge game of chess – and we are up against Mother Earth herself. She is a cunning player and we might be set up by her many challenges along the way. It will be enjoyable, frustrating and rewarding. The evenings in our comfortable tent are social, with good food and chats. After long days of skiing and all these impressions, you will sleep like a baby.
The Geographical North Pole: It is impossible to foresee our exact day of arrival. On average the Last Degree requires seven days – sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. It all depends on ice conditions, weather and drift.
What we do know is that we have always succeeded in reaching our goal. The feeling of realizing you have succeeded and are standing on the northernmost point on top of the world is impossible to describe. It has to be shared and savoured – and we will.
As you will appreciate, it is difficult to predict exactly which day this will be, but usually we camp out on the North Pole itself to await the arrival of our helicopter. It may be half a day, perhaps two days, all depending on our timing before schedule or not.
When the helicopter arrives, we return to the Barneo Base to continue our celebration inside the comfort of heated tents. This is when you will be awarded the North Pole Diploma. Depending on our schedule we, might board a plane back to Longyearbyen the same day.
Being back is like landing in the tropics. Life feels good. First we get all equipment out to get dry, then we waste no time in heading for the shower of our life. Again clean and refreshed, we hit the best restaurant in Longyearbyen for a bit of a celebration dinner – depending on what time we land, of course.
We do the last bit of personal packing and organizing, before our focus changes to the homeward journey. Family and friends will have followed your challenges and daily adventure on our expedition blog – but they will surely be eager to hear your own stories, and to see your photos and videos.
Takk for turen – Safe journey home!