YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: The next five…
Q: What are the general factors that motivate you as a team to complete the journey? (by Abdalla Yassin)
A: Unfortunately our plan to cross the continent in winter is not going to happen but we all came here with different personal motivating factors. As a team, and that includes the many people in the UK and elsewhere that have helped to make this expedition happen, it was always about completing the very significant challenge of a winter crossing and with it has come the motivation to help the charity (Seeing is Believing), build an education programme, carry out meaningful scientific research and hopefully inspire people to challenge themselves. Although the winter crossing has faltered those other aims remain and the team is still extremely keen to see them succeed.
Q: What was your method to protect your camera from the extreme cold while filming and the batteries from the cold while not in use? (by Jeremy Wiles)
A: The camera equipment (Panasonic and GoPro) has performed remarkably well considering the conditions. At the extremes we have taped chemical-based hand-warmers to the battery compartments and the larger film cameras have had (Porta Brace) covers fitted, but apart from that we haven’t done anything special. The biggest difficulties we have had is operating small buttons with multiple pairs of gloves/mitts and that can be very frustrating. All the equipment is brought back into the heated caboose after use and the best thing to do is to put it in a plastic bag before bringing it inside – this prevents moisture condensing on the cold camera surfaces and is a well utilised trick in cold climates. LCD screens don’t like the cold so we rely on optical viewfinders most of the time. Modern Li-ion batteries perform very well at these low temperatures. The larger P2 cameras have Panasonic P2 memory cards whilst all other cameras have SanDisk Extreme Pro SD cards and these haven’t caused any problems even with the temperature down below -50c.
Q: Do you think Sir Ranulph Fiennes would have taken more uncalculated risks if he hadn’t been forced out by the circumstances? (by François Melchner)
A: No. Our decision not to continue wasn’t just about taking uncalculated risks. The risks had unquestionably risen due to the difficult terrain and the fact that we were still forcing our way through unexpected and very difficult crevassing after the sun had set for winter, which was something that we had always planned to avoid. This difficult terrain had slowed our progress drastically (40km in 30 days) and with that came a massive increase in fuel consumption at more than double our estimates over a one-month period. The facts were blatantly obvious and couldn’t be ignored.
Q: The clothes that you are wearing to keep warm out there – how warm are they and what are they comprised of? Interested in winter expeditions myself and would like an idea of where to start. (by Andrew W.)
A: Anyone will tell you that layering is the way to go. It allows you to adjust your insulation according to the conditions and what it is that you are doing. If you are standing around for long periods then you will obviously want more clothing than if you are working hard or skiing. You need to adjust your clothing as you go along. Try and avoid sweating because once you stop moving you will cool rapidly and your damp clothes will not insulate you well. It’s very important to dry your clothes whenever you can and that includes things like boot liners (depending on the sort of trip you are doing it might be possible to have two pairs of liners so you can alternate). A simple thing like brushing the snow off your clothing as you enter the caboose (or a tent if that’s what you are using) can save your clothing from getting wet as the snow melts. There is no doubt that clothing is a very personal thing and everyone finds their own combination that works for them – others will disagree but it doesn’t mean you have got it wrong. The best thing you can gain is experience – get out there and find out what works for you personally.
Q: I would like to know how the team are managing without Sir Ranulph? How is the work load/motivation being distributed amongst the team? (by Laura Wood)
A: Ran’s role was to attempt to ski the whole distance and the rest of us were providing the support to make that possible. When Ran departed, the traverse attempt became solely vehicle-based and the skier’s role disappeared. The remaining five of us have pretty much fulfilled our roles as originally envisaged and our motivation to try and complete the crossing was undiminished. Naturally with the loss of a team member we have slightly more space in the caboose and the food, which was pre-packaged into daypacks for 6 people, is more generous when only eaten by five – thanks Ran!