After a year in the making, Helen Shaw and here team at Athena Media handed over their latest film series to Setanta Sports Ireland in December 2010. This three part series, which was funded by the BAI, was shot over the last 15 months here in Kerry, Cork and Dublin. Helen weaves a compelling story of Pats personal endeavour and sacrifice through the years from childhood to the present day, with contributions from his family, friends and mountaineering colleagues. The story is full of archive footage from Pats many exciting expeditions & features amazing photos from the Pat Falvey collection.
Speaking to Pat via Satelite phone about the project, he had this to say:
'Its been an amazing journey for me personally making this documentary and also my team for filming and preparing the archive footage from my earlier life, sifting through the tens of thousands of images which I have in my collection. Even just talking to some of my old colleagues and friends has bought back so many memories to the forefront of my mind. I would like to take this oppurtunity to thank those involved including all contributors, my family, my friends and my own team in helping me on this film. A very special thanks has to go to Helen Shaw and her team who have created a great biography documentary, well done, its been a fantastic journey working with Athena Media. Even though I am in a very remote location in Canada at present, we have arranged a location to see Setanta on Sunday. Its funny as already many locals here want to see it also!!'
3 x 24min – documentary series is an Athena Media production for Setanta Sports funded through the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Sound and Vision funding scheme. The series is due to air on 6th February 2011. It will begin with episode one on 6th February, followed by episode two on 7th February and episode three on 8th February. All episodes will be broadcasted at 10pm on Setanta Sports.
‘Some people say I’m a self publicist, some people say that I can be very arrogant, immediately I think of something, I say it. I’m going to climb Mount Everest, I’m going to become a millionaire. I’m going to be the best motivational speaker in the world. People think, how can he actually say that?. There’s no harm in dreaming and dreaming big,’ Pat Falvey.
Pat Falvey’s life story is the stuff of fiction. The teenage boy who left school at fifteen determined to be a millionaire and built a multi-million property business by his twenties. The serial entrepreneur who lost everything by twenty-nine and nearly took his own life in despair. But a chance encounter took him hill-walking and his first venture to Kerry’s Carrauntoohil made him vow to climb Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. By thirty-four he stood on Everest and soon became one of Ireland’s most celebrated, and controversial adventurers. He has been to Everest four times, reached the summit from both its north and south face and is the only man in the world to have climbed the highest peaks in every continent twice. He has trekked to the South Pole and now planned one last great adventure, this time to the North Pole.
This documentary and biographical series takes us into the psychology of Pat Falvey and finds out what drives him to follow dreams bigger and bolder than anyone else. Production Company, Athena Media, with producer/director Helen Shaw, filmed Pat across a year and interviewed those close to him throughout his life, both in Cork City where he was born and reared and in Beaufort, Co Kerry where he now lives and works at the foothills of McGillycuddy Reeks.
Pat’s journey starts in north Cork where he was born the eldest son of Tim and Abina Falvey. His father Tim was a bricklayer and Pat followed his father’s trade but says his maternal grandmother, Mary B. O’Callaghan, a street trader, was a central influence on shaping him and his life. His grandmother encouraged him to think big and had him running little businesses when he was still a small boy. Her sense of confidence and will-power is what fuelled him to be a millionaire. His property business was worth in excess of €70 million in today’s value but the recession in the mid 1980s hit him hard and his empire began to crumble. By 29 he was broke, bankrupt and he even thought of killing himself. His own marriage suffered. But when a friend took him to the mountains he began to see life anew and mountains became his obsession. It was an obsession which eventually brought him to Mount Everest and to the honour of being the second Irishman to stand on the summit.
This series tracks Pat Falvey’s life and tells his story. We hear from friends like Con Moriarty and Mick Murphy who have known Pat from the early days in Co Kerry when he joined Kerry Mountain rescue to mountaineers like Dawson Stelfox, the Belfast architect who became the first Irishman to summit Everest in May 1993. We hear from his family from his sisters Majella and Abina and his brother Barry Falvey. His son, Patrick Falvey, shares insights along with those who have journeyed with Falvey through many expeditions including Dr Clare O’Leary. Clare went to Mount Everest with Pat in 2003 and 2004 and her successful summit in 2004 made her the first Irishwoman to climb Everest and since then she has trekked with Pat to the South Pole and now joins him on what he describes as his last great adventure – the North Pole. Pat’s ambition has been to journey to the highest and most extremes points on earth, from Everest to the South and North Pole and this final expedition, in Spring 2011, will complete what he calls the ‘three Poles’.
Pat Falvey: My Private Everest is a series which promises dramatic footage as well as unique revelations including how Pat Falvey’s determination to bring the tricolour to the summit of Everest provoked debate and even animosity with some accusing him of detracting from Dawson Stelfox’s own summit. Pat’s philosophy ‘that everyone has their own private Everest’ has brought him into motivational leadership and mentoring and he now makes a living from motivational speaking both in Ireland and abroad. Contact Athena Media -01 4885851 for more details including press photographs or stills from the documentary series.
Athena Media would like to thank everyone who helped us and supported us during the production particularly the Falvey family, Niall Foley and all the crew who have worked on it in Athena Media particularly Anita Walsh, Paula Cunniffe and Niall Brew. Our cameraman Barry MacNeill has been with us throughout the shoot and we have had excellent support from Lotus Media in post production. John E. Turner did the offline edit while Scott Smith was online and Simon Flanagan did the audio mix. A special thank you to Ella McSweeney who did the voice-over on the series and to the wonderful folk in Seneca, the band who produced instrumental tracks for the documentary mix and who have been great supporters of the project.
At a recent function held in Dublin, Pat Falvey and team mates Dr Clare O Leary, Mike Murphy as well as Basil Geoghegan were made Ambassadors of Goodwill to Nepal by H.E. the Ambassador of Nepal to the UK & Ireland Dr. Suresh Chandra Chalise.
The honor had been bestowed on them by the Nepalese Government through the Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mr. Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma.
The honour of awarding them “Ambassador Of Goodwill” has been recognized by the government for their work as luminaries in the development, promotion and marketing of tourism to Nepal and in appreciation for the promotion of positive feelings about Nepal’s natural and cultural treasures and of promoting Nepal’s image throughout the world.
Pat Falvey as one of the keynote speakers reflected on his love of Nepal, it’s people, culture and traditions, and how that anyone who visited this amazing country will be for ever affected by their experience which would have them return again and again to the land where the mountain reach for the Sky. He also reflected on his four Mount Everest experiences and gave a gripping account of what if feels like and means to climb to the highest point on planet earth.
Also in attendence was the newly elected Dublin City Lord Mayor Andrew Montague. The other distinguished guests where Joanna Tuffy TD, Fingal County Council Mayor Mr.Gerry McGuire, H.E. the Ambassador of India to Ireland Mr.P.S.Raghavan, Cllr. Emer Costello and Cllr. Eamon Tuffy.
Dr. Suresh Chandra Chalise Ambassador of Nepal gave the key note speech. He spoke about Nepal as one of the exotic tourist destinations in the world that incorporates rich cultural heritage, Himalayas, paradise adventure and wildlife safari.
H.E. Dr. Suresh Chandra Chalise honored the Mt. Everest Summiteers by presenting them with a certificate of "Good will Ambassador" on behalf of the Government of Nepal.
Mr. Ganga Ram Kandel, the General Secretary of NIS welcomed the guests and Mr. Deepesh Man Shakya, President of NIS delivered a vote of thanks to all the participants of the event.Ms. Emma Lynch hosted the ceremony while Mr. Prashant Kunwar presented "Sights and Sounds of Nepal", a video clip that captures different aspects of Nepal Tourism.
The award was one of its kind and the first ever organized by the Embassy of Nepal and Nepalese diaspora in Ireland. The guests were served with a delicious Nepalese dinner after the presentations.
A diary account of an interesting few days on Baffin Island
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20110414_tripreportnorthpolepart3 (Irish North Pole 2011)
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.
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 fears: Just 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,
20110413_TripreportNorthPolepart2 (Irish North Pole 2011)
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.
Below is the first of three parts on step down of Irish North Pole Expedition.
Read through the ups and downs for the team during February and March when the challenging weather required the team to abort their North Pole bid after waiting for 10 days to fly out to the ice from Resolute. A tough decision certainly but with another 4-5 wait before they could fly it was too much gone out of their reserve days to contend with. Four teams out of four pulled out of North Pole attempts this year. Following their decision the team went on to complete the first Irish ski/trek of the remote Akshayuk pass, traversing a peninsula of Baffin Island. Here is the 1st of three reports.
Report compiled by Dr Clare O'Leary and Pat Falvey. Further Images from the expedition to follow.
Listen to Podcast Part 1 - Step Down North Pole 2011 - by Pat Falvey
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20110412_tripreportnorthpolepart1 (Irish North Pole 2011)
North Pole step down 2011 Trip Report Part 1. Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
It's hard to put into words how frustrated and devastated Clare and I were to step down our 2011 Irish North Pole expedition. It was hard to credit that this year due to unprecedented bad weather in the Arctic; we would not even get to the starting point. Never in my 68 high-expedition adventures have I ever encountered conditions like this before. Mother Nature had dealt us a cruel blow because of climate change and global warming throughout the world; it caused a devastating effect on the arctic weather patterns and ice movement for 2011 season, causing more then a million extra hectares of ice in the Arctic sea to evaporate and cause unpredictable bad weather in the region which blocked us from starting.
Disappointed but Acceptant : 3 years of serious commitment in planning, training, learning and preparing ourselves for our North Pole challenge of walking, skiing and swimming from the land mass on the northern shores of Canada - all ‘down the tube’ without even the chance to give it an attempt.
Pinned Down: We were pinned down by unrelenting bad weather for 20 days stuck in our transit base camp on Resolute Bay, a small barren remote Inuit community of only two hundred people situated on the North Eastern shores of the North West Passage. Frustrated, we waited and waited in windy sub zero conditions for a break in the weather to afford us an opportunity to board our privately chartered plane that sat on the apron of a wind swept runway of the airport that serves the region, to fly us to our final destination at Cape Discovery to the start of our challenge.
The Waiting Game: Day after day in our holding position we had to re-assess our diminishing time-window which we had estimated for reaching the North Pole. Discussions and meetings were held on a daily basis with our pilots, base manager Rick from our aircraft charter company "Borek" and the Canadian High Arctic Metrological Department until finally we were forced to concede that successfully reaching the North Pole for 2011 would be impossible for us. Mother Nature had played us a devastating blow as unprecedented bad weather eroded our time to succeed.
The Plan: We had put huge thought and research into the planning and preparation of this expedition. We had looked at all successful and failed attempts throughout the history of North Pole expeditions and we realistically estimated our ability based on our polar experience and concluded what was both the maximum and minimum period of days that we required to successfully achieve our objective.
Our Weather Window: We had given ourselves a maximum of 60 days to complete our challenge from Cape Discovery; with an estimate of 55 days as a reasonably realistic time for us to reach the North Pole from Cape Discovery. Anything under this would be a risky and increase our chances of failure.
We set out milestones and targets for our plan, and we knew that to deviate from them raised the risk of failure. We were willing to take calculated risks to succeed but not foolhardy risks that would guarantee failure. We also had to watch that we would not ‘let our heart rule our head’ over factual information; a prudent business strategy I had learnt from my business background.
Adventure Grand Slam: If successful, this expedition for Clare and I would be the ‘grand slam’ of adventure. To climb all the highest points on each of the seven continents including trekking to the South and North Pole. We had completed all but the latter. The pressure personally and emotionally on both of us was enormous.
For me it would be a personal satisfaction to exit extreme adventure at 54 years of age and to continue into less extreme expeditions after what has been an amazing series of adventures over 25 years travelling around the world.
We knew that no matter how confident or prepared in doing this, that we would always have to deal with the unknown elephant of polar travel, Mother Nature. We were confident of our ability to succeed but not complacent. We knew there were circumstances and events that were not in our control to predict or influence.
The Russian Time Bomb: To reach the pole we were confined to a window of time that was crucial to achieve; the date of the 26th of April etched on our expedition calendar. Like a primed time-bomb the clock was ticking to reach our target, we would have to be there before 09:00 am 26th February. If we delayed in getting there, a severe penalty for evacuation from the Canadian side could cost up to $120,000 extra and we would still have to arrive at the pole no later then the 30th of April, just three days later.
The decision for us to step this down was one of the hardest Clare and I have made in our expedition careers, but by that stage, the facts put before us guaranteed failure.
As you can imagine having put so much effort into this expedition we didn't want to go home and Clare and I switched our attention from the North Pole and continued on to do another expedition to cross a section of Baffin Island.
Trip Report: I will conclude by finalising this year’s expeditions with the following trip report.
After years of planning, training and research throughout the world, our journey to Canada for the 2011 Irish North Pole expedition truly began in the final days of January 2011.
General Diary of North Pole section: On the 29th of January we arrived into the harsh environment of our base camp acclimatisation Arctic location in Iqaluit for our three weeks’ preparation to do a mini expedition on Frobisher bay to test all our gear and to do final packing of food and equipment for the pole challenge also it would give us a chance to find out more about the Inuit and the attempted dismantlement and destruction of their culture by what was then a colonizing force; how the Canadians used the Inuit to stake land claims in remote and desolate regions of the Arctic to protect mineral rights. Another important element of learning on all our expeditions.
Iqaluit is the Inuit capital of the Nunavut region a new territory formed in 1999 and given it own autonomy under the lands act ...see information on (Nunavut/ Iqaluit).
While in Iqaluit we trained with local polar adventurer Matty McNaire for a few days to hone our polar skills, and to listen and learn from a master of Arctic survival. It was an amazing opportunity for fine tuning both our technique and logistics from one of the top arctic polar adventures in the world.
As late comers to polar disciplines and our quest to be self sufficient on all our expeditions, we have had the fortune to train and learn from some of the best polar people in the world. Borge Osland and Rolf Bae from Norway, Richard Webber and Matty McMaire from Canada aslo Victor Boyarsky, Russian. All are passionate, all have different takes on gear and equipment, but all are in agreement that the Arctic is the harshest environment in the world. Their accumulative advise would not go astray on Clare and I.
Iqaluit had given us what we needed, temperatures averaging -35 degrees Celsius, the time to train and to sort all our gear and food.
The three weeks went fast and we moved forward to the next leg of the expedition on the 21st of February excited and confident that we were ready to pull off our journey to the pole, not realising what lay ahead.
We moved to our next location in Resolute Bay which is situated on the northern banks of the North west Passage. Here we would do further training for a few days as we waited for conditions to land at our starting point at Cape Discovery at the top of Canada and the start of our trek.
Weather Frustration: Our departure date of the 25th of February was put back due to a late coming of the sun rising at our landing point at Cape Discovery by three days. The pilots needed at least one hour of sunlight to determine contrast between the grey sky and snow/ice covered Fjord. The sun in the Arctic was playing games with our departure. We had agreed to push out our date for departure back by 3 days to the 28th February to allow a safety margin for pilots.
Weather Bad: We were all packed and ready to go on the 28th and were stepped down just 12 hours before departure. The weather had worsened due to high wind and cloud cover at Cape Discovery which was shown in an updated Satellite forecast. The new forecast did not look good and we knew that we would at least have to wait another few days. The Arctic weather was flexing its muscle. Still Clare and I did not have too much of concern and it looked like a high pressure zone was winning out, to the low pressure at our starting point, it really looked promising so we sat out a further 2 days still thinking all would be ok, but our safety risk margin was being eroded down to 55 days and the clock was ticking.
Once again on the 2nd of March we received a call from Rick, base manager for Borek to sadly tell us the low pressure coming in from the north west had won out over the high pressure from the south east and that the weather didn't look good for at least another three days.
Now alarm bells were ringing for us, this new set back was at least pushing us back to the 5th March and down to our minimum risk threshold of just 52 days beyond our comfort zone; but our feeling was that the mission was still achievable. If all went well we would have a race to the pole to get there on time and we were willing to take the risk. We knew any further erosion due to weather would mean a whole new plan.
The pressure over the following days was enormous as we waited every day and checked the forecast. We went to see a professional forecaster that was based at the weather station at Resolute and he felt that the whole winter season had been the worst since records began and that our chances of success were slim, due the huge loss of ice in the Arctic.
As the days rolled by we didn't see any improvement on the satellite pictures and prepared ourselves for the worst, to be stepped down once more. We were even trying to ignore the fact that we now needed to make a serious decision. We needed further clarity on what was now becoming a huge worry. We contacted Matty McNaire down in Iqaluit for her take on what was happening and sought independent experienced advice. In a returned email she spelt out the facts, which brought us back to reality. We were still choosing to push the dates back and were leaving our hearts rule our head, we didn’t want to give the expedition up, even if were stepped down again.
Matty’s email refocused us on our plan. Matty in turn contacted a friend that was an expert on Arctic Polar weather and on receiving this latest input, it made our decision very easy. The forecast showed that improvements would not occur until at least the 10th March.
Shocked by this prediction we sat down and re-calculated all our logistics and if the forecast was right we were now guaranteed to fail. For many hours we mulled over the forecast, we contacted the other two teams that had intended to go this year and presented them with the facts on the new forecast. All agreed if this was the case none of us would reach the pole in time. Facing the facts a decision had to be made and we we even approached Borek to know if they would extend their time in coming in to collect us from the pole for a week or two. The answer was no, the dangers of losing a plane were too great for them. In 2010 they had attempted an evacuation on the 4th of May and lost a Twin Otter plane to the icy sea, so therefore they would not take the risk to collect us later then the 30th of April.
The Death Knell: All adventurers know that you cannot pit yourself against the power of nature; we have learnt from the experience of the Inuit, the hunters and people of the high Arctic, you blend with nature and change your plans with natures’ changing moods. This year sadly we accepted that the nature of the weather in the Arctic had closed it's doors to our polar challenge and all teams stepped down the challenge on the North Pole from Canada.
A New Focus: Once we accepted this and made the decision we moved on and planned to make the most of our time in the Arctic. A new expedition unfolded that allowed us to mix our interest in Inuit culture and traditions, our love of mountains and our need to complete an Arctic Polar expedition before returning to Ireland.
If you wish to continue to see what happen on our new Adventure on Baffin please continue to our trip report 2 and 3 on our news items shortly.
After a few weeks of training and exploring in the Arctic region, Pat returns looking forward to catching up with family and friends with many tales to tell of what no doubt was a trying yet amazing experience for himself and Clare. Clare is due to return to Ireland in the coming days and we look forward to hearing of her safe return home.
Reports of their adventures in the Arctic will follow in the coming days
Pat was in contact late Sat 19th March- He and Clare have had an amazing week crossing exploratory routes on Baffin Island and will get in touch with details as soon they get settled and decide on their next move. Reception was poor over the last week so the call had been much anticipated by family and friends who are now delighted to hear that both are fit and healthy and looking forward to coming home soon..
Corks 96FM's PJ (the Opinion Line) interviews Pat from Resolute on the reasons behind the Irish North Pole's Teams decision to abort their expedition, the effects Global Warming is having on the North Pole and how that may affect their future plans if they were to return to the Pole for another attempt. The interview can be heard on the following Podcast
'North Pole ski update: Ben Saunders heading to Resolute Bay; and new plans for the RAF, Irish and Italian teams'
Pat Falvey had a chat with ExplorersWeb from Resolute Bay. He and Clare O’Leary and the RAF guys, Matthew Stowers and Jules Weekes have regrouped and are going to make use of the time and gear to explore the Canadian Arctic and gain more experience in those conditions. To see full feature, click here