T MINUS SIX MONTHS
Gearing up: I’ll be photographing a team of extreme adventurers mountain biking across the frozen Arctic Ocean in Canada. I’ll be on a snowmobile, which is still hard work, so I need to get in good shape. A few months before, I start running and doing core workouts. In the Arctic you can’t sit down if you’re tired—you have to keep moving or get in your sleeping bag. I also put in a request to my sponsors for some gear: a down-filled sleeping mat and gloves I can shoot with.
T MINUS TWO WEEKS
Essential packing list: Our camp in Auyuittuq is 50 miles from civilization in any direction, so I take everything I need for the 2.5-day February trip.
– Emergency beacon
– A satellite phone (which will be on for only two hours a day, so I go over safety protocols with my family beforehand)
– Macadamia nuts (they have the highest fat content)
– A toothbrush with pre-applied toothpaste
– A dozen camera batteries. The cold zaps their power, so I keep them in my vest or sleeping bag.
– Two sets of long underwear
Students in the Extreme Polar Training course, a two-week freeze-fest held near the Arctic Circle on Canada’s Baffin Island, learn how to live in Earth’s coldest conditions. Still, nothing really prepares you for 72 hours of a sled-pulling, pathfinding ordeal on a skinny pair of skis.
As I slogged through deep snow and deeper darkness toward my tent, tripping and scraping my shins on chunks of broken ice concealed by fresh powder, I reminded myself that I had come here intending to suffer.
As I settled in for sleep, I felt hope for the first time that there might be more to polar travel than fear and misery. But the night still seemed deadly: The tent thrashed around in a heavy wind, the huskies chained nearby howled, and the ice creaked and boomed as it shifted in the grip of the tide.
I tried to focus on the harsh beauty of the ice walls lining the frozen channel we were moving through. I was determined to bury my fears in sheer wonder and suffocate them.