Trip Report section 3

Step down of Irish North Pole Expedition

Our alternative adventure

A diary account of an interesting few days on Baffin Island

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(Irish North Pole 2011)

5 MB15:58 min

Auyuittuq National Park (land that never melts)

Irish Baffin Island Expedition 2011 - Pat Falvey and Dr Clare O Leary

Day 1, March 12th: We left Pangnirtung late in the afternoon and camped 10 km up stream, conditions were good but cold – 35 degrees celcius with little wind,  we made a good pace along Pangnirtung Fjord in good weather, Clare and I were really happy to be on the move in spectacular surrounding in mountainous terrain after our ordeal of been stuck in Resolute Bay for 20 stressful days.

Our disappointment of having to cancel our North Pole trip now in the recess of our mind and our concentration was now completely focused on the expedition ahead.

Day 2 March 13th: The following morning we continued to the start of the National Park  31 km from Pangnirtung which was usually reached in the summer by boat or in the winter by snow mobile we had chosen to ski for some extra exercise  to OverLord where there’s a Wardens hut, an emergency hut and two outhouses are located. This was where the Fjord ended and the land crossing began and the river met the sea.

.baffin_akshayuk-pass_map

Day 3 March 14th: The conditions on our third day got colder and windier as we pushed our way along the wide valley floor following a large river bed for 9 Km to Crater Lake Moraine.

We made our way upstream dragging our heavy North Pole sleds full with extra weight that we had taken for training, making it harder then if we just carried what we needed we had a lot of extra weight as we wanted this also to be a training session.

We struggled uphill like little donkeys with heavy loads through a narrowing on eastern shores to Windy Lake. The weather now deteriorating, the river and lakes system stripped from all snow and eroded down to bare ice and rock from the wind.  Our journey dangerous under foot as we battled against been blown off our feet on the bare ice.

Today one of our highlights was to cross the Arctic Circle on route to the upper reaches of Weasel River.  After passing the Arctic circle north east to another narrowing we climbed up through an icy carved river cascade as we tried to gain grip on the rocky outcrops to gain purchase to pull our sleds upstream through the frozen water.

It was enjoyable as last to be on expedition even though not the one we had intended but we were now traveling in such a spectacular arena of natures beauty that we were elated in our new environment.

We had an enjoyable day of battling high winds, increasingly dropping temperatures and negotiating through icy rivers and lakes.

Day 4 March 15th: Weasel River - Summit Lake: Today we made our way up along Weasel River in high winds and again the ice conditions were severely slippery especially as the ground steepened below summit lake, we encountered a few sections under foot that we encountered running water between the ice and the river below. The Conditions under foot was difficult and made pulling sleds and skiing very difficult as the ice built up on the bottom of our skies and made it at time impossible to walk on them, Ice also caked onto the runners of our sled making our sleds much heavier and more difficult to pull up what was  a treacherous ascent of the icy cascaded river.

It was so frustrating as we had to keep on cleaning the ice build up on our ski’s and sleds which at times accumulated to two inches thick and evem made skiing difficult.

There were also times we crossed sections of the river which where like walking on a trampoline and we feared breaking through into the icy water below which would add an additional problem of getting soaked wet with addition problems of hypothermia.

It was really hard but satisfying day pulling our sleds up through the upper section.  By the time we finished the days outing we were exhausted and really felt we deserved a good night sleep.

Day 5 March 16th Summit Lake – Glacier Lake an epic outing: This was one of our hardest days on the expeditions which turned into one of those epic outings that you just wish you never had, but one that makes an expedition an adventure and adds that bite of excitement that makes for a memorial outing when you look back and tell the story.

As we made our way across Summit and Glacier Lake we were battered with high winds of 70 kmp, freezing cold numbing temperatures of minus 57 degrees Celsius.

So due to the dangers that we faced of cold injury, been blown over and injured and having to pull heavy sled in white out condition we decided to retired early for the day at 15:00 for our safety:

We were forced to pitch our tent in a narrow Col  which made its way from Glacier Lake our high point on our traverse and  in white out conditions Clare and I struggled to pitch our tent in high winds on a down hill slope in amongst a series of  sastrugi ( sharp irregular ridges and grooves formed by the erosion of high wind.) We were unable to find a camping site earlier in the day having been unable to find a protected secure campsite on the lakes due to the high wind, the bare ice and no protection to anchor our tent.

Eventually we had no other choice but to seek shelter from the storm force conditions and had to make do with our precarious campsite which was home for the night.

Immediately once our home was secured we sought shelter from the worsening conditions. We were freezing and relieved to be in out of the wind and our first job was to get the stoves going to warm up the tent.

Relaxed in out of the tempest .: For the next few hours we boiled water to rehydrate, made dinner ate 3000 calories and warmed up our tent to regain our lost energy, before settling down for the night.

Trapped and buried in tent: Hours went buy and eventually we were ready to retire for the night and as usually we would go outside to tighten our guy ropes and to brush the ice from the tent that was caused through condensation before settling down in our sleeping bags.

As Clare went to get out of the tent she opened the tent door and found that we were trapped inside having been engulfed with snow.  While we were rehydrating and eating the spin drift encased our tent nearly right up to the top leaving only a few inches showing overground. Shocked to find this we knew we had to relieve the pressure from our tent or it could collapse in on top of us and cause a huge problem of destroying our home and then we’d have no shelter for the coming days to complete our journey. We knew we faced a  large problem as the storm still howled outside.

Luckily we had brought the shovel in when we erected our tent, otherwise we would have to cut our way through the roof as the snow was hard packed outside encasing us in all directions

This was a really frightening development and we knew we would have to dig our self out, to come up with a solution to ensure that our tent would not collapse.

For 3 hours we battle against high wind and freezing cold to create a snow wall protection all around the sides and back of our tent in a horse shoe shape to divert the wind and snow away and to relieve the pressure we had to create a 3 foot channel around our tent. Eventually after much exhausting effort of digging and building a buffer wall we were able to secure our tent from destruction. It was really back breaking hard work. We couldn’t sleep that night as we had to get out  every few hours to ensure our tent would not be encased again. Our buffer wall did its job and we were able to divert the spindrift from around our tent, however we had a restless night and neither Clare or I slept.

Day 6  March 17th Polar bear fears; As daylight broke the winds dropped and we broke camp to get under way  again,  everything was covered in spindrift, we were exhausted and our plan for the day was to drop off the Col and to descend to the valley below. The skies were blue and our surrounding landscape looked beautiful. It was amazing to feel how the conditions had changed over the 24 hour period.

 

Polar Bear fearsJust as we were leaving camp Clare spotted large polar bear footprints around 14 inches in width signifying a very large male polar bear.

We felt that this bear had passed by us during the night or early morning. The foot prints were fresh as there was no spindrift in them and they were perfectly formed.

Concerned for our safety we continued cautiously  deciding to make our way toward a parks rescue shelter just three kilometers in the valley below to report our finding, we felt very vulnerable knowing that somewhere out there was a huge hungry polar bear and if attacked we had no defense. .

We decided to have an easy day and settled in for the night in the rescue hut in fear of being staked by the bear we also sorted out all our gear dried out our tent and sleeping bags and made plans for a pick up at the end of our traverse which was now only a three day trek away,  45 km down stream.

We really had an enjoyable day taking in all our surroundings and winding down from a pressurized night.

Day 7- March 18th: For the next three days we made our way out to the finish of our trek an Pangnirtung North and had mixed weather conditions, from blizzard with katabatic wind to beautiful blue skies.

It really gave you a feeling that you could not take any hour for granted never mind saying any day. We were on constant alert all the time on this trek, we weren’t to sure if this weather was because we were doing this early in the season and were the first people this season to do the crossing.

For the last two days we had good weather and spectacular scenery as we made our way from June Valley to Owl River seeing massive granite big walls to our pick up destination at North Pang  our finishing point.

Days 10 to 15 : There we were picked up by a local Inuit called Billy for a backbreaking 4 hour snow mobile journey across 85 KM on rough sea ice to Qikiqtarjuaq (The big Island) a small Inuit community of 500 people situated on Broughton Island while here we stayed with Billy’s parents a beautiful old Inuit couple who had 8 children we stayed with them in their home this was an amazing experience.

This journey across the ice in the sled which was pulled by a snow mobile nearly rattled every organ in my body as Clare and I sat in the back of a sled to complete our journey. I was sitting on a bar which by the time I finished wrenched my back which had already been given trouble throughout the expedition, leaving me in severe pain. We returned to Pangnirtung as Delia suggested and delved further in the life of Inuits in the arctic, before returning to Iqaluit where Clare did some Kite skiing with Matty for a few days, I decided to rest my back and to return back to Ireland to recover from an amazing journey that took us to amazing places.

Now that we are home we will reassess our plans for the coming year and start back into training and reflect on our journey north and decide on what’s next.

We had made the most out of our time in Canada where every cloud has a silver lining.

Over the coming weeks Clare and I will decide if we will be returning for another attempt at the North Pole. It is a huge commitment of both time and finance, it entails putting another year of your life on hold. We will have to assess our ability to secure sponsors and finance for the project as this years adventure were funded from our own fund through borrowing which has now been eroded for us to do the North Pole next year. So its back to the drawing board.

We will keep all our supporters update through the web site on our progress and hope that you will follow our new adventures.

For me this is my 68 high adventure into the most beautiful and remote regions of our planet.

You can also see out other blogs on our North Pole 2011 expedition on the news section.

Read and listen to part 1 of Trip Report: Step Down of North Pole trip.

Read and listen to part 2 of Trip Report: Step Down of North Pole trip

Thank you for your support and following our adventures,

Every cloud has a silver lining

 

 

Published in North Pole 2011

Trip Report section 2

Step down of Irish North Pole Expedition 2011

Our alternative adventure to Baffin island

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(Irish North Pole 2011)

2.5 MB7:52 min

Irish Baffin Island Expedition 2011 - Pat Falvey and Dr Clare O Leary

Auyuittuq National Park (land that never melts)

Our decision on what we'd do after we stepped down the North Pole expedition played heavily on our minds. We were torn between a number of different expeditions we could do in the High Arctic on Ellesmere Island but we finally chose a Ski trek on Baffin Island on the North east coast of Canada.

Our adventure took Clare and I on a journey across one of the most beautiful areas of Canada in a place of dynamic landscape, spectacular fjords, craggy mountain tops, sheer granite cliff faces  and glaciers, on the edge of the great Penny Ice Cap, we stayed with an Inuit family, learnt about Inuit life, its history and culture. The short journey tested our resolve and patience with unpredictable arctic weather in a land that never melts.

Come with us now am what has been an amazing traverse of one of the most beautiful regions of the world. On our expedition we were blown away mentally by the beauty of the trek and the ferocity of its weather.  This expedition to Baffin Island from the Cumberland Sound to the Davis Strait was not planned and not in our itinerary, as we could not have guessed that our journey to the North Pole this year would have to be cancelled.   Every cloud has a silver lining and this expedition was just that.

Our journey brought us on a  130 KM back-country ski adventure along majestic fjords, up ice rivers along frozen lakes and rugged mountain landscape with towering spectacular big wall mountains reaching skyward all around us; Ashguard, Thor and many other technical peaks that we had been aware of from mountaineering history.

We were taken by surprise by the conditions that we encountered on our journey, our traverse was not as easy as we had thought. We were dogged by bad weather and felt that for some reason this year the gods were not in our favour. However the challenge made our successful traverse all the sweeter.

We were hammered by freezing cold temperatures going down to - 57 degrees Celsius, high winds gusting up to 70 km per hour. We skied up dangerous icy rivers and across windswept frozen lakes. We were encased in our tent by hard pack snow drift in a blizzard.

We even  experienced the trepidation of seeing large fresh 14 inch polar bear foot prints of a male Pole bear only meters away from our tent, after a restless night of ensuring the flimsy fabric of our tent didn't collapse under the stress of been encased in hard packed snow.

On our journey we met amazing people and learned about Inuit culture from the communities we stayed in. We have learnt a lot about their philosophy of living with the cold Arctic conditions; the local feeling towards a changing world and their feeling of adapting a western way of life - these people who were one time great hunters and survivors of the harsh Arctic.

It may take a few generations to adapt to a new way of life and it is only through education and to Re-appropriate their language and traditions can the Inuit truly hold onto their culture and adapt to modern way of life.

Our adventure to Baffin was an experience that we will never forget. Our expectations were surpassed by the regions beauty, it's people history and culture and it tested our resolve and patience.

Kindness and hospitality: When we were organizing our trip from Resolute Bay on the North West Passage we spoke to the Parks  Manager  Delia Slivola in Pangnirtung, she impressed us with the passion she had shown to us on the phone  about the  Auyuittaq National Park, . She was also passionate about the culture and traditions of the local communities and in particular about the people of  the communities of Pangnirtung and Quikqtarjauq, Her passion is what made our mind up to come and visit this area. It ticked all our requirements.

To have an exciting worthwhile expedition in Canada in the Arctic region that blended our love of adventure and learning about the traditions and culture of local Inuit indigenous people

She also went out of her way to ensure all the stops  where pulled out for us after hearing about our ordeal on our cancelled North Pole trip. We were given as we say in our Irish language, a ”Cead Mile Failte”  “a hundred thousand welcomes”

Pangnirtung the place of many bull caribou" Our expedition began on arrival to Pangnirtung an small Inuit Hamlet of 1300 people situated on the Southern shores of our traverse on the Cumberland Sound.  We were greeted by a local Inuit Park Ranger called Matthew who gave us an ordination talk and briefing about the area, the Park, its wildlife and rescue procedures.

Even though it was on a Saturday afternoon we arrived and the park office was closed Delia however had organized Matthew one of the many native park rangers to go meet us at the airport and help us to get going with our expedition and within two hours of arrival we were on our way. The hospitality that had been afforded to us on our arrival was amazing. We were helped to sort out all our gear, to collect our fuel and driven to the start of our trek from the airport.

Before leaving on trek Matthew warned us about the icy conditions of the crossing and the dangers of high winds and the possibility of coming across Polar  Bears. On hearing this Clare and I were concerned that we couldn’t carry our gun to defend ourselves in the event of an attack. Even thought these are beautiful animals they can be at time lethal killers. I seen one which travelling in Spitsbergen in Northern Norway Kill two seals with two swipes of his massive powerful claws. WE felt a little vulnerable not been able to take our gun.

Also little had we any idea of how windy and cold it could get at this time of the year in the Auyuittuq National Park it was a sting in the tail for us which made our traverse exciting and really made it feel like an expedition. What we have learnt from our experience is that an expedition is about a teams ability  to deal with all eventualities no matter what they are that may occur on your journey and to be properly prepared for them and to survive.

Read and listen to part 1: North Pole Step down

Read and Listen to Part 3 of Our expedition on Baffin Island:

Our Journey was ready to begin which I will describe on Part three of our Trip report if you wish to continue.


Published in North Pole 2011
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 09:25

Weather & Conditions not good

The team are yet again delayed and this time it looks like they may be waiting a while!! Two Weather cylclones pouring in from northern Greenland westerly across cape discovery and northern ellesmere. Pilots will not fly due to high winds. Ice conditions are looking bad with lots of breakup off the coast. Assessing everyday with the excellent weather team and pilots in Resolute. Transcription shortly.

Listen to Podcast:

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(Irish North Pole 2011)

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Sat image of northern canada

Niall Foley

Published in North Pole 2011
Monday, 28 February 2011 13:22

Bad Weather delays teams start

Flight to start of expedition has been postponed due to severe weather on northern Ellesmere island where Clare and Pat are to be dropped off.  This is causing stress to the team on when mother nature will allow an opening for them to land.  The pilots and airport crew are monitoring the situation realizing the time pressure faced on the team to get the the Pole before the 26th April.

Listen to Pod cast below:

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(Irish North Pole)

0.8 MB2:35 min

Podcast transcript

Bad news today. Departure delayed for tomorrow. Disappointed but content. It's Sunday 27th of February. We have brought all out gear to the Borek hanger and met our chief pilot, Rodney Fishbrook and base camp manager on duty, Rick Sinnott, both veterans of arctic flying.

The minute Clare and I spotted their faces, we knew that the news was not good. Rodney relates the bad news to us: “We cannot fly tomorrow. Let's go back to the office and take a look at the satellite weather maps and I'll be able to explain better. I know anxious you are to get going but, as you know, safety comes first.”

At this stage, as you can well imagine, our hearts dropped as we were not sure if this delay would be for 24 hours, two days, or even a week. For an hour, Clare and I pored over the images with Rodney, Rick and Michael in the office. The conclusion given by Rodney was as follows:

Tomorrow, Monday, is definitely out. Tuesday, maybe, but not promising – depends on the high front to the North and if it will blow the low pressure from the East, which is coming from Greenland. If it doesn't, then we'll have to wait and Wednesday is definitely out. We'll have to pray until Thursday, which looks good at the moment.

“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” Rodney related. “But let's see how the weather shapes up tomorrow.” We're disappointed but we see this as just an additional challenge. The time is going to tick tock, making our schedule tighter in order to get an evacuation from the pole by the Russians. Clare now reassesses the logistics of our schedule in relation to changing conditions.

Well, it's back to our base at South Camp for a waiting game for another 24 hours for new forecasts. Disappointed but content that our flight team are indeed doing their best. The lads are absolutely brilliant. To all the team at Borek (Rodney, Steve, Rick and Michael), thanks for doing such a great job. Over and out from Clare and Pat, still stuck in Resolute, Sunday 27th of February. Imminent departure now 1st of March, crossed fingers.

Published in North Pole 2011
Monday, 28 February 2011 13:14

Gear problems last minute

The team are experiencing last minute issues with gear including Clare's boots cracking. Weather reports for the flight north not looking good for tomorrow. Full transcription below:

Podcast:

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(Irish North Pole)

1.1 MB3:32 min

Podcast transcription:

'Today we have had a bad storm, causing concern on equipment. Indeed, we have had last minute panic stations. It's Saturday, 26th of February. Today we have a bad storm as we wait for the sun to rise in the high arctic at Cape Discovery, our starting point. As we wait here in Resolute, blizzard conditions, minus 54 degrees celsius with wind chill, it's bloody well freezing outside.

In a way, getting stuck here now has shown us a silver lining. Ready and impatient to go, everything packed, all last minute problems dealt with – the biggest now have been the two splits along the soles of Clare's boots, four inches from the top. Luckily for us, Clare spotted them before going on the ice. We were absolutely fluked that she had checked. How many of us go around checking our boots or shoes on a daily basis?

Now you may understand the reason for all the checking here in the cold – little gear can stand up to these cold conditions, never mind say the human body. At least for now the problem is temporarily under control. The boots are now a potential ongoing problem that we know we will have to keep our eye on in the coming weeks. It is indeed a pain in the ass. However, that's expedition life.

We had to improvise on a repair job for now. A flurry of phonecalls to Norway, to the manufacturer of the boots, who assured us that they will send a new set of boots, which hopefully will make a re-supply in the next 20 to 40 days from now, if indeed they come at all. We now have no other alternative but to deal with the problem that has occurred.

The pressure, as you can well imagine, is enormous, now praying that this repair job will work and hold. As I have said from my earlier blog, if something is going to go wrong, then it will here in the cold, and better it does here before we leave. The repair job we have done on Clare's boots would have been hard to do on the ice if we had started.

Our good friend Mikele, the Italian, rode in to help us with the shoe problem. Having the mindset of a cobbler, he carried out crucial repairs on Clare's boots. Murphy's Law, of course, is 'if something can go wrong, it will' and we were lucky that Clare, while checking her boots, spotted the damage. We are grateful for Mikele's knowledge on boot repairs. He did a great job.

This matter preoccupied our time and minds for the past 24 hours, as it was serious. We await now the news of clear weather and positive conditions tomorrow. We are playing the waiting game. D Day is getting close. Crossed fingers, two days to countdown.

From Clare and Pat in the remote region of the Arctic in Resolute Bay, on the shores of the North-West Passage in Canada, it's over and out for today. Thank you'

Published in North Pole 2011
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 21:03

RTE1 This Sporting Life 7pm Thursday 17th Feb

Pat Falvey features on RTE1 'This Sporting Life' tomorrow night at 7pm.

The second series of This Sporting Life tells the story of six of Ireland's most eminent sportsmen. It looks at their greatest achievements in sport but also chronicles the all too human stories behind some of Ireland's great sporting headlines. The six talk candidly about their successes and failures in arenas where so much is expected by their fans and the public in general. In telling their own story, each profile gets to the heart of the subject.

This years series has already featured Ken Doherty, Michael Carruth, Éamonn Coghlan, Tony Ward & Seán Boylan. Further details can be found here.

Producer Niall Mathews visited Pat at the mountain lodge in Kerry a few months back to get inside the mountain man to see what makes him tick.  He also liaised with Niall Foley for fine tuning details and coordinating Pats archive material for the production.

For those without RTE1 or abroad, the show will feature on RTE Player in a few weeks, we will post again if we spot there, for now here is the link to RTE player

 

Published in Awards & Appearances
Monday, 07 February 2011 11:42

Severe weather warning in Iqaluit Canada

In Iqaluit, Canada, a severe weather warning means a danger of frost-bite in less than 5 minutes.  These are the extreme conditions that intrepid adventurer Pat Falvey is training in, as he awaits the arrival of Dr Clare O'Leary at their training camp in Apex. He spoke to his Killarney Mountain Lodge base by Satellite phone as the countdown continues to the extraordinary pair's expedition to the North Pole. Here is the audio with text below of same.

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"Well I'm in place now, and for the last few days in Apex, Iqaluit, in the Nunavut region and we have over 8,000 pieces of equipment and food all actually at our B&B.  We've been sorting that for the last week or so.   I was waiting for Clare to arrive with the rest of the equipment yesterday.   She had arrived in Ottawa the day before but she has been 'bumped' because of storm conditions up here.  The temperatures here have been very, very low. Since I've come there have been minus 20 to minus 50 degrees Celsius.  Every day I'm out in the ice, testing our equipment, skis, snow-shoes, and general gear.  It's lonely and I'm looking forward to Clare getting up and training with me.  Yesterday in Iqaluit it was minus 50 degrees Celsius with the wind chill.  I took some great pictures and hopefully we'll post them on the website. Training here, as you can imagine, is very hard as we always have the highest xxx ??? movement in the world;  it widens and falls over 13 metres, creating massive, and I say 'massive' pressure ridges for us to train on, really back-breaking stuff when you're pulling sleds. Next week we'll be testing all of that.

The cultural situation here in Apex  is amazing, where I'm staying.  It was an old Inuit settlement and a lot of the workers who came here were Inuit in the early days of the American Base in Iqaluit which was set up for protection for Americans during the Cold War.   Some of the people that I have spoken to, indeed one who was in her fifties, and who was doing some work with me here in the house... I couldn't believe the fact that she was 10-years of age when she saw her first house! She was born in an igloo and a fascinating woman.  The people around here are absolutely fascinating.  You know, I suppose, it's got very high unemployment  they've lost the ways of the past; the hunter, the gatherer, the trapper - indeed, Martha, the girl that worked with me used to hunt with her father.  Now all of this has stopped.

Well, Clare as I said, was due to land yesterday and join up with me here, but the weather conditions were bad, there was actually a forecast given out by the Canadian Met Office that warned of 'extreme wind chill' minus-50 degrees overnight. This is a warning that extreme wind-chill conditions are imminent or occurring in these regions.  It advised that we monitor weather conditions and listen for update statements on the radio - that's what people are doing.  It says that at these extreme wind-chill values frost-bite on exposed skin can occur in less than five minutes.  Well I'm staying in a bed and breakfast in Iqaluit with a lovely woman originally from Faroe Islands and is very friendly. Well that's it for today, I'm really upbeat.  The testing of the gear is going well, I have a couple of problems with sweating - believe it or not - in minus-50 degrees Celsius, with stopping and it freezing onto my skin.  So, like, it's fairly severe.  Feeling good, looking forward to Clare coming and thinking of all you at home during the elections.  You know, it's an amazing time in my own country, and I'm so sad to be out of it while this is going on.  But anyway, to more pressing stuff, training continues for the North Pole."

Published in North Pole 2011

Latest podcast from Pat see download attached at the bottom or player below. Pat tells us what he has been up to since arriving plus details of whats ahead for coming days. Clare left warm Ireland on Saturday, it was a pleasant 12C. She will join Pat in Canada with temperatures down as low as -32C. BBRRR!!!

Below is Pats 1st audio bulletin from Canada, going forward we will have a transcription in text form also, stay tuned. See updated text  of conversation below.

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Pats report Feb 1st
"Here I am now in Iqaluit, it's the 1st of Feb, very tired, eh, since leaving Ireland 3 days finalising all our purchases in Ottawa, ensuring last minute provisions are now packed, and now moving up to our training camp in Iqaluit, on Baffin Island, in a remote region of the Arctic. I'll be here for over 2 weeks.

Arriving at Ottawa Airport, I had 9 bags of provisions and equipment,  in actual fact I was full to capacity - at the check-in desk, they were inquisitive at the fact of where I was going.  Once they were aware that I was Irish and I was heading for the North Pole all the stops were pulled out!  Absolutely brilliant staff at Air Canada.  Couldn't believe that it went so well, the baggage charge went over $720 dollars - everything in relation to this expedition is expensive, and I'm on my way into the next stage of our expedition.

Heading North, the landscape below was changing dramatically.  It gets whiter and whiter and more barren, as my journey now away from civilisation has begun. Arriving at Iqaluit in the Nunavut region, I was greeted by freezing temperatures.  It was minus 30 degrees Celcius.  A cool temperature compared to what Clare and I are expecting as we actually head to the start of our expedition to the North Pole. For the next three weeks, we'll be finalising our packing and testing all our gear here. I will be staying just outside Iqaluit in a small village called Apex, with Moniva? Simonson B&B.   That's it for today, the first of Feb.  Everything is going according to plan. I'm awaiting Clare and looking forward to her coming out."

Pat - Apex Day 2
"Apex and day 2 in the Nunavut region, just outside Iqaluit.  Lovely day today; looking out I can see right out to sea.  Not too sure how much of it is iced in, pressure ridges all over the place.  Left here about 9 o'clock for a couple of hours training, walking into Iqaluit. Took my skis today - big mistake!  The sea ice was very very shiny, not very much grip on it. On getting down onto one of the pressure ridges I slipped and sprained my wrist from the fall.

Anyway, it's minus 35 still air temperature & minus 45 wind chill.  Good test of gear today. No icing up; I was freezing cold, got some of the bearing systems wrong, but that's the reason why we're here.   It's lonely actually, out on the ice on your own training, and I'm looking forward now to Clare coming in the next few days.  That's it for today, I was packing food until 12 o'clock last night, walked - you know, did about 4 hours training yesterday.  Ok, over and out"

You will also find these and more in our podcast gallery

Published in North Pole 2011

Pat falvey spoke with the today with Pat Kenny show on RTE radio 1 last friday the 28th. He also featured on 98fms news spot with Teena gates. Below is the podcasts of both.

RÓISÍN INGLE visited the the Expedition Office recently to interview Pat for a piece in the Irish Times Saturday Travel Interview on the 29th January. Check it out on the times website here. You will find a PDF copy of the article on the download attachment link at bottom on this page also.

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More podcasts? visit our podcast section

Published in Awards & Appearances
Trip:
Arctic Watch wilderness experience, Nunavut, Canadian High Arctic
Altitude:
Sea level with some small hilltops climbed max. 150m
Route:
Yellowknife - Somerset island - Arctic Watch Lodge
Date:
Early July to Mid August - Book for 2011 - Limited places
Duration:
7 Days from Yellowknife - 5.5 Days Activities
Grade:
Trekking & Tours – Easy to Moderate
Price:
From $7900 + GST 2.5% Land only from Yellowknife

Arctic Watch wilderness lodge is a permanent facility, located 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 50 miles from the nearest town, that offers rustic hotel-like accommodations in a remote Arctic setting. Our guests experience the beauty and wonder of this fabulous place, whilst enjoying the comforts of home with fine cuisine. Somerset Island is of particular interest to naturalists and photographers because it is a world class beluga whale observation site. It is also home to many muskox and polar bears. The terrain offers easy passage to both hikers and sea kayakers. Please check further details in the overview.

Overview

Cunningham Inlet is one of the best spots in the world to observe beluga whales. Arctic Watch was initially built as a whale-watching lodge. Two thousand beluga whales congregate in Cunningham Inlet from approximately early July to August 10th. The majority of the whales group at the mouth of the Cunningham River to molt play and nurse their young. The premier whale watching locations are only a fifteen-minute walk from the lodge. Beluga whale watching can be done at any time.

Hiking and Walking: With mountains to climb and numerous canyons to explore on Somerset Island, hiking and walking are one of the most popular activities. It is an excellent method to approach the local wildlife, view wild flowers and hunt for fossils. Historical Site Viewing: 
Dotted throughout Somerset Island and within the vicinity of Arctic Watch, numerous historical and archeological sites are easily accessible by foot, ATV or kayak. The majority of the sites, being Thule (AD 1000 – 1400) and paleo-eskimo, are well known for their simple stone construction.

Fishing: Inuskshuk lake, located within a two hour ATV drive from Arctic Watch, is a well known place for Arctic Char. Char, “the best tasting fish”, is a member of the trout and salmon family. The fish at Inukshuk lake generally run from 3 to ten pounds. Several other locations are easily accessible from arctic watch where one can fish for char. Creswell Bay, located on the southern tip of Somerset Island, boasts world-class char fishing. On a four-hour time period, several hundred char have been cought and released-All ranging from 15 to 25 pounds.

Birding: For the avid birder at Arctic Watch; special trips are made by foot, sea kayak and ATV. A summer home for many species of marine and land birds, Northern Somerset is home to nearly 50 different species:

  • Loons: Common, Arctic, Red-throated
  • Geese: Snow, Canadian, Brant
  • Ducks: Northern Pintail, Eider
  • Rough legged hawk
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Plovers: Black-bellied, American Golden
  • Sand Pipers
  • Jaegers: Parasitic, Long-tailed, Pomarine
  • Gulls: Herring, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine’s, Ivory
  • Arctic Tern
  • Black Guillemot
  • Snow Owl
  • Snow Bunting

Kayaking: A pleaseant and highly popular choice of excursion amongst guests at Arctic Watch, we offer two different kayak tours. Both are offered with the safest and most reliable equipement; Current Design fiberglass kayaks, Seavivor folding kayaks, paddles, life-jackets and dry suits.

The first tour, starting on the banks of Cunningham Inlet, runs along the bay amongst the ice, seals and beluga whales. A guest can photograph belugas swimming underneath the boats, watch seals bob amongst the ice and view the various marine birds fly past.

The second option, equally popular, is to paddle the lower section of the Cunningham River. The river, crystal clear, snakes through a large canyon. A pair of rough-legged hawks nest along the cliffs, enabling us to get a good view. The canyon, teaming with fossils, bends a magnificent 180 degrees and heads towards Arctic Watch. The river is deemed class 1 and 2, meaning swift water, with no rapids. The easy paddle takes roughly 3 hours.

Rafting: Arctic Watch raft trips are run with two inflatable rafts. The first tour runs through the lower canyon of the Cunningham River. A remarkable canyon, carved through the hillside makes for stunning photos. Muskox are frequently seen grazing along the banks and cliff tops. Again, the tour runs along a swift flowing, safe and rapid free route. This voyage takes approximately three hours.

All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs): At Arctic Watch, we are equipped with 9 ATVs, including several auto shifting vehicles. The Island is home to rolling terrain, and packed gravel-like surfaces. The condtions are ideal for traveling on ATVs. The vehicles are used to reach interesting places to hike, reach birding sites, visit archeological sites, find muskox and explore the vast island.

Grade

Grade is: Trekking – easy  to walk the Arctic plains.
Easy trek at group pace, with many stops to observe arctic mammals and flora.  Day hiking only.

Prices

Land Only  $7900 + GST 2.5% Book Now for 2011 or 2012!!

Please contact us to discuss flights, and additional accomadation required for getting to yellowknife. (Cork, Shannon or Dublin Departures)

Inclusions

  • All transfers
  • Hotel accommodation in Calgary 1 night
  • Hotel accommodation in Yellowknife , 2 nights
  • Private charter from Yellowknife to Somerset Island, Nunavut
  • 7 days at Arctic Watch lodge
  • Chef, meals & all equipment  at Arctic Watch
  • Guides

Exclusion:

  • Fully escorted from/to Ireland
  • Flights from/to Ireland
  • Meals en route
  • Bar Bills & laundry
  • Travel Insurance
  • Bar bills at Arctic Watch

    Optional Extra’s: 

Whale watching trip and hiking in Charlevoix, Quebec - 4 days - € PRICE - Please contact us.

    • - Return flight with a Transit to Quebec or Montreal airport
    • - Shuttle to Charlevoix
    • - Whale watching tour or sea kayaking guided tour with the St. Lawrence whales
    • - Guided trek to Les Hautes Gorges, park entrance fees included
    • - 3 nights Hotel Accommodation Full board

, we only use the best hotels with excellent rooms and food.

    Guides

    Richard Weber and Josée Auclair

    Richard and Josée started arctic tourism with the world’s first commercial North Pole trek in 1993, hiking and kayaking trips on Baffin Island. In 2000, they opened “Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge”, Canada’s most northerly lodge on Somerset Island in Nunavut. Arctic Watch Lodge is Nunavut’s largest and most unique tourism operation.

    Josée and Richard both started skiing at an early age. Richard was competing by age six and a member of Canada's National Cross Country Ski Team by age eighteen. He retired in 1985 with twenty national titles. Richard has a bachelor degree in mechanical engineer from the University of Vermont. Richard has co-authored two books about his adventures. Josée also spent some years competing for Canada on the National ski team. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany from the University of Vermont and a teaching certificate from the University of Quebec. Richard and Josée met while ski racing.


    Richard’s Expedition Highlights
:

    Richard made his first arctic expedition in 1985, his first North Pole journey in 1986. In 2007 he completed his sixth journey to the North Pole, starting from land. He has made more successful treks to the Pole than anyone in history.

    • •    First North Pole trek with no re-supplies; 1986 Steger International Polar expedition
    • •    First surface crossing of the Arctic Ocean from Russia to Canada; 
1988 Polar Bridge Expedition
    • •    First commercial North Pole Trek; 1993 North Pole Dash – last degree
    • •    First and only journey to the North Pole and back with no outside assistance; 
1995 Weber-Malakhov Expedition
    • •    First snowshoe trek to the North Pole; first guided unsupported North Pole trek; 
North Pole classic 2006
    • •    Richard has participated in more than 50 arctic and North Pole expeditions

    Josée’s Expedition Highlights

    Josée made her first arctic expedition in 1988, a first crossing of the Penny Ice Cap on Baffin Island. Her first North Pole experience was in 1999.

    • •    1999 – 2004 Annual treks covering the last degree to the North Pole
    • •    Woman Quest; an all woman trek to the North Pole in 2001
    • South Pole; 2007 an all woman trek covering the last degree to the South Pole

    Food & Water

    Nutritionally Balanced (Vegetarian Food Available)

    Water purified daily for trekkers

    Itinerary

    Here is a sample daily Itinerary, on booking you will be issued a more detailed version. We can also customise the itinerary to your needs if required.

    Day 1: Leave Ireland - Arrive in Calgary Airport in the afternoon- Hotel & rest

    Day 2: Flight to Yellowknife - Cultural tour, country specialty food - Hotel

    Day 3: Early morning private charter to Arctic Watch - 4 hours flight with a stop in Cambridge Bay Inuit airport for refueling, welcoming activities at the Arctic lodge, great meal, evening walk to the whales, and rest.

    Day 4 to Day 10: All different day trips depending of the weather conditions
    -    Sea kayaking with the belugas
    -    Hiking and bird watching in the canyons
    -    Scenic rafting in Cunnigham river and muskoxs observation
    -    ATV to Polar Bear point
    -    Fly fishing at Inukshuk lake
    -    Hiking the Cunningham Bay and

    Day 10: Half day activity of choice, and private charter back to Yellowknife.

    Day 11: Flight back to Ireland - option to transit by Montreal or Quebec for the whale watching option (4 additional days)

    Day 12: Arrive Ireland

    Preparation

    Preparation, Passports / Visa's

    Preparation - A person looking at this trip will already be able to walk/trek comfortably for at least 2 hours. The trip does not require previous experience for the activities involved and is quite relaxed. If you are a total beginner to walking then a 3-6 month training program is recommended and would require notifying us prior to booking this trip. Please discuss this progression with us if you are a total beginner prior to booking this trip. For more info on our Fitness Assessment and day walks, go to our Ireland section.

    Passport - You will need a valid full passport, please ensure it has at least have six months before expiring before we leave.

    Vaccinations and medical precautions: Please ask your doctor about travelling to Canada, they should be able to offer you the most sensible and up-to-date advice. A dental check-up before you go is also most important, as facilities on the trip are non-existent.

    Customs:
    Currency:
    Electricity:

    Gear

    • More details to follow....
    • A light down top or extra fleece.
    • Personal first aid and medicine kit. (All our guides will have these for emergencies only)
    • UV sunglasses – Cat. 2 or 3 recommended.
    • 2 x Earplugs pairs – If you have an inside pocket in sleeping bag, leave one there fulltime.


      Miscellaneous items:

      • Sun-block (very important and use it!!)
      • Backpacking towel and general toiletries.
      • Extra Clothes for traveling and/or socialising.
      • Camera with wide lense and telephoto of 200-600mm, extra memory and battery. Battery depletes faster in the cold.
      • Binoculars
      Published in Arctic
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