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  • Writer's pictureSiv Harstad

Preparations, Preparations, Preparations…for the North pole

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

I think that most people understand that it is required to train a lot to be physically strong for an expedition. But I think that most people have no idea about all the work that is required to plan an expedition and to make sure we have all the gear ready. Picture above is from testing the cold mask in -25C.

Going to the North pole is a bit different from the high altitude mountaineering me and Håkon have done previous, there is a lot of new things to learn and new equipment we need to have in place. On this trip we are totally on our own and need to arrange everything from a-z.

One thing that I did not immediately think of is Polar Bears.

Of course, I know they live in the Arctic, but suddenly it dawned on me that we actually can meet one on our expedition. If it is hungry and attack us we might have to shoot it. Not something I would want to do, however if that can save my/our life, well I guess I need to know how to do it. Therefor during Christmas I did I bit of shooting training with my dad, had a talk with a friend that is an experienced polar guide and found out what would be the best options for rifle or shot gun to bring to the North Pole. Check out the video from the practice.

Before we go I have to practice more, so that I manage to shoot 3 shots quickly. First of all you can not shoot at a polar bear before it is 20m from you, and that is not very far… then you need to shoot a scare shot and hope that it stops and turn around, if it does not and are attacking you – then you have to shoot at it, if you miss you need that 3rd shot. -something to train for that we hope we never have to use.

The funny bit was when I was traveling back home after Christmas, I had two weapons with me so that I can practice. At the airport I got pulled over by airport security that wanted to search my suitcase. Apparently, they noticed something on their screen and wanted to check it out. Opening the suitcase they found Christmas clothing with high heals and all, gifts received, outdoor clothes, a couple of frozen lobsters that my brother in law gave me for my birthday… and what they were looking for: the bullets to the weapons. You know, I girl’s got to bring what I girl needs – prepared for it all ;-)

Btw it was all fine, it was properly packed and no stress as long as they could check what they saw on the security screening.

Ski boots

We’ll be skiing so we need some serious warm boots. When I started talking to people who have been to the north pole I found out we need to use a bit “older” version of the ski binding than what we would use on e.g. Greenland or in Antarctica. Because. In a worst case scenario, we could go trough the ice and need to get our skis off to get up - the newer bindings are more or less impossible to get off in the cold and with ice that can build on them. Hence we also need some ski boots to fit with the bindings and keep us warm in the extreme cold.

Here is a picture of the boots we’re using, with the insulated inner boot and we'll ad an over boot too.

I’m not 100% sure of the inner boot si the right one for me, it looks like it’s not wide enough at the ankles, I do not want to have any heat leakage so I have ordered a different version to test if they are better for my foot.

To get this kind of gear there is not in your everyday sports gear shop, you need a specialized shop for it and even they don’t have everything in stock all the time.

Just to get the boots ready is a process of its own.

The boot itself I have what I need, the inner boot I’m not 100% sure so I'll test it out another one after the weekend and the over boots I have been waiting 1 month for, same with our ski poles. Over the next few day's I'll also make sure I get the over boot properly fastened to the boot -- so that I don’t get any trouble with it when we’re on our expedition.

Sled harness

There is a sled harness that “everyone” recommends, but that one was too big for me. I guess the “one size fits all” rally means “one size fit’s nobody” or in this situation, it only fits larger men. So I tried a different brand, not really happy with the one I got there either. I have been on enough expeditions to know what would be trouble with a harness when there is a lot of weight on it. Also here there is not really a store to go to and try it out - So I just to continue the search for what would be a good fit for me. I just ordered two other versions to test them out and hopefully on of them or a mix of them can be what I need.


Skis is also awaiting the final decision, I have it down to 2 different versions. I feel like I cannot wait much more, the factory of one of the ski producers burnt down last fall so there is a lack of skis in my size on the market right now – we need to start using the gear and familiarize ourselves with it, so I today made an appointment to go see the two alternatives and buy skis on Tuesday.

Fur for the ski-jacket

For our jackets we need some fur to protect our face from the cold. And this is also a thing you need to know a bit about; fur is not fur. We need the fur that is best for the conditions at the north pole. Humid and extreme cold. Who would have thought it can be a big difference. Another thing is that I want to get a fur I know is “certified”, so that it’s coming from a good source. I’ve found the right supplier who customize if for me and today I got a message that it’s ready and I can pick it up next week. Then the final piece of that is for me to sow it on to my jacket.

Tiny details...

As you can see there is a lot of details with the gear, on extreme expeditions there is no room for errors and all the gear needs to fit. If not there will be trouble down the road. Short cuts do not work here. We need to test it and use the gear before we go - brand new gear on a expedition like this will only get us in trouble.

This year there are special circumstances for all, and it makes our preparations a bit more challenging. However as you know, if there is a will, there is a way…so we keep working on all the steps that needs to be completed and ready within the next two months. More to come.

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